Leadership Focuses on Diverse Recruitment Strategies to Widen Candidate Pool

When it comes to finding talent, hiring managers and teams can easily fall into the habit of searching for a candidate who is a “culture fit.” Lauren Bertram, talent acquisition director at Burns & McDonnell, shares how companies should shift away from asking if a candidate “fits” into existing workplace culture and instead focus on how a candidate could “add” to an existing culture with unique experiences and diverse perspectives.

Bertram speaks with Leon Harden, strategy manager of diversity, equity and inclusion at Burns & McDonnell, about how companies should remain intentional in hiring practices — even in a tight labor market with continued challenges — and resist the urge to fill positions quickly just for the sake of beginning the onboarding process. Each open position represents the opportunity to widen the pool of candidates, increase workforce diversity and expand your team’s ability to deliver innovative solutions.



Leon Harden: Can you talk about some of the challenges that are facing companies when it comes to hiring?

Lauren Bertram: The labor market is crazy right now. I think anywhere you go you see that, whether it's a restaurant or walking into Target, you can see there are help wanted signs everywhere, and certainly Burns & McDonnell is not exempt from that. There are a lot of factors at play. It's not just about bringing in a lot of talent — it’s about bringing in the right talent, and “right” is hard to define.

LH: What are some of the issues associated with having the “culture fit” or hiring the same profile?

LB: Hiring for the culture fit came along with really good intentions, like most things, right? In the past, it was the million-dollar question. You would get into an interview debrief and talk about everything that candidate brought to the table from a technical standpoint and his or her experience, but at the end it was, “Are they a fit?” I think it naturally just started being a part of the interview wrap-up.

Well, the unintended consequence of that is the interview debriefs ended up being more about, “Would I want to hang out with this person after work?” and less about, “This person matches with our values.” When you're looking for a culture fit, it just brought your bias to the forefront. I think anytime bias comes in play in the interview process you’re just eliminating “culture add.”

LH: What are the benefits of hiring the culture add versus the culture fit?

LB: Probably the most obvious is what it does for your organization’s diversity and inclusion. The minute you decide to be intentional about bringing on the “add” versus the “fit,” your team just got a whole lot more interesting. And when you bring on those new skill sets, and the new ways of thinking, and new backgrounds, then you create this psychologically safe environment that leads to a more welcoming team and culture of belonging. As it relates to the environment that we’re in right now, why would you not want to cast a wider net, get a larger talent pool and really challenge the way that you’ve recruited in the past? Go to more institutions, look beyond the places you’ve looked before — whether it’s job boards or previous employers — look in different locations. Challenge the type of degrees that you’ve brought on before. Now is the time to really have an open mind to bring on those diverse adds.

LH: I do want to just shift to talk about the future trends. What are you seeing in terms of how recruitment is going and how you continue this effort to “add” as opposed to the “fit”? What do you see in those types of trends?

LB: It’s important to call out that hiring diverse teams is not a fad; this is here to stay. It's not only the right thing to do from a community and societal impact, it’s the right thing to do financially if you want your company to grow and be successful.

LH: Smart business.

LB: It is. It’s smart. It's good for your bottom line, but also candidates expect it. I mean, you remember this: How many times in an interview now do candidates ask about what inclusion means at your organization? You better be ready to answer that and have an authentic answer for it so that when they do come here it matches with what you’ve answered. The generation coming into the workforce has never been more diverse. It’s exciting. It’s going to be a really fun time to recruit.

LH: Thank you so much for spending a little time with me today. These conversations are always fun, especially when it comes from you and the talent team who do such a phenomenal job of pushing us forward when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion.

LB: You, too. It’s been really fun.


This post is part of Together By Design, a quarterly business diversity newsletter published by Burns & McDonnell to advance a community of inclusion. This newsletter features stories of great opportunity, leaders who bring out the best in others, innovative approaches, and diverse perspectives that shape the business community and the world at large.

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