Focus less on salary, more on inclusivity to recruit journalists of color

To attract the best and most diverse talent to your news business, make a good first impression


You’ve invested weeks into identifying, recruiting and interviewing someone you consider the perfect candidate. You’re practically at the finish line and have made what you consider a very generous offer.

In other words, you "put a ring on it" — only to end up being left at the altar again.

Why the change of heart? Cold feet? And why aren’t we receiving more applications from journalists of color (JOCs) in the first place?

In recent weeks, I’ve spoken to journalists who have turned down multiple offers — even interviews. They’ve walked away from more money (sometimes twice their current salary), more responsibility, more prestige, or a combination of all three, primarily based on negative interview experiences.

Jilted hiring managers are in disbelief. While editors often throw out terms like “a good fit” when describing why one candidate is hired over another, candidates are now turning the tables and using the same terminology when rejecting potential employers.

I can assure you there is a way to make it to the honeymoon and beyond if you’re willing to focus on candidate experience rather than salary and finding the “perfect fit.”

A bad first date

Hiring managers are quick to dismiss candidates as being too timid, inattentive or lacking original thought instead of focusing on the basics: building rapport and creating a welcoming environment and a space for candidates to showcase their talents. Editors still clinging to the old-school set of rapid-fire, generic interview questions will find themselves picking up the check every time.

One candidate told me they felt no connection with the hiring manager during the interview. Though the interview process was fine, their instincts told them the editor hadn’t been around or interviewed many people of color, and that’s not a great first impression.

When the Democrat and Chronicle’s Executive Editor Michael Killian interviewed me a couple of years back, he was extremely responsive throughout the entire process. All of our interactions were conversations, not interrogations.

Interview training — especially when interviewing diverse candidates — is essential, as there’s no system in place for candidates to provide feedback on a hiring manager’s poor interview skills or biases. Of course, not every white hiring manager has experience interviewing or hiring a person of color, and that’s OK. But newsrooms must address gaps in interviewing skills and consistently solicit feedback from candidates to identify potential missteps and prevent them.

Like attracts like

In a digital world, it takes candidates mere seconds to identify and evaluate a newsroom’s masthead and management, and as insignificant as it might sound, a primary draw for diverse candidates is seeing someone that looks like them on the company website. Like attracts like.

Even if you’re currently working to diversify your management team, showcasing diverse employees via testimonials or listing affiliate groups on your website shows candidates that diversity is a priority and that you’re promoting an inclusive environment. Likewise, with interviews, having journalists of color sit in on interview panels or follow up with the candidate post-interview can instantly put a diverse candidate at ease.

The average candidate spends just 45 seconds reviewing a job description before deciding if they will apply or, to use an online dating term, “swipe right.”

An internal study conducted by Hewlett Packard revealed (and later corroborated by a LinkedIn survey) that “women tend to apply for a new job only when they meet 100% of the listed criteria, compared to men, who usually apply when they meet about 60%.” So, if you haven’t updated your job descriptions since the 1990s, creating succinct, inclusive and task-oriented descriptions will attract a greater number of candidates, as well as ones more aligned with the responsibilities of the role.

For example, if having a specific type of degree, course of study or major, or a number of years of experience are still on your “must-haves” list, you’re likely missing out on candidates with a passion for the actual day-to-day responsibilities of a role, such as copyediting precision or the research skills associated with investigative work.

“The Great Resignation” created a job market so competitive that candidates are interviewing companies with the same if not more scrutiny than hiring managers.

Give yourself and your newsroom an advantage by making the interview process inviting, inclusive and full of opportunities for candidates to shine. Give your managers the interviewing feedback and training to understand the complexities of attracting and engaging with diverse candidates. And finally, create job descriptions that highlight the realities of the work in a manner that will entice candidates to apply, rather than leaving them feeling intimidated or, worse, completely apathetic about joining your organization.

Larry Graham is the founder and executive director of The Diversity Pledge Institute.


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