QUESTION: I have an exclusive to place a controller with a very prestigious Philadelphia private foundation. The client is looking to see a candidate of diversity. I am utilizing my network for candidates and have been networking with diversity-based professional organizations. How would you identify diverse candidates? – Ernie, PA 

ANSWER: It is a great question as increasing diversity has been a huge challenge for companies large and small. Part of the challenge is as recruiters we cannot discriminate against anyone.  If a person is the best available person or part of a pool of best available people, you have to let them know that you need to present them because by not, you are actually violating employment law.  

I am not a lawyer, but you should advise your client about the unique challenge of recruitment and diversity. It does not mean that they should not have this goal of diversity, but this is a Catch-22.  You cannot say I am looking for a certain type of ethnic background, but you can probably share in your networking, “I have a foundation that is really looking for a diversity-based candidate. Who do you know that excels in the role of XYZ?”. As recruiters, we cannot profile either, but on LinkedIn, most people have a picture that can help inform you. I would just strongly coach you to work with your client to say, “You have to present the people, the humans, that have the best available background” but you will try to tap a vein in that world.  

Honestly, I would just start calling foundations in Philadelphia and doing your normal recruit approach and asking, “Who do you know?” Not that is looking, “Who do you know that excels in the role of blah, blah, blah that I could have a discussion with, even if they are not looking?” Candidates always think, when you are getting referrals, that they are always looking for people that are looking. Emphasize that you are looking to network because the person they refer probably knows a person who knows a person who knows a person that would eventually be a fit. You could even ask “Who do you know that excels, maybe even from a diversity background?”    

I would also hire a researcher to go into some of the foundations in Philadelphia and identify the names, phone numbers, and email addresses, maybe even LinkedIn profiles of the people. A researcher can kind of profile diverse candidates and put together a list, especially if they find them on LinkedIn and help you create a shortlist. Just remember, be very careful with the client to let them know what your role is and that you can’t violate EEOC rules and discriminate based on race or religion, or ethnic background.  

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash