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Relationships Matter: How Social Capital Impacts Talent Recruitment and Internships

Written by Angela Finding

The Fifth Annual Cleveland Internship Summit was February 27, 2020 at Corporate College East attended by more than 200 business, community, and education representatives. Throughout the year, we will be bringing you highlights covered during the event. Today’s recap focuses on the importance of recognizing how social capital impacts talent recruitment strategies and ways you can expand beyond the internal preferences or “the usual” for sourcing talent.

The quote “we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them,” is attributed to Albert Einstein. The same premise can be applied to talent and intern recruitment. Developing an intentional strategy to expand your organization’s recruitment methods can improve both the quality and diversity of your candidates.

The session’s panelists were Jejuana Brown, Program Manager, Equity & Inclusion with Greater Cleveland Partnership (moderator of the discussion); Latasha Spencer, Director, Talent Acquisition, North America with Avery Dennison; and George Sample, Human Resources Partner with the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland discussed the following matters related to social capital:

  • How social capital affects people differently and what it means to them;
  • How there is both positive and negative social capital;
  • Advice and tips for expanding early talent and intern recruitment strategies.

When asked what social capital means to them, Latasha shared for her it is how you network and connect with like-minded people, people with similar norms and values, and people who can help you grow and develop. She elaborated by saying how social capital is commonly used when one calls on someone they previously worked with to get more information on jobs, skills, advice, etc.  George went on to add that social capital also has two different avenues:

  • What do people say about you when you are not in the room, what is your reputation? This is where negative social capital can adversely affect a person or company.
  • When reaching out to connect to someone who may be able to help you in some way, what level of effort are they willing to exert on your behalf?

Recruitment Strategies and Social Capital

The panel agreed that diversity and inclusion should be at the forefront of all talent strategies. But often, “the way we have always done it” or preferred places to source talent remain unchanged thereby limiting the talent pool, and often diversity of talent, in the process. So how can employers begin to change their approach, with the understanding that social capital, can and likely will impact the talent that comes their way? The panelists shared advice on how employers can expand their early talent recruitment process with an intentional focus around diversity and inclusion.

  1. Audit your current means of recruitment. Do you only work with the same group of schools? How are those schools chosen? Often schools are chosen because of a personal affiliation with a school such as being someone’s alma mater. Have you considered connecting with an HBCU?
  2. When you identify the schools you will work with, change and/or expand your outreach strategy with that school to engage beyond career fairs. Partner and connect with diverse student organizations on campus and engage with students in a meaningful way.
  3. Build deeper relationships with partner schools by connecting with faculty, students from different student organizations, and career services. This will “open doors” and provide access to students you may not traditionally have connected with.
  4. Partner with local diverse community organizations.
  5. Audit your recruitment tools and materials. Are they reflective of the diverse populations with whom you are tying to connect? If not, invest in rebuilding your materials.
  6. Do you know your employer brand and what makes your organization unique? What do students see when reviewing or interning at your organization? Do not forget first impressions go both ways.

Intentional focus

Lastly, in order to reach minority students and other talent pools, an organization must prioritize changing both their recruitment and employee/intern engagement practices to reflect the value placed on diversity and inclusion. Ensure that you are meeting students and potential new employees where they are, recognizing that many talented candidates may not have the access, or social capital, to connect with the “right” person at any one organization.

Want to know more about internship best practices? Visit the Greater Cleveland Partnership’s Internship Central hub to learn more about how to build a best-in-class internship program at your business.

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