EP20: Understanding the Gen-Z Workforce (with Steven Rothberg, Founder, College Recruiter)

Welcome to All-In Recruitment. A thought-provoking, insightful series of podcasts. This series dives deeper into understanding what diversity hiring means in the modern day. Additionally, we come to learn more about the importance of recruitment tools and technologies can have in streamlining the process.

Watch on YouTube at this link.


The transcript has been edited for clarity.

Lydia: Welcome to the All-In Recruitment podcast by Manatal, where we explore best practices, learnings, and trends with leaders in the recruitment space. If you like our content, please subscribe to our channels on YouTube and Spotify to stay tuned for weekly episodes. 

My name is Lydia, and joining us today is Steven Rothberg, founder of College Recruiter, a job search site. Hello, Steven. Thank you for joining us on this podcast.

Steven: It is a pleasure. Thank you for having me. 

Introducing Steven Rothberg and His Experience in the Scene

Lydia: So, Steven, you've been in this space for over three decades now. And having founded and run College Recruiters since 1991. Is that right?

Steven: Yeah, so  I was in grad school in the U.S., which is where I live now in Minneapolis, Minnesota. And I started a small business about a year after I graduated. Over the course of a few years, it evolved from we were doing print publications like campus maps and employment magazines, and then it evolved into the job board. So, it's been 31 years which is weird because I'm only 28. So, I don't know how that works.

Lydia: We don't know where the time went, right? And as you said, you've taken that from the print era right up to where you are today. And you also do your podcast. So, what really got you interested in staying in the college recruitment space back then? What's the evolution of this job site?

Steven: It was definitely somewhat of a bit of an accident. So, the very first publications that my little micro business was publishing were maps of college and university campuses. The revenues came from selling advertising around the borders of the maps. We gave the maps for free to the university, and the University gave the maps for free to the students. And so all the revenues came in a very tight little window in about eight weeks out of the year, just kind of right before students went back to campus in the fall. 

And while I was newly married, my wife and I were looking at how we could expand the business.  She wasn't working in the business, but she had a really good business head. And when we looked at what the strengths of the business were, it wasn't cartography. It wasn't publishing maps. It was only helping organizations reach college and university students. 

And so then we started to ask ourselves the question, “Well, what other publications might be helpful to that audience?” And students who are arriving on campus in the first year or in some areas of the world are called freshmen or freshers. They need to find their way around campus. They need to know where the restaurants and apartments are. So, a map is a really good thing for them. 

By the time you graduate, nobody's using a map anymore, but what they do need are jobs. And so we created a magazine called College Recruiter. And the name of the magazine came from the most common job title of the person in the HR department, or now we often have talent acquisition departments. But that was the job title of the person who was usually in charge of recruiting students and recent grads to work for those companies. The magazine first came out in 1994. By 19996, we had four different regionalized versions across the U.S. at about 250 schools. 

And then this thing called the internet came along. And so we added a website, and one thing led to another. By 2000, we had closed off the print magazines. They were profitable, but they were also holding us back. By that time, we were all on the job search site. And we've had it since 1996 when the first version of the job site went live. We've had seven different versions of it, not pivots, but just major evolutions.

Lydia: Job boards, overall, everywhere have transformed, and as you said, they keep evolving. So, what would you say, in your experience, maybe a few major challenges in the past 10 or 20 years? 

Steven: The basic business of a job board has always been to connect candidates with employers. So, at a very high level, they're the same. How they do that has radically changed. There are definitely people out there who say, “Job boards haven't evolved, and they haven't changed,” and so on. They're just wrong. Because the technology, the effectiveness, the accountability is lightyears ahead of where it used to be. 

What you see increasingly started in the U.S. and spread to Canada, more to the U.K. And now some changes are happening at Indeed to their pricing model. You are going to see a revolution, not an evolution, over the next year of job boards being compensated based on their performance. 

So, rather than running an ad for 30 days and getting paid the same amount of money, whether that ad works or not, employers very soon are going to be paying for results. If the ad works, they pay, and they're happy to pay because, if you hire people, it's cheap. If you don't hire people, no matter how little that job board charges, it's too much money. 

And what I'm excited about, what's really about to change globally, is that job boards are going to be much more aligned with their employer and customers. If the customer succeeds, so will the job board. And if the customer fails, if the ad does not generate results, then the job boards are going to suffer, too. I think that's going to lead to much better results for everyone.

Lydia: In your tagline, College Recruiter says, “Every student in recent grads deserves a great career.” Has your tagline or mission seen any changes? Or has it also evolved together with your job site?

Steve: We didn't really have a mission statement, a mantra, a tagline, or a slogan, until about, I think, it was roughly six or seven years ago. And that was the time when we started to look at how we were managing our business, how we were planning, and how we were assigning responsibilities. 

And by that time, my wife had long since joined the business. She had become the CEO. And a good friend of hers told her about something called the ‘Entrepreneurs Operating System.’ People often know it by the acronym E. O. S., and there's a book by Gino Wickman called ‘Traction: Get A Grip On Your Business.’ Basically, what the book does is it creates this whole framework or model or guide for how to manage your business, how to structure accountabilities, who's responsible for what, how to run meetings, how to do financial forecasts, and how to write your business plan. And part of that business plan is a mission statement. 

So, that's when we really sat down for the first time and created one. And we struggled with it. We were doing a bunch of things that really didn't fit into the business, but they were bringing in good money. And so it's like, “Well, why not do this? It brings in good money.” And we saw a video on YouTube by this incredibly gifted speaker, Simon Sinek, and one of his videos is called ‘The Power Of Why’ or something like that. And, yeah, and, and his premise is that customers buy from you, not because of the functionality or price of your product, but because of the way it makes them feel. 

They buy from you because of the “why.” They believe in your mission. They believe in what they do. So, you want to create an emotional attachment, which is the ‘We believe every student in recent grad deserves a great career.’ Who can say no to that? And then, you give them rational reasons to justify that emotional buying decision. That's where your product actually comes into play, your price, your service, etc. 

So, you have to back up the mission. You can't just have a good mission statement and expect the world to beat a path to your door. But that's where it came from. We have not changed that mission statement at all. Every word, every character, everything about it is the same. Everybody in the company, when they join us, they get this really nice coffee mug. It has our logo on one side, and it has our mission statement on another. 

We literally talk about that every day and every strategic decision that we make comes back to, "Is this helping students and recent grads find a great career?" And if it doesn't, we don't do it. We've turned away loads of business that just doesn't fit. So, if you've got an employer who wants to pay us to advertise jobs that are targeted to people with 10-plus years of experience, we are going to say no, regardless of how much they want to pay us. It's not what we do.

Lydia: And as you said, the tagline hasn't changed, and it stays the same. And I also know that you articulate this everywhere, every opportunity that you get at every strategic meeting and also with your employees. There must be lots of success stories even to illustrate this mission statement. Right? So, do you have any success stories that you’d like to share with us? Especially around finding the right talent across these years? 

Steven: A few come to mind. So, probably six, seven, or eight years ago, one of our biggest clients was using one of our products that we call targeted email campaigns. Basically, we'll deliver an email on behalf of employers to a really highly targeted group of people. We can email female accounting majors who are in their fourth year or graduated within the last two years at these 57 schools. 

And they all have to be U.S. citizens and speak Farsi. We can do something really targeted like that. At scale, we typically turn those around in a few days and get a call from the customer. It was one of the biggest chip manufacturers in the world. And the customer was kind of upset. Because the performance of those email campaigns wasn't nearly as good as what she was used to. 

She was spending about $10,000 a quarter on these emails. And her target audience was female electrical engineering majors across the U.S. It was a very underrepresented group within their company. As you can imagine, it's very male-dominated. And so her complaint was that they only hired 200 people from it. Well, hiring 200 female electrical engineers for 10 grand is something you should be celebrating. She was used to hiring four 500. So, she was wondering, “Why did the performance drop off so much?” 

Well, we did figure it out. When you do a campaign like that, you don't really know how many of those candidates are really interested. You don’t know the numbers or how many open the email, or how many clicks to the employers' website. At that point, you lose visibility. And the employer tends not to share that data with you. So, you don't know how many applied. You don't know how many were interviewed. You don't know how many were hired. 

And when you don't know that information. You don't really know what kind of an impact you had. But when you hear that 200 people found great jobs with this really awesome company, that's a day to celebrate. 

Another one was very recently, just a few weeks ago. One of our largest customers was incredibly transparent with us in terms of the ads they’re running with us and the ads they’re running with other agencies. The customer was also transparent with the results of our ads and the results they were getting from our competitors. So, we could see in terms of quantity, like how many candidates we were sent to this customer. We could see, in terms of quality, how many were applying, how many were getting interviewed, etc. 

And they're providing that data to us on a daily basis, which gives us the opportunity to do a little bit of A/B testing. If we send candidates like this to this job, do more of them apply? Do more of them get interviewed? And then we can send more of them. More of those candidates, fewer of the candidates that don't. 

So, that was also really nice because we could see head-to-head against our competitors and see that our results were really good. The fact that the employer was sharing that data with us was also encouraging. We knew they were only going to get better. And so those sorts of partnerships between employers and their media partners, a true partnership, where there's real trust and sharing of data really leads to better results.

Lydia: And how long do these partnerships last on average?

Steven: For the customer that has been really transparent with sharing job data with us, I think we started to work within about a year and a half ago. One of the things that we do that's not at all unique but it's unusual, is that almost all of our job posting customers are on subscription packages. 

So, they buy a job posting package. Usually, we charge on a pay-per-click basis. And those packages automatically renew month after month until the customer tells us to stop. If there are any job boards that are listening to the podcast, do that. It's really fantastic. You get a very high renewal rate. Something like 96% of our customers renews month after month after month.

You would know this for Manatal. It's a SaaS model - Software as a Service model. And it makes your revenues very predictable. It changes the relationship between you and your customers from constantly having to sell to them to instead constantly serving them and servicing them. That's good.” 

The customer wants to be serviced, not sold to. Almost all of our customers renew month after month. 

Lydia: What is the user base like?

Steven: We help about 12 million students and recent grads a year. And we are global. So, we have English language postings in, I think, 100 or 120 content countries. 

College Recruitment Today & How to Strategize Around It

Lydia: Moving on to talent acquisition, then how to strategize around college recruitment, etc. You are in this space where it's for recruitment of fresh graduates and students even. So, in your experience and your observations, how has the approach to TA in colleges changed or evolved over the past decades? Have there been any practices that may have existed before that don't exist now?

Steven: I would say that college and university recruitment in the industrialized world, which I personally am going to be more familiar with, hardly changed from the 1950s until 2020. And then COVID accelerated everything as it did in so many industries. 

In the 1950s, the typical company that was recruiting college grads would send recruiters or hiring managers to a bunch of college campuses. And they would work through the Career Service Office. They get a shortlist of students, and maybe they're going to interview 12 people today, per recruiter, and 24 in total over the next couple of days. And from that, they might want to have five, go back to the office for interviews, then hire one, and sometimes that scales up. 

There might be 60 schools that they go to and replicate that model that existed for basically 70 years. And sure, there was some technology that improved things, and you had things like online career fairs, but the vast majority of college grads were hired by large organizations and the majority of those hired almost all of their candidates through on-campus recruitment. 

Then COVID comes along and says, “No, you can't come on campus. The campus is closed. We don't have students, professors, staff, or anybody on campus. So, if you are going to want to try to recruit our students, you are not going to do it in person. Figure it out.” And most organizations actually did. To my surprise, they adapted to it. 

So, things that they had been saying were impossible in 2019 suddenly became feasible and actually much more efficient and effective. Online career fairs have become a lot more popular. They discovered that Gen Z, somehow, actually does use the internet, which means that they do see job postings on Indeed, LinkedIn, and college recruiter, as well as other sites. 

Lo and behold, they apply to those job postings, just like people with 10 years of experience do. And you can interview them by zoom or by phone or exchange a bunch of emails, just like candidates with 10 years of experience. The fact that they went to school, or maybe even work currently enrolled, really should never have impacted how you hired them. But it just did. One of the reasons it did is that a lot of recruiters and hiring managers who do a lot of university recruiting had a vested interest in keeping the old model. 

The, ‘let's go out to a bunch of college campuses because it's fun.’ And so it wasn't in the best interest of the company, it definitely wasn't in the best interest of the candidate, because they'd have to wait around for six months to have interview slots, and maybe get hired. But it was in the best interest of literally maybe 1000 people. 

And so they kept this whole industry stuck in the 1950s because they love to go on campus and have fancy dinners and go to football games. I mean, at the end of the day, that's kind of what it was all about. As COVID has receded, what we are seeing is that a lot of these companies have just not returned to campus, or they have returned. But instead of hiring 1000 students and 950 of them coming from on-campus interviews, they're still hiring 1000, and 100 of them will come through on-campus. 

One of the surprises to a lot of these organizations is that when they diversified their hiring practices, when they started to advertise online and tap into a much greater cross-section of candidates, their candidate pool became much more diverse. So did their applicant pool, and so did the people they were interviewing so that the people they were hiring, what they discovered was that advertising online, whether it's through our site or just about any other, allows them to hire a more diverse group of graduates. And that makes their workplace more productive. So, when I mentioned being more effective a little bit earlier, that's what I was referencing.

Recruiting Gen Zs

Lydia: You mentioned Gen Zs, who was obviously born into tech, and they are frequently cited as one of the most diverse generations we've seen. We are also saying that the millennials and Gen Z will take up more and more senior roles ultimately. So, what should talent acquisition leaders consider when they strategize? Are they prepared to hire Gen Z today? What does Gen Z look for?

Steven: You don't. In short. Gen Z wants the same as their older millennial sisters and brothers wanted, which is the same thing as what people of my generation, Gen X-ers, wanted, which is the same thing as what baby boomers wanted. They want to be paid fairly. They want to be treated well. And at the end of the day, if you as an employer have a job that people are interested in and you treat them well, and you pay them fairly, you are going to find people, the best candidates are going to want to work for you, and they're going to want to stay with you.

The employers that are really struggling the most are those that have a history of either treating their employees really poorly or paying them really poorly, or often both. And then they're shocked at why people don't want to work for them and why they have a high turnover. 

The difference that I think we see with Gen Z versus millennials, Gen X and Boomers is that Gen Z is more courageous, and they are more into social justice. They are prepared to give up money and live in a less affluent style in order to leave this world a better place. And older generations are, and I'm part of one of those generations, but we are more selfish. 

I don't think it's a difference between my generation. Basically, being in our 40s and 50s, versus Gen Z being 20s. When my generation was in our 20s, we weren't as prepared to take less. I think that Gen Z doesn't want to take less. I think that they've accepted that they are going to have less. And if you are not going to be able to afford a house, if you are not going to be able to afford or to be able to live as affluent a lifestyle as your parents or grandparents, you start to look for other ways of living a fulfilling life. 

And so experiences matter more than things. Traveling means more. And stuff like that means that you want to work fewer hours, you want more vacation or leave time, you might work for three, four, or five months, save up some money, quit, go travel for a month, come back to work for three, four or five months. And that's frustrating for employers. But you know what? Employees don't owe the employer anything. Employers should just expect that the time of candidates showing up at their doorstep eager to work, like in the mid-1800s and the industrial revolution and slavery, is long in the past. 

“If you want people to come to work for you and to stay working for you, it basically boils down to two variables, pay them fairly and treat them well.” 

Lydia: And it's easier than ever to find out which organization treats their employees well and which don't, especially when you have so many sites to get that information from. 

Steven: Just go to Google and type in the name of a company and type in “bad reviews” or “awful boss” or something like that. It's really easy to find them. And the fact that you have one disgruntled employee out there trash-talking your organization is really not a big deal. If you've got the vast majority of people who have left on good terms, at least they're not trash-talking you, and you are fine. So don't sweat it. If one person has a bad experience and leaves, it's like a restaurant. If you are going to a restaurant, in many areas of the world, people will go to Yelp to see what the reviews are. And if you see 900 reviews, and 890 of them are perfect five-star, you don't really care what the other 10 said. And Google has reviews for loads of businesses, not just restaurants. It's the same thing as Glassdoor or Indeed. Lots of these sites have that information out there. 

And also, good salaries are becoming transparent. Now, there's a wave hitting the U.S., Canada, the EU, and some other areas of the world where employers are legally required to share their salary ranges. And so it's becoming harder and harder for the employers who are underpaying to hide that it's right out there in the open.

Lydia: As you said earlier about Gen Zs, they’re looking for more intangible benefits, perhaps more flexibility, more value, to their lifestyle, in terms of their career even, and how to bring those two together. Moving into 2023 and plenty of changes to work in arrangements. We have hybrid work. We have the gig workforce, and we have plenty of ways to describe it, but there's a greater demand for overall wellness and maybe autonomy, even overwork arrangements. 

So, from an employer's perspective, what are some ways that organizations can position themselves as appealing employers to college grads today?

Steven: Well, great question, and let me pick up on a word that you just said. Use wellness. At College Recruiter, we believe strongly in that. We didn't have an office that people went into during COVID. Now, unlike most employers, we've been fully remote since 1997. So, there was no panic. 

“Do people have suitable places to work? Do they have a computer? Do they have high-speed internet? Is it reliable? And do they have kids or pets that go crazy when they're trying to work?” We didn't have those issues. Because we had already dealt with that as part of the hiring process, but we all had the same mental struggles, physical struggles, same stresses, same sick relatives issues. Probably all of our employees. 

Probably all of us have had COVID at one time or another, or at least thought we did. So, we've gone through the same issues. Even though we were starting to come out of COVID, last year, 2021, was when we were starting to get vaccinated. It seems like a lot longer ago to most of us, but it was just like the spring of 2021 in a lot of areas of the world. And even in the fall, in some others. 

We decided going into the American Thanksgiving week, which is the biggest holiday of the year in the U.S., in late November, that instead of giving all of our employees Thursday off, which is Thanksgiving Day, and then also Friday off, which we had for years so that they would get a four day weekend, we were also going to give everybody else also Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. 

So, everybody got nine successive days off. We all had our voicemails changed. Our email autoresponders basically said, “We are off for a Wellness Week. If there's an emergency, text this number.” Not a single vendor, partner, or customer texted us. Because there weren't any emergencies. We had prepared them in advance. And nothing weird happened. 

And then, when the employees came back, basically right at the very end of November and into December, everybody was noticeably recharged, refreshed, full of energy, and driven by determination. And we finished the year like a rocket ship. It carried over into January. We started to have some discussions that are in our annual meeting early in 2022. And I said, “Why don't we do a monthly wellness day? We'll try to tie it in with a holiday so that instead of getting a three-day weekend, you get a four-day weekend. Or if they're going to be a lot of people traveling to a conference or something like that, we'll tie it in there to minimize disruption.” 

And so every single month, we have a wellness day where the entire company shuts down. Voicemails change, and emails change. If there's an emergency, text us. And I'll tell you. It has been a fantastic recruitment tool. And a fantastic retention tool to add 12 days of vacation or leave two people a year is huge. We have employees with little kids. This is a day that they can take their little kids to a park and not have to be thinking, “Oh, I've also got to go to the grocery store. I've also got to do this.” 

So, it really improves people's quality of life. If another employer were to come to one of our employees and say, “Hey, come to work for us.” I suspect one of the first questions is going to be, “Do you have monthly wellness days?” The answer is going to be no from the employer. And so the answer is going to be no from our employee. We see a positive return because when people come back from that day off, they're more productive. They're getting more done in less time. And what a win-win that is.

Lydia: That's not unique to just Gen Z. It's universal for everybody. Great example, Steven. So, as town teams bring new graduates into the companies, they also need to play a role in facilitating that transition from school to the world of work. And today especially, we see so many generations within the workforce at the same time. How might leaders create a culture where Gen Z can smoothly assimilate and also thrive in a company?

Steven: By definition, Gen Z is the youngest generation in the workforce now, which means that, generally, they have the least experience. Now, there are definitely people who are 40 or 50 years old, who have never been in the workforce, and now they're entering for the first time. They're outliers. So, generally, people who are new to the workforce are going to be the youngest. And that right now is Gen Z. 

And that means they need more training. They need coaching and mentoring. They need opportunities for advancement laid out in very concrete terms. So, if you are looking to recruit and retain Gen Z, offer them in a very easy-to-understand language, as well as the opportunity to see that you actually care about their career advancement. You are going to have a mentor, we are going to be doing job coaching, this is what your training looks like, you are going to work in this department for six months, and then we are going to move you over to that department for six months. And then that one for six, and that one for six. 

And so at the end of two years, you'll have experienced our company in four very different areas. You'll see what you like. We'll see what you are good at. And then we'll figure out together what the next step after that is going to be. The training, the coaching, the mentoring, and the career-pathing are hugely important. 

It blows me away when companies do two different things. One is no communication at all, despite having a very good plan. “We've got a great plan for you, and you are going to get fantastic support. But for some reason, we are not going to tell you about it. And if we don't tell you about it, as far as you are concerned, it doesn't exist.” And if it doesn't exist, you are going to leave. You have no reason to know that, actually, this is a great place to work. Your manager should sit down with you regularly, like, going to lunch weekly, having a zoom call once a month, and just finding out what you like and what you don't like. Then let's try to get you more of what you like and less of what you don't like. It's not going to be perfect. But let's try to maximize the goods and minimize the bads. 

The other option, or the other avenue, if you will, is the companies that it seems like they're purposely trying to hurt their retention. And they'll say to you, “We hired you to be a Marketing Associate, whether you like it or not, whether you are good at it or not, until the end of time, you are going to be a Marketing Associate.” And you just see you are locked in. And even if you loved it for two years, by the third year, you might want to do something different. And so you say to yourself, “I got to leave this company. If I don't leave this company, I'm going to be in the same job. I'm going to be in the same department forever. And I don't like it. I want something better.”

I think that that second group is where we see a lot of turnover during COVID. It's the people who said, “There's more to life than this. I can leave, and I can find a better job, a better life, a better opportunity elsewhere.” And so they're voting with their feet. I see a lot of employers out there now complaining that there aren't any good candidates and that they can't hire anybody. And when I look at them and scratch the surface and look back at how they were paying, what their job postings look like, it's almost always very inwardly focused organizations. They’re underpaying, and their job postings reflect that they don't really care about their employees. 

The job postings are all about requirements. You have to have A, B, C, and D. And if you do, “Click here to apply,” there's no compelling reason for the candidate to apply to the job posting. And I think it sends a very strong signal, especially to Gen Z, which is so web savvy. They read that. They understand what that means if this company only cares about itself and not me.  

Lydia: Communication for Gen Z is also very different. All of us use different platforms today to communicate. It's social, which is a lot more expressive. And perhaps they're looking out for something else in these job descriptions or job ads. What goes into writing a solid job description that would appeal to a fresh grad?

Steven: I'm the co-host of a podcast called ‘The Inside Job Boards and Recruitment Marketplaces’ podcast. Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing one of the world's experts, Kat Kiben. She just offers really great practical advice. 

“If the job ad is all about requirements, it's a terrible job ad. If the job ad is 2000 words long, nobody is going to read it.” 

So, when people look at job ads, the point of a job ad is the same as when you see a commercial on TV to buy a car or something substantial like that. It should not try to tell you everything about the car. And you, as an employer, should not try to tell the employee everything about the job. What you want to do is create interest, enough interest that the candidate clicks the and applies. At that point, the job ad is irrelevant. A job ad is different from a job description. So take those 187 bullet points out and boil it down to just the few that really matter. Have at least as many benefits of working here. 

When you are talking about retirement, in order to attract Gen Z, understand that you are talking about 20-ish year-olds, who are, in their minds, probably 50 years away from being able to retire. So, if your benefits are all about things that baby boomers care about, like pensions in the U.S. or 401 Ks, you've got to understand a 20-year-old couldn't care less. And so you are just wasting ink, and you are also sending a signal to that person that you don't understand them. 

So focus on your employer brand value, your employer brand, proposition, and position. And the EVP, as well as the way that I think Kat described, which was talk to your best employees and ask them, “When you woke up this morning and made the decision about whether or not to go to work, why did you choose to come to work?” That is your employee value proposition. So some of them are going to say, “I love the people, I come here, and I just absolutely love the people I work with.” 

That's the EVP for that person. Other people might say, “You pay me so much I have to come to work.” Or other people might say, “This is the only place in town where I'm allowed to work.” Or “I'm an engineer, and you are the only engineering company in town.” Well, that's also your EVP. Just really zero in on that and communicate.  

Technology in Diversity Hiring

Lydia: That's interesting. I like how organic it is. And it comes from inside, where you take what people actually find appealing, and it's authentic even. You put it back out there, and what's appealing to one person might definitely be appealing to someone else who's looking towards joining a company. 

So, let's discuss technology. Steven, we've spoken quite a bit about Gen Z already and tech being a very significant part of their life. How might technology help to ensure diversity in hiring practices?

Steven: The broader the net that you cast, the more places that you are trying to return or attracting candidates that you will get from, by definition, the more diverse that's going to be. Diversity means different things to different employers, even different rules. It can mean different things. Simply posting job ads in more places gets you more diversity. Different kinds of candidates use different kinds of sites. So, if you only advertise your jobs on Indeed, you are only going to get candidates who use Indeed, and those candidates aren't going to be as diverse as if you also run those postings on LinkedIn, Adzuna, Dice, and College Recruiter. 

You are just tapping into a more diverse group of people. So, your applicant pool is going to reflect that. The other thing is, especially in the world of early talent, early careers, when employers are going to schools, is that when you only go to, say, 10, 20, or 30 schools, all of your candidates are going to reflect those schools. They have the same professors. They probably live in the same areas. They have the same social and economic backgrounds. There is no diversity.  

But if you advertise that position online, in the U.S., there are 7000 colleges and universities, so if you are an employer that's used to going to 20 schools, and now you are essentially going to 7000, which one do you think is going to be a more diverse applicant pool?

Lydia: You widen the pool, you've cast your net out there, and you are seeing more and more people come in. Obviously, they're going to enter your organization, and leaders and hiring managers have to think about what they need to do in order to make sure that there's diversity included in the workspace. 

So, as for leaders and hiring managers, what are some actionable steps that they can take to ensure diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

Steven: A diverse workforce would be, basically, you put a whole bunch of people in the room, and you looked at their faces, and you counted up how many white people there were and how many black people and how many Asians and how many females and how many males, right?  That's going to be a measurement of diversity. And that has nothing to do with what they bring to the workplace. Because you are female, I’m a male. Does that really mean anything in itself? No. 

But what is meaningful is that you bring a different way of looking at things than I do. You get two of us together working on a problem. There's diversity there, and we are probably going to come up with a better solution. One of our clients is the Central Intelligence Agency. They and one of their former talent acquisition leaders spoke at a conference we had and said that they ran actual data tests. They compared the productivity of work teams that were diverse versus those that weren't. The analyst teams that were more diverse consistently came up with better intelligence than those that weren't because they had different ways of looking. 

They saw different things in the workplace. When you can tap into that, when you can make people feel like you are welcome here, you are part of the team. You are not just here as a token female. Right now, you are talking about inclusion. You are talking about equity. And when you do things like, “you are female, I'm male,” we are doing the same job, we are going to get paid the same. 

But unfortunately, most females, average females, are about a third less paid than males, simply because males have an extra chromosome. That is not equitable. So, if you want to recruit and retain diverse candidates, you need to pay attention to equity and you need to pay attention to inclusion. If it's just putting a photo up on some billboard, “look how diverse we are.” And it's probably stock photography. I guarantee you. You are going to be left with a whole bunch of white dudes in most technology shops.

Lydia: So, what advice would you give to someone who's starting out in recruitment today? 

Steven: Someone who's starting out in recruitment should stay away from sourcing. That would probably be my biggest piece of advice. Those who are really new might not even know the difference. Sourcing has different definitions. The way I think about it is when you are finding a candidate and presenting an opportunity to the candidate that they're not aware of yet, a recruiter is usually somebody who is talking to a candidate who has already expressed interest. They might have come to an open house or a career fair, or they might have applied for a job. 

The problem was sourcing. When you are going to, say, LinkedIn and searching for people with maybe certain degrees and years of experience, who live in certain metro areas, and then you are sending them emails. That's kind of a very normal sourcing process. It's highly repetitive. And the reality is the vast majority of that work is pretty low-skilled. It's kind of the same thing over and over again. 

I'm not saying that sourcers lack the skill or that there's not a lot of creativity in that field. What I am saying is that the bulk of the hours put in by most sourcers, more of it is on the grunt work than it is on the creativity and the knowledge that they bring. And that's ripe for automation, probably through AI. So, if a typical sourcers spends an hour a day, really being savvy, really being creative, and then the other seven hours of the day, click paste, send, click, paste, send, AI is going to take seven of those hours away from you. 

So if you are the one left with a job, that's great. Because you are going to have eight hours of creative work, but what it does mean is that for every eight sourcers, seven of them are going to disappear. I think that is right upon us. I think in two years, you are going to see a fraction of the sourcers that you see now.

Lydia: Ultimately, it is about automating the tasks that you do that don't add value to your overall hiring strategy. 

Steven: Yeah. And I think for every job lost in sourcing, the good news is there's at least one job being added in branding and other forms of talent attraction. Candidate Relationship Management or CRM systems are rapidly granting favor where you are nurturing, and you are sending a series of customized emails to candidates over a long period to warm them up and convince them to raise their hand and say, “You know what? When you started emailing me 19 months ago, I wasn't ready. But my kids just went to school.” Now they can look for a full-time job. “When can I start?” That is awesome. 

Programmatic cost per click, if you are good with math, the world is your oyster. And I actually think a lot of sourcers, their talent is math driven. They're playing the odds. The good sourcers implicitly know where to spend their time. It's a math decision. What's the probability that if I spend an hour on LinkedIn versus Indeed, that I'm going to find the candidate? That, at the end of the day, is what programmatic and performance-based advertising is. Playing the odds? It's math.

Connecting with Steven

Lydia: Well, thank you very much for your time today, Steven. I really enjoyed this conversation. It's a whole breadth of topics that we covered today, and the listeners might be very intrigued to know where they can find you. So, where can they connect with you?

Steven: If they want information about College Recruiter, go to www.collegerecruiter.com. And if they want to connect with me, shoot me an email at steven@collegerecruiter.com. It's been a pleasure, Lydia.

Lydia: Thank you so much for your time, Steven. And we have been in conversation with Steven Rothberg, founder of College Recruiter in the United States. If you like our content, please subscribe to our channels and stay tuned for more weekly episodes of All-In Recruitment. 

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