By James McField, Branch Director and Assistant Vice President, Robert Half

Where are all the job seekers these days?

Talk to any organization trying to hire, and you’re likely to hear two things: It’s getting more difficult to find skilled job candidates — and hiring diverse talent is even tougher.

These difficulties are due in large part to current market conditions. Unemployment is low, and talented job seekers continue to have their pick of solid opportunities. At the same time, firms are more focused on diversifying their workforce to reflect the communities they serve.

Many organizations have ramped up their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs to include hiring and retention efforts. Establishing a solid framework is critical in building a more representative workplace. However, a framework alone does not guarantee results. Firms must commit to making consistent, proactive efforts to expand talent pipelines if they are to see lasting success in creating a more diverse workforce.

At Robert Half, we help organizations find talent to help them grow. Each of our recruiters specializes in one area, such as accounting or technology, and concentrates on roles within that area.

In our ongoing recruiting efforts, we work closely with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and professional organizations such as the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA, Inc.) and the National Urban League (NUL). We’ve also developed our own Apprenticeship Workplace Innovation program to find new talent in underserved communities.

Our initiatives are successful in helping us find and expand our network of potential job seekers. As we continue to advise clients on hiring strategies, we sometimes see ideas or practices that may hurt their efforts rather than help them. Here are three myths and facts about inclusive hiring:

Myth No. 1: If you cast a wide enough net, you’ll attract diverse talent

Fact: It’s not about the size of the net but where and how you cast it.

The strategies that worked to recruit talent even one or two years ago aren’t as effective today. Firms need to get more creative. And they must be proactive in reaching out to diverse communities rather than expecting these communities to come to their site, social feeds or recruiting events.

School and business-related organizations are great targets. Savvy hiring managers, however, reach far beyond these targets: They recruit from anywhere they might find talent, such as churches and other religious groups, neighborhood organizations, and local Meetup groups.

To uncover new sources of talent, you must find new places to recruit — and cast your net with intention and regularity.

Myth No. 2: Making a diverse hire is a sign of success

Fact: This is certainly progress, but success requires you to retain and grow talent as well.

How are you developing new talent for career progression at your firm? What are you doing during the onboarding process and the first few months to mentor new hires and make them feel welcome? Does your culture encourage people to bring their “whole selves” to work? Do you mentor employees and sponsor diverse organizations?

All of these are important questions to ask on a regular basis so you can continue refining your strategy. If employees don’t see a future at your organization or a true commitment to ongoing diversity, they may depart quickly for another role.

Myth No. 3: Your human resources (HR) team has all the tools it needs to hire inclusively, so just let them handle the hiring process

Fact: Your HR team is just one part of the solution. Joint effort is critical.

Many employers have HR specialists who serve as jacks-of-all-trades, with recruiting being one of many roles they manage. Professionals at smaller firms, in particular, may hire only once or twice a year. This low volume of hiring means they can’t stay abreast of all the constantly changing factors that influence the hiring process: local market trends, skill sets in demand and competitive salary ranges.

Organizations often look to specialized recruiting firms like Robert Half — which are entrenched in all facets of the hiring process — to help them make successful hires. Employers also incentivize current employees to refer potential candidates for open roles. HR professionals serve a vital function, but they cannot operate in a vacuum to recruit effectively. Working together with employees and outside firms can help build a more diverse workforce.

One final note: Flexibility in hiring can make a substantial difference in your success. Hiring managers who can separate the “need to haves” from the “nice to haves” in the job description and flex for the right candidates will have the upper hand.

Progressive firms also prioritize soft skills: Candidates may not have the level of experience with a specific software desired, for instance, but do they possess the interest and ability to learn? Tech skills can be learned, but soft skills are often inherent and set the trajectory for professional success. I always recommend that hiring managers keep an open mind and place a premium on soft skills when evaluating potential employees.

Job seekers are out there, but it takes more work today to find them. Be flexible, proactive and intentional as you build your inclusive hiring strategy. Encourage your entire team to continue growing their networks and promoting your firm. And reach out to me or anyone at Robert Half to help you in your efforts. This is a challenging market, and no one should feel they have to face it alone. We’re here to help you in any way we can to help you build and retain an outstanding team.

James McField is branch director and assistant vice president at Robert Half in Washington, D.C. He joined the organization in 2017 as a recruiter and was promoted to his current role in 2019. In addition to his branch responsibilities, James is also a member of the Leadership and Development program for Robert Half’s Black Employee Network. He graduated from The Catholic University of America.

Follow James McField on LinkedIn.