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How Companies Can Effectively Recruit from HBCUs

How Companies Can Effectively Recruit from HBCUs

The number of job openings increased to 10.7 million in September of last year, up more than four percent from the month before, according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since January 2021, job openings have been steeply climbing. Companies not recruiting at HBCUs may be missing out on promising future employees.

Companies like Gilead Sciences, Novartis, Google, Microsoft and more have created recruiting pipelines with HBCUs over the past few years.

Biopharmaceutical giant Gilead is working to build specific, personal relationships with HBCUs to facilitate recruitment. The company uses employees as liaisons to build relationships with officials at the nine HBCUs it recruits from. These liaisons are sometimes alumni of the school who now work for Gilead. The HBCU officials can then recommend their star students for internships and fellowships.

For Microsoft, the big tech giant has enticed Morehouse students to panels of alumni talking about entry-level positions at the company and careers in tech with the quintessential college bait — free Chick-Fil-A and the chance to win an Xbox.

“[University recruiting] is about finding the best talent right out of the gate and kickstarting lifelong careers,” Portia Kibble Smith, head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Karat. “It also creates an opportunity to source candidates from more diverse talent pools.  There are many diamonds in the rough.” 

Karat conducts first-round interviews for tech companies and has worked with HBCU students. In October, Karat signed on as a corporate partner for the new Morehouse Center for Broadening Participation in Computing. The company is providing 1,000 mock technical interviews for the center.


Here are some advices from Kibble Smith on how companies can effectively recruit from HBCUs:

What advice would you give to companies who want to hire more from HBCUs but don’t know how?

Identifying a list of HBCUs to target, even if they are not the most well-known or popular, is an important first step. Look at your employee base who are from HBCUs to help build that list.  Start small if needed to avoid a saturated recruiting market and build relationships with the institutions and student leaders.

Getting to really understand and know the students and professors/leadership at these colleges, because each is different, will help to also build a successful recruiting strategy.

Why should companies try to recruit from universities?

Companies that get an early start on university recruitment will have their choice of some of the best candidates.

That said, even in the current job market, we’re still seeing strong university recruiting and early career hiring demand, and the tail for peak university recruiting season now often extends well beyond the start of the new year for full-time and intern hiring. 

Why should companies look to recruit a diverse pool of candidates?

There is a huge need for more diverse hiring, especially in the tech industry when only five percent of software engineers are Black. Building diverse software development teams is both a priority and a challenge for many companies.

Compared to industry averages, the population of candidates during university recruiting season is far more diverse. Over the past three years, companies saw an average of 113 percent more applicants who were female or non-binary and 67 percent more applicants who were members of an underrepresented minority group during university recruiting season.

If a company wants to be successful, they will need a diverse group of employees who will have diverse backgrounds and ideas to share as they build products and services for today’s market. It’s a great business decision!

What can companies do to recruit and hire more Black and brown students?

The opportunity for candidates to redo interviews is huge for candidates who have had limited exposure to technical interviews.

Research shows that more than half of HBCU computer science students had never had a practice interview before entering the job market, which puts them at a disadvantage. Offering interview redo opportunities is a good way to level the playing field by giving candidates the interviewing experience they need to put their best foot forward. Our data shows that redos not only create a more inclusive hiring process, but they also improve hiring efficiency for companies.

Also having diverse recruiters can help.  Having someone who can relate to the students is always key and it shows the candidates that your company has a commitment to diversity.  If you’re not showing that commitment, then it will be difficult to attract the talent. 

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Discovering the Heart and Soul of HBCU Academic Culture

Discovering the Heart and Soul of HBCU Academic Culture

As an intermediary between students and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), we are passionate about helping students discover the heart and soul of HBCU academic culture. HBCUs have a long and rich history of providing African Americans with access to higher education, and today, they continue to offer students a unique and vibrant educational experience.

At the heart of HBCU academic culture is a strong sense of community. HBCUs are known for their close-knit communities and family-like atmospheres, where students often form lifelong friendships and connections. Many HBCUs have small class sizes, which allows for more personalized attention from faculty members and greater opportunities for collaboration and discussion.

In addition to a strong sense of community, HBCUs also place a strong emphasis on social justice and activism. HBCUs have a long history of promoting social justice and civil rights, and many continue to be centers for social and political movements. Students at HBCUs may be encouraged to engage in activism and community service as part of their education, and many HBCUs offer programs and courses focused on social justice issues.

Another important aspect of the heart and soul of HBCU academic culture is academic excellence. HBCUs provide challenging and rigorous academic programs that prepare students for success in their chosen fields. Many HBCUs have strong programs in STEM fields, education, social sciences, and the humanities. In addition, HBCUs often have faculty members who are highly regarded in their fields and who are dedicated to mentoring and supporting students.

The heart and soul of HBCU academic culture is also about personal and professional development. HBCUs are often dedicated to developing the whole person, and many provide students with a range of resources and support services to help them grow personally and professionally. These resources may include counseling and career services, leadership development programs, and opportunities for research and internships.

At Focus Quest, we share and choose to elevate the values that define HBCU academic culture. We take pride in working with these institutions and helping students discover the unique and enriching educational experiences they offer.

We encourage students to consider HBCUs as part of their academic journey, as these institutions provide a community-focused, socially-conscious, and academically-rigorous education. Success is within reach, and HBCUs are a powerful pathway to achieving it.

Don’t hesitate to choose an HBCU to improve your chances and your success.

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Dear Students,

As Student Success Coaches, we would like to take this opportunity to reach out and communicate with you directly. We understand that your academic journey can be challenging, but please know that we are here to support you every step of the way.

We want to remind you that your success is our top priority. We are here to provide you with guidance, resources, and support to help you achieve your academic goals. Whether you need assistance with time management, study skills, or navigating the university, we are here to help.

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Spring Into Renewed Action

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It’s April and spring is upon us. For some, we have the opportunity to see nature literally wake up before our eyes. The science of spring has proven to increase our mood, well-being, and energy. Simply taking time to observe the beautiful changes can allow us to be more present, grounded, and connected. Create space- even if just for a moment- to take it all in and breathe; be still from the work of life and breathe.   

Let the transforming landscape also serve as a reminder that everything, and everyone, requires a reset, a renewal of sorts. Because sometimes, as days, weeks, and months go by, we panic about all the things we planned at the beginning of the year that we have yet to complete and, in some cases, start. Or, we may be so focused on what we determined at the beginning of the year that we don’t see or consider new opportunities. Whatever our situation, every day we wake up with breath in our lungs, we can and should take advantage of the restart.

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Grant yourself grace to intentionally reset, recalibrate to center, and truly bloom in this season, fully walking out the life for which you were created. Are you with me?

Dr. Jaché Williams

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