Recruiting into the Workforce: Diversifying the Candidate Pool

June 1, 2021 | By: Molly Looman

For years, the commercial real estate industry has been discussing the labor shortage and talent gap that the industry will be facing in the next few years. The tactic has shifted from trying to recruit the same talent to looking beyond the recycled pool and bringing new thoughts, backgrounds, and types of people into the industry.

Diversifying the talent pool does not just refer to demographics, but also to experience level and background. Organizations looking to increase the sustainability and longevity of their organizations are going to need to establish new pipelines and strategies for attracting new minds into the industry. Not only does this affect recruiting tactics, but it includes cultural shifts at the organizations themselves.

Say Goodbye to the Unicorn

The first step to a new recruitment strategy is saying goodbye to the old one. Angela Covington, a regional managing director with BG Talent, suggests employers to stop their search for the “unicorn” and start expanding their reach.

“We always call it the unicorn,” Covington said. “Our clients want the unicorn. They want that perfect type of candidate. They want that perfect level of experience. They want that perfect college grad. Everyone always wants the exact, perfect candidate.”

Teachability and willingness to learn are prime attributes when it comes to finding and retaining new talent. The commercial real estate industry, like many other industries, has fallen into the pitfall of passing around or recycling current talent and not focusing on the development of new talent. This is the process that creates labor shortages like the one professionals are approaching now.

Ross Dickman, the interim chief executive officer of Hire Heroes USA, said military veterans often battle with breaking into an industry because their resume does not
contain industry standard experience. He said what his organization does is try to help their members show employers how what they learn in the military can transfer to commercial real estate.

“You learn to be an empathetic, caring, detail-oriented, and adaptable leader. You are put in a unique, challenging, dangerous at times situations, and you are expected to keep a level head, calmly assess and use the available data,” Dickman said.

Flipping the Script

Traditionally, commercial real estate has been a legacy industry. People have found it because their relative or friend was involved. That circle has remained small for many years which has caused certain cultures and tendencies in the workplace.

Natalie Tyler-Martin, vice president and regional asset manager with Duke Realty said that ensuring and creating a diverse candidate pool starts with a lot of work to undo these tendencies.

“I think a lot of people try to fix diversity from their own lens. They come to the table with a preconceived notion of what they want it to look like,” Tyler-Martin said.

Even if a recruiting process for an open position is completed with a diversity and inclusion strategy, retention is another major portion of developing talent. Tyler-Martin said that to attract the best players onto a team, the whole team needs to feel comfortable at their workplace. Recognizing areas of improvement and instilling an education system within and organization will address issues within the organization and ensure all employees are considered.

“When you have to walk into an organization and you have left a piece of you in your car, that piece that’s left in the car is probably the innovation needed to fix the next great problem,” Tyler-Martin said.

Covington also stressed the importance of breaking away from traditional patterns. She said the organizations that innovate and succeed are the ones with a diverse set of team members from all different backgrounds. She said redundancy in any area is what can prevent and organization from moving forward.

“If you use the same shape and the same size piece over and over again, you’re not going to be able to build that big picture puzzle. You’re never going to have that big team that fits together so perfectly to form that one big picture,” Covington said.

Reaching Out

There are several strategies to increasing a talent pool and bringing more diverse resumes across the desk. One is to meet people where they are. Consider posting positions in new places and in new mediums. Try to find job boards that cater to different backgrounds and demographics. Work on your descriptions to make sure they don’t include exclusionary language.

One of the major ways to attract and understand applicants from different backgrounds is to work with organizations that cater to them. Dickman said that his organization spends a lot of time helping employers read a military veteran’s resume and understand the different transferable skills they bring to the job.

“When evaluating a military veteran’s resume, what you’ll find is that military members really want to make the team better,” Dickman said. “When you hire a veteran, you know you are getting someone you know wants the team to achieve and that’s a really powerful advocate within an organization.”

Diversifying your talent pool also means accepting that your scope is not the whole scope. Use the people in your organization as well as your individual research to discover new perspectives, ways of thinking, and potential industries that may have candidates with transferable skills. Tyler-Martin believes that broadening perspectives is one step to creating a diverse, inclusive workplace.

“Our world is constantly evolving, if you only look at the world from one lens you are missing the remaining 359 degrees,” Tyler- Martin said.

This is not a problem that will be fixed in a quarter. It is an evolving journey that requires responsible succession and planning with a forward-looking lens. Start by reading beyond the resume and ensuring the hiring staff is well-educated and trained to interview and address bias.



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