Recruiting Diverse Talent in the Food Industry: Strategies for Success

Just over 50 percent of food industry professionals are racially diverse, making the food industry the most diverse workforce in the nation. 

However, it has an unpleasant truth. 

That unpleasant truth is the massive representation gap in senior leadership positions. 

As a woman-owned executive search firm specializing in placing talent in the food and beverage industry, we pride ourselves on our track record of over half of Curtis Foods Recruiter’s placements are people of color and females.

This blog aims to share with you five strategies we have learned over 14 years in business to help food and consumer packaged goods leaders hire diverse talent. 

Remove Unconscious Bias 

Before actively recruiting for executive diverse talent, it’s extremely important to understand unconscious bias.  

What is Unconscious Bias?  

Research has uncovered that as humans, we use different sections of our brains to process interactions with people who are similar to us compared with people who are different. Upon first glance of someone different, we have an unconscious tendency to judge them based on stereotypes, appearance, skills and ultimately, whether they should be hired or interviewed.

It’s important to note that experiencing unconscious bias doesn’t make you a bad person. Even the best-intended individuals go through unconscious biases on a regular basis all without ever knowing it.  

How to Reduce it 

Tackling this invisible barrier is not something that occurs overnight, it takes time, practice, and the right tools. The first step to reducing unconscious bias is to recognize when it happens. We strongly recommend reading any or all of these 11 Must-Read Books on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to help. 

In addition, there are several strategies you can deploy now to limit unconscious bias in your recruiting efforts. 

Ensure Your Job Descriptions are not Deterring People from Different Groups from Applying

Determine what aspects of the role are required and what aspects others can bring to the role. Is a bachelor’s degree truly required to be successful in this role? Could prior experiences determine this person’s ability to be successful in the job? Be clear in the job posting which requirements are critical and which are a plus – women are often deterred from applying for a role if they don’t meet all requirements in the job posting.  

Be Strategic with Your Interviewing 

When interviewing, ensure that there are rubrics established for the interviewers to evaluate the candidates against the requirements of the role. Be able to quantify intangibles that come out of the meeting so they can be measured equitably. 

Cultural Competence  

Be aware that some traits may be valued more than others, and some may be misinterpreted (such as eye contact, expressiveness, and close communication for example). Be prepared to ask more questions if the hiring manager doesn’t want to move forward with a candidate to determine exactly what their hesitations may be.

Leverage Sourcing Tools  

Harness the power of an artificial intelligence sourcing tool to intelligently remove unconscious bias so your team can have a bias-free candidate pool. 

Aim for Half of Your Candidates to be Diverse  

The golden rule of recruiting is to simply hire the best possible candidate regardless of race, orientation, gender, and ethnicity.  

The biggest obstacle to achieving this is often when diversity is not represented in the candidate pool. To prevent this, we found that having a goal of at least 50 percent of candidates being from diverse backgrounds is critical to ensure you’re getting the best possible candidate. In our experience, more than half of the time the final candidate happens to be diverse and the best cultural contribution. 

Get Creative with Your Recruiting  

Searching for qualified, leadership-level diverse talent may seem extremely difficult at first, but in reality, it just takes a little creativity and strategy. Here are a few tips collected from our team to help you find your next qualified diverse candidate.  

Network with Diversity Groups 

Join diversity and inclusion LinkedIn groups, attend conferences that attract diverse crowds or cover diverse subjects, and start having meaningful conversations across various networking channels. Here are a few groups we recommend staying in contact with: 

If you’re not having any luck, explore unconventional routes like Reddit, volunteer work, and even community events. 

Ask 

Perhaps the best way to find, engage, and ultimately attract high-level diverse talent is to ask them first-hand where they spend their time. Interview diverse employees, families, and friends to see where they go online and how you could better reach them. Odds are good they would be more than happy to help you on your mission to hire more diverse people. In addition, referrals from diverse hires or employees tend to be more diverse.

Campus Recruiting / Career Fairs 

Attend career fairs in diverse neighborhoods to better connect with the community. Explore campus recruiting programs as a source of talent to build a leadership pipeline for the future.  Even better, offer scholarships and internships to diverse communities as a way to signal your commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Partner with a Search Firm 

Some of the industry’s largest and most qualified diverse talent pools are generally located within the database of recruiting agencies and search firms. Many businesses looking to build up their diverse workforce often partner with search firms to find, vet, and hire diverse talent.  

Consider Relocation 

Another obstacle that plagues most hiring managers looking to bring on diverse executives is recruiting in areas with homogeneous demographics.  

We totally get it, there are definitely many areas throughout the nation with a low percentage of diverse citizens. To help combat this, we often encourage candidates to look outside their comfort zone and consider a new adventure in a new city. Additionally, with COVID-19, many jobs are now able to be remote, which greatly widens the search.  

Champion a Culture of Inclusion 

Diversity and inclusion are one of the top three priorities for nearly every business in 2020 but it’s so much more than just hitting D&I numbers and goals, it’s about building a culture with a foundation of inclusion. When senior leadership is motivated by constructing a culture that is focused on diversity of thought, that is when the door can be open to a more inclusive culture. After all, only 55 percent of global employees feel that their employers were making efforts to build a more inclusive culture.  

Leaders need to be a part of the conversation and take active steps to help the entire organization understand and leverage everyone’s differences. Here’s a few examples of tangible ways your business can build a foundation of inclusion that will attract top-tier diverse talent.  

  • Design a mentorship program that encourages and helps grow women and diverse employees within the organization. 
  • Establish a diversity and inclusion committee that makes sure everyone feels included in the conversation.  
  • Survey employees and ask how your company can better build out a diversity and inclusion foundation. Be prepared to enact changes to meet the employee’s needs. 
  • Clearly define the values of your organization and ensure leaders are accountable to upholding those values.     
  • Ensure that you are developing and advancing the career of diverse employees already at your organization. 
  • Review your interview process over the last year or two and determine where candidates in underrepresented groups have fallen out of the process. Determine where improvements to the process could be made.

We genuinely hope you found this blog helpful on your quest to hire more diversity in executive positions. It’s our sincere goal to help employ more diverse and qualified talent in the food industry. If you have any questions or need any help around hiring diverse talent, we’d love to connect! 

About Curtis Food Recruiters 

As a full-service executive search firm, Curtis Food Recruiters is in a unique position that allows us to independently evaluate food manufacturing and grocery retail companies’ hiring processes, from the perspective of both the talent acquisition team and the candidate. Contact us today and we’ll leverage our vast industry experience to ensure you not only attract—but keep—the best diverse talent on the market.

Improving Your Hiring Process: How to Keep Candidates From Walking Away

Every hiring manager has experienced challenges in keeping qualified candidates engaged. In the time it can take to consider all applicants, narrow the field, and prepare an offer, it’s not uncommon for the once-interested front-runner to have moved on to another opportunity. Here are some tips you can implement to keep your best candidates engaged throughout your hiring process.

Prepare for success

Always look for ways that you can take an active seat in the hiring process and drive it forward. From the start, make sure your interview team is on the same page regarding what a successful candidate looks like for the role in terms of skill set, personality, leadership style, past experience, etc. Ensure that the team will be asking the right questions, both culturally and technically. Setting a timeline with action items not only helps the team make a timely decision, but lets the candidate know where they are in the process and approximately when they can expect a decision. Putting these measures in place upfront will help set the stage to be able to move towards a decision quicker.

Find the obstacles in your process and address them

Does your talent acquisition process take four weeks or more? If it does, many of your applicants may grow frustrated and ultimately move on. The following are a few common obstacles to a smooth and timely process:

  • Are quality applications trickling in too slowly? Try increasing your visibility by getting your opportunity out through new channels, such as job boards, professional recruiters, LinkedIn connections, networking, etc.
  • Are you spending too much time on in-person interviews? Try narrowing down the field with less time-intensive methods such as phone or video conferencing interviews. In addition, keep in mind that you don’t need your entire department to interview each candidate. Determine who has the most valuable insight and trim out the rest.
  • Are there long delays in getting interview feedback? Scheduling a follow-up meeting or hard deadline for feedback will keep the timeline on track for all parties involved, including the candidate.

Consider what the candidates may want

Your interview process – for better or worse – defines how your company will be perceived as a whole. If you make the interview process all about your organization’s wants and needs, your candidates may think working for you will be very one-sided. Make sure you provide ample time to turn the tables and allow the candidates to ask questions.

It’s also important to give them real-life examples of your company culture and what they might expect. What are the best aspects of the role and the team? What aspects may cause frustration? Being honest will keep the candidates that are a good fit for your culture more engaged – and allow for the ones that aren’t to self-select out of the process.

Increase the frequency and transparency of your communication

Check in with your candidates weekly, and not just through email, regardless of whether you have an update for them. A simple, personal reminder that they’re still being considered is enough to keep most job seekers engaged. In fact, 81% of job seekers say employers continuously communicating status updates to them would greatly improve the overall experience.

Using automation tools to set reminders for following-up will ensure that you don’t have any long lapses in communication. Too much time between the interview and feedback on next steps can make candidates anxious, which may cause them to feel that the company is disinterested or raise concerns about the corporate culture of decision making.

In the event that you do not have a concrete update, you could share the following:

  • Update them on where you are in the interview process (conducting additional interviews, coordinating in-person interviews, etc.).
  • Explain extended gaps between interviews (be sure to admit if travel, a company transition, or any other unexpected event has temporarily put the process on hold).
  • Share any significant company news or information that gives them more insight into the company culture.
  • Inform candidates how they can prepare for the next steps.

Create continued interest in the role

Every interaction with the candidate is an opportunity to engage them with the company and get them excited about the role.

  • Include office and/or plant tours either in person or virtually to show off the best parts of working in your facility.
  • Ask the hiring manager to reach out to the candidate(s) directly to keep the level of engagement high, especially if the interview process is taking longer than expected.

Don’t be afraid to make an offer early on

A highly qualified candidate will look just as enticing to your competitors as they do to you. If that person checks off all your boxes, don’t hesitate to aggressively pursue them. Remember, if you don’t, someone else will.

Be willing to negotiate

Salary negotiations should almost never be the reason a top candidate walks away. You’ve put the time and energy into getting them this far along in the process, so don’t throw that all away with an unwillingness to negotiate. If you set expectations up front, you can transform this stage into more of a painless formality than a hostile contest.

Having an experienced recruiter on your side can make this process even easier. A recruiter can discuss salary details on your behalf, provide reference checks, and offer negotiation assistance in the event that any counter-offer situations arise.

Partner with a premier search firm

As a full-service executive search firm, Curtis Food Recruiters is in a unique position that allows us to independently evaluate food manufacturing and grocery retail companies’ hiring processes, from the perspective of both the talent acquisition team and the candidate. Contact us today and we’ll leverage our vast industry experience to ensure you not only attract—but keep—the best talent on the market.

Adjusting Your Hiring Process Amidst COVID-19

The global outbreak of COVID-19 has brought business challenges unlike any we’ve ever seen. Many companies—and even entire industries—have been temporarily put on the back burner, while others have been asked to do everything they can to meet demand.

While there is much uncertainty in the world right now, one thing is certain: business must go on—and that includes the hiring process. In order to avoid losing your employment momentum, you need to make certain adjustments. Here are some tips for how to prepare your hiring process during a dramatic change in the business landscape.

Keep your candidates engaged

People are more unsure about the future now than ever before. Don’t give your candidates any reason to doubt the fate of your business or the position they’re applying for. Reassure them by remaining in frequent contact—even if you don’t have any significant updates to report.

Some topics to consider:

  • Hiring status and timelines to let the candidates know where you’re at in the process.
  • Company updates that showcase your current successes in difficult times.
  • COVID-19 precautions your company is taking.

In a time of limited social interaction, it’s far better to err on the side of over-communication and transparency than to allow your top prospects to lose interest and walk away.

Continue to move the pipeline forward

No doubt you have countless other pressing things to attend to, but you can’t let your hiring process become a casualty of this pandemic. Many companies—big and small—have already put their talent acquisition operations on hold. Don’t make this same mistake.

Keep your pipeline moving forward by continuing to look for qualified candidates, conducting video calls with various members of the interview team, and negotiating terms with frontrunners. By doing as much as you can at this stage, you will be in a better position to make an offer when the time is right.

Make sure your video conference technology is in order

With social distancing being strongly encouraged, you’re going to need to find a good alternative to your in-person meetings. Phone interviews might still be your first point of contact, but virtual face-to-face interviews are going to be the next best option. With a video call, you’ll be able to pick up on many of the same social skills, confidence levels, and overall chemistry that an in-person interview provides.

If you haven’t ventured into this realm before, here are some of the most popular video conferencing services:

Whatever service you end up using, make sure that you test it thoroughly before your first scheduled interview.

Be patient and flexible

As a large portion of the population adjusts to working remotely from home, there are naturally going to be some complications. You may not get responses as quickly as you’re used to, and that’s okay. It may also be more difficult to find a good time for a quiet, uninterrupted interview as families are forced to balance the demands of young kids, pets, and shared internet bandwidth.

The key takeaway here is that if you’re understanding of their situation, they are far more likely to be understanding of yours. This will reflect well on your company and make them more likely to want to continue with the hiring process.

Find a search partner you can trust

We are all under greater strain than ever before. Partnering with an executive search firm can ease your hiring burden. They can do the work that you are unable to, usually in a fraction of the time as they have a direct line to the top talent your organization needs. Recruiters are still working hard every day to guide their clients through this challenging situation.

Remember, even though the hiring process itself may feel different at this time, the outcome should still be the same: finding a highly skilled employee and a valuable addition to your team.

For over a decade, Curtis Food Recruiters has been matching food and beverage professionals with prominent, rewarding career opportunities. As a full-service executive search firm specializing in the food manufacturing and grocery retail industries, we  partner with our clients to find top talent and fill critical roles. Contact us today so we can do the same for you.