How to Discover Top Diverse Talent Your Competition is Missing

Companies frequently approach BWC Executive Group, LLC (BWC) to help them increase diversity at the senior executive level. Some corporate internal recruiting teams can’t find enough candidates that are women, Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC). As a result, they cannot ensure a slate of finalists with at least two diverse candidates. (Just one diverse candidate unfairly marginalizes that executive as “the other.”) Even when corporate recruiting teams deliver diverse slates, some hiring executives feel more comfortable selecting candidates for “cultural fit,” which usually means someone who looks and acts like the hiring manager.

Companies are discovering they have to do more to yield diverse leadership hires. That’s where we come in. We are an executive search research firm that uncovers top, diverse talent that others miss. We build various talent pools brimming with the best and brightest women and BIPOC contenders.

It takes more extraordinary research expertise to avoid missing brilliant, diverse candidates. For diversity recruiting to deliver results, you need expert researchers who understand how to look, where to look, and ultimately how to celebrate diversity in the candidates they discover.


Companies regularly come to us for help recruiting top executives and technology talent who happen to be diverse. It’s not that the corporate recruiting team isn’t capable. Instead, most corporate recruiting teams lack the bandwidth required to deliver exceptional results. 


Employee referrals are incredibly common. According to a 2018 article in the Harvard Business Review, more than a third of U.S. workers landed their current job via an employee referral. Additionally, employee referrals are often supported by companies through referral bonuses. In a 2020 report, Payscale found that 34% of the 5,000 companies interviewed use employee referral bonuses. 

Intrinsically, the logic behind using employee referrals makes sense. Who knows what kind of person will succeed at your company better than a current employee? The problem is that employees tend to recommend people that look and act like them, further perpetuating a homogeneous culture.


A 2017 study by PayScale asked 53,000 workers in the United States whether they received a referral. Their research found that female and minority applicants were less likely to receive referrals than their white male counterparts. Specifically, white women were 12 percent less likely, men of color were 26 percent less likely, and women of color were 35 percent less likely to receive a referral.

The inequality of employee referrals is a wide-known problem. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), a thought leader on human resources and issues affecting the workplace, addresses this issue on its website. SHRM writes that “while an employee referral program is a great recruiting tool, the program may unintentionally impact some protected groups if employees refer candidates of the same race, religion, national origin or any other protected class.” SMRM even offers recommendations to alleviate this problem. However, their recommended solutions either don’t address the root of the problem (like capping employee referrals) or are too idealistic to be realistic solutions (like telling hiring executives to “evaluate all applicants, including employee referrals, using the same qualification criteria”)

This, and other structural hiring issues, are why so many companies look outside for help when conducting diversity talent pool research. Executive search research firms are designed to do precisely that. 


Not all executive search research firms are created equal. Even those that claim to be experts in diversity recruiting recycle the same diverse executives, missing brilliant contenders who are perfect for your company. They miss various candidates because they lack deep research expertise. And by that, we don’t mean your average candidate sourcing methods. To ensure high-quality diversity recruiting research, you need an executive search research partner who knows how to look and where to look — often beyond the usual places.


Using LinkedIn isn’t enough to find diverse executive talent. Although LinkedIn boasts a membership of over 500 million people, LinkedIn and LinkedIn Recruiter still have significant drawbacks, including incomplete, outdated, and altogether fake user profiles. LinkedIn is a valuable tool, but it’s not a panacea for all your recruiting needs. Especially in the technology sector, many leading executives don’t have LinkedIn profiles simply because they don’t need to. Furthermore, LinkedIn profiles often don’t tell you whether a potential candidate is diverse. Instead, various executives and technologists often signal their diversity through other means. It would help if you reached beyond LinkedIn to find a robust and diverse talent pool. 


Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are a great source of young talent, but searching for graduates of the top HBCUs is not enough. According to Jackye Clayton, DEI strategist at SeekOut, only 20% of Black students in the country who complete a bachelor’s degree do so at an HBCU. So, she asks, how are you recruiting the other 80%? Additionally, a candidate that graduated from an HBCU is not necessarily racially or ethnically diverse. A list of HBCU college graduates does not constitute a well-researched diverse talent pool.

Similarly, historically women’s colleges and universities, such as Barnard College and Wellesley College, offer a list of high-achieving graduates, but solely searching for women’s colleges misses the majority of female executives in the United States. 


Of course, it is reasonable to want high-achieving executives from high-achieving companies. However, limiting your search to a few target companies will drastically restrict your diversity talent pool research. Top technology companies are famously white and male — they are among the least diverse workforces in business. 

For example, look at Google. Understandably, technology companies would value executives having worked for this technology giant. Yet, think about their diversity. In their 2020 Diversity Report, Google reported that their leadership teams were 27% women, 2.6% African American / Black, 3.7% Hispanic / Latinx, and 0.5% Native American, Native Alaskan, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander. Looking at racial diversity limits your diversity recruiting research to less than 10% of current and former Google employees. While companies like Google are getting better, you should include more diverse target companies. 


BWC uses investigative research to take diversity talent acquisition support to a whole new level. Our expert research boosts executive diversity and engineering diversity at leading technology companies.

Above all, our robust investigative research enables great talent (that happens to be diverse) and great companies (that want to be more varied) to find each other. BWC reaches beyond traditional recruiting resources, diverse communities, and social networks. As a result, we uncover top, various talents others miss.

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