Acing the Diversity Recruiting Process
It doesn’t take much time on the website of a competitive school to see that business programs value diversity.
Admissions committees are looking for a unique and complementary mix of perspectives, backgrounds, experiences and demographics reflecting the world around us. As a diverse candidate, it’s important to take full advantage of your unique background by being purposeful about your recruiting process and maximize your opportunity to gain exposure to the school through the various school diversity recruiting events and initiatives. We will take you through a few suggestions on how you can truly optimize the diversity recruiting process.
Do your research
Research is not so much a step in the recruiting process as much as it is an integral and ongoing part of the process. The process is about gathering data and iterating based on acquired information and it is very much a two-way engagement: you are evaluating your schools as much as they are evaluating you as a candidate and future business leader. Early on, it’s about doing research to determine a broad list of schools that may work for you; you will have plenty of time to narrow the list later. Everyone is different in approaching school selection, but I suggest formulating a thesis around what you’re looking to get out of a program. Common themes for school identification include functional expertise, career placement, learning approach competitiveness/ranking and location. Think broadly and cast a wide net; you will be able to whittle down the list later.
Also, you may want to consider how a school approaches and engages diversity and diverse candidates. Schools that value diversity tend to talk about it proactively and promote their appreciation as content throughout their messaging, marketing materials, and website. Natasha Gore, Associate Director of Diversity Initiatives at Dukes Fuqua School of Business, talked about the importance of diversity at Duke, “Fuqua has a team-based learning environment and diversity is part of our DNA”. In addition, she talks about the value of fostering a diverse class, “…having different voices at the table make for an enriched MBA journey.”
Investigate to see how the diversity initiatives translate to actual numbers – take a look at the class profile and confirm the school is able to convert their focus on diversity into a diverse class.
Get on the school radar
Once you have a list of schools that fit your career, academic and social goals, it’s time to get connected. One of the first things you want to do is visit the school website and fill out general information so you can get on their radar. Every school is different, but usually there is an interest or profile form to fill out in the Admissions section of the website. It is not a best practice to ask for ethnicity or demographic information on school interest forms, but they may ask if you have interest in particular clubs as their way to determine a diversity affiliation. Look at those clubs closely as invitations to specific diversity events may come as a result of your “opt-in” interest.
Engage: School Events & Outside Organizations
Now that you’ve provided your contact information, preferences, and interests, it’s time to connect directly with the schools. Schools are recruiting throughout the year, but campus recruiting events are strongest in the fall. Schools may reach out to you about an on-campus diversity event, but you should check each school’s website regularly for updated events in case you weren’t included for an event of interest to you. In some cases, events may even be paid for so it’s important to make sure you are considered a diverse candidate of interest as soon as you’ve identified a school.
Most schools have an assigned diversity representative or dedicated staff focused on diversity recruiting. Figure out who that person is and make sure they (and other admissions staffers) know who you are. Lance Bennett, Director of Diversity Admissions at the Kellogg School of Business, affirms this point. “At Kellogg, I lead diversity outreach and have a full-time staff person on my team, but our entire admissions staff believes in the importance of attracting a diverse class that reflects the world around us.”
Another way to engage with schools is by becoming an active member of a diversity organization that serves as a pipeline for diverse MBA applicants. There are several well-known organizations in this space including Consortium, NBMBAA, Prospanica, Toigo Foundation, and MLT to name a few. These and others are great organizations to engage with as many have strong connections to top b-schools and programming that assist with the application process.
Reach out to alumni
MBA alumni are another a great resource as their input is very valuable to admissions committee members. Gore affirms the importance of Duke Fuqua alumni in the recruiting process: “We lean on our Fuqua alumni to assist in our outreach. We have a series called Diverse Perspectives held in major U.S. cities to engage and outreach to our prospective students.” Don’t underestimate the value of diverse alumni in providing insights and advice about the recruiting process. Their perspective will enhance your view of the school and may be pivotal in your journey toward acceptance. Remember: make a good impression – you never know when your name may come up.
Eric Allen is the President of Admit.me, the online step-by-step admissions platform and the admissions consulting company, Admit Advantage. He earned an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.