This piece originally appeared in the July 2022 edition of DS News magazine, online now.
Truly inclusive hiring starts long before candidates come through the door, and companies should not expect a diverse talent pool to come to them. You cannot expect someone to have a seat at the table if they do not know where that table is.
Rather, it is critical that companies are proactively reaching out to underrepresented groups to educate and familiarize them with the industry and the opportunities it has to offer—and everyone, both companies and individuals, has a unique part to play. Through these efforts, we can create an industry that better mirrors the people it serves.
For the mortgage industry, as for any industry, awareness is a key part of the recruiting process. You cannot expect someone to want to work in mortgage or housing if they do not understand it or the opportunities it holds.
For the mortgage and housing industry, unless they have bought or sold a home, most will not have any experience with the industry. This is especially true for younger professionals who are less likely to own a home. Companies cannot assume that the potential employees they’re hoping to reach are familiar with the mortgage industry; therefore, they must be prepared to spread awareness instead.
Lenders, insurers, tech providers, servicers, and anyone else in the industry must first proactively engage with potential candidates about what the mortgage industry is before informing them of the opportunities available at their respective companies.
Even those with some awareness may still not be aware of the breadth of options. There are so many different facets of the mortgage industry. Just because a candidate may be familiar with mortgage technology does not necessarily mean they will understand mortgage insurance, for instance, or vice-versa.
This is why awareness is key. A candidate could be passionate about a specific role or function, but they may not know about the available opportunities within the mortgage industry that align with their passions. It’s easier for the right candidates to match with the right roles and companies if there is clear communication about the wealth of opportunities available.
To continue creating awareness, how can companies get in front of the underrepresented groups they want to reach? Partnership is a key strategy for more inclusive recruiting. Chances are, there are organizations that already exist that are working toward the same goals as your company. Partner with them and work toward this goal together instead of reinventing the wheel and trying to do it alone. In addition to streamlining the process, partnering allows you to leverage their previous learnings and existing relationships while also helping your partner organization further their own goals.
Maximize your impact and improve the chances that your initiatives will succeed by clearly laying out a vision with specific goals that you want to accomplish. Then, search for partners that best align with these goals and the underrepresented groups that you’re targeting.
Find organizations such as non-profits, trade associations, or schools that represent your target groups. Focus on local organizations first, then move out to broader regional or national organizations, especially if your goal is to hire locally. Make sure to leverage your connections here. You may have people in your network or even in your own company who already work with these organizations who can help facilitate your introductions.
Once you’ve identified potential partners, reach out to these organizations and find ways to magnify each other’s efforts. By doing this, you are meeting your potential candidates right where they are, rather than expecting them to find your company.
Just as your partner’s resources and connections can help further your goals, you may be able to assist with theirs. True partnership, after all, must work both ways.
Be conscientious of their goals and seek ways you can help—whether it’s helping financially, offering knowledge and expertise, or leveraging your own connections.
Throughout your partnership, do not lose sight of the fact that you’ve reached out because your partner has knowledge to offer, too. Again, it is a two-way street. Be willing to listen and learn from them. And as you get started, be willing to learn from others already doing this work.
An existing partnership, and one that anyone can join, is the HBCU Partnership Challenge. Congresswoman Alma Adams created the challenge to strengthen opportunities for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU) students and highlight diversity-focused corporations. Joining the HBCU Partnership Challenge shows commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) in the corporate world, across all industries. It also demonstrates you are thinking bigger, beyond your organization, and aligning in political spaces to reinforce your company’s commitment by taking an active role to advocate for real change.
There are so many other examples of great partnerships. Programs like Fannie Mae’s Future Housing Leaders or the Thurgood Marshall College Fund can help connect your company with a diverse pool of new professionals and emerging leaders who can help strengthen your organization. These programs are only the beginning, there are many other potential programs your company can leverage for both your benefit as well as that of your partner organization.
Areas of Influence
This proactive outreach is not always about hiring for your company or raising your company profile but also about raising awareness and creating opportunities across the industry.
The Center for Financial Advancement (CFA), for example, noted in their 2020-2021 Impact Report that through its programming with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), it had introduced nearly 10,000 students to money management skills. They also report they’ve had almost 600 program participants—56 of whom joined a Mortgage Bankers Association course to sharpen their industry skills and 32 students who began internships in the mortgage industry through the CFA’s partnership with various companies. Proactive outreach truly does make an impact.
Each company can use its own specific expertise to make a difference and reach the broader goal of increasing diversity in our industry. Every organization will have different strengths to play on and different connections to leverage. All individuals in a company—regardless of how they identify—have a part to play in creating a more inclusive workplace.
Of course, those in recruiting often have the most direct role, but anyone can identify areas for improvement or identify organizations that would be good partners in advancing the company’s DEIB efforts. You do not have to belong to an underrepresented group to engage in DEIB initiatives. It takes everyone working together to create meaningful change.
Good companies value what matters to their employees, and employee support, feedback, and engagement are pivotal to the success of your DEIB initiatives. Employee resource groups and diversity & inclusion councils can play a role here, too. Internal partnerships are just as important as external partnerships. As a company, encourage each of your employees to get involved in your DEIB goals. As an employee, know that your voice matters, and your ideas can make an impact.
With inclusive recruiting, it all comes down to meeting people where they are. Through partnerships, education, and proactive outreach, anyone can make a difference—both for their company as well as the broader mortgage industry. Every outreach effort and diversity program offers more opportunities to increase diversity the industry, and together it adds up to make a significant difference. Through the efforts of companies across the industry, a workforce that resembles the people it serves can become a reality.