Diversity Week and the Career Center had a collaboration last Wednesday that involved a speaker session on “How to find a DEI employer.” Manuel Ruiz, the assistant vice president for Inclusion & Belonging, and Jessica Henning, director of Selection and Development at Northwestern Mutual, lead the conversation.
Ruiz started the class by encouraging questions, as “no question is a dumb question.” Diversity and inclusion are used interchangeably but have two different definitions. Demographics and physical characteristics are what define diversity. On the other hand, inclusion is “what an organization is doing to make everyone feel like a part of the discourse” or “everyone is involved at the table.”
Ruiz emphasized that to find a company that best fits, students need to know what their core values are. While money is important and many people tend to make a beeline for the salary information on a job listing, money does not buy happiness. With each statement that Ruiz made, he gave an example immediately after from his personal experience.
When he came to Shippensburg University, Ruiz had an offer at another institution that many of his friends told him to go for as it paid more. He chose Shippensburg University because he felt like he was back at his alma mater as he interacted with the students. “It was about culture and fit,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz had audience members take a few moments to write down their core values. Henning does a similar exercise with any incoming organization member (Northwestern Mutual) in which they would have to narrow down value cards to what they deemed important to themselves. When she started working with Northwestern Mutual, Henning discovered that she “cherishes and values benevolence, impact, and selflessness.” Audience members were then invited to share their core values with the rest of the room.
An audience member brings up equity and Ruiz discussed how “you can tell when someone is transparent.” Referring to the previous story of why Ruiz chose Shippensburg University over the competitor, he valued how Shippensburg University would include students in the decision-making processes.
Ruiz highlights the Career Center’s reflective exercises, mock interviews, and various other resources. He placed importance on students knowing what their strengths are. According to Henning, the first thing that an employer will ask a candidate is, “What’s your story?” Students need to know who they are as a person so that during interviews, they are not reading things off directly from their resume.
Besides using diversity and inclusion as buzzwords, Ruiz wants students to look through a company’s website and decide for themselves if they take their diversity, equity, and inclusion statements to the heart within their community (at work or in the area they are in). Utilizing www.glassdoor.com, Ruiz says students can find reviews from employees (past and current) on employers they’re interested in. However, he warns his students as well that the site may have reviews from “negative Nancies.”
Ruiz focused on how employers need to revisit their DEI goals and statements often while also “including you (employees) all in the decision-making process).” This goes hand-in-hand with students holding themselves and colleagues accountable. Ruiz asked “what does that look like in a classroom setting through a DEI lens? What does that syllabus look like? Is it using gender-inclusive language? Are you choosing the appropriate books?”
He noted how 20 years ago, jobs were all about GPA, but nowadays, employers want to know about your activities outside of the classroom. Henning said, “I want to know what you’re doing and not how well you take a test.” For students who are involved in various things and find trouble with what to focus on, Henning said to tailor the resume to what you’re passionate about. Ruiz also said to look at a company’s mission statement and align your resume to that. According to a study done by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the average employer takes 30 seconds to look at a resume and some companies have an algorithm that can cut chances short if a resume does not use specific keywords.
Ruiz and Henning highlighted the effects of a digital footprint in the job-searching process. Noting how “private” accounts are not as private as they seem; employers can easily find information online and check out a student’s social media presence. Henning stated how private DMs are also dangerous because if you are saying offensive things to a stranger that “it can come back to bite you.”
Henning and Ruiz emphasized how respect and positivity go a long way. They used similar examples of how candidates that treated a building security guard or delivery person with kindness had a significantly higher chance of being hired. Ruiz discussed how when a student does get hired and finishes their assigned tasks for the day, they should go around and ask if anyone needs assistance.
Ruiz and Henning conclude the session by discussing resources for students of diverse backgrounds and focusing on how college is all about learning transferable skills. Henning uses her own personal story of how she graduated with an English education degree but is now working in finance. Ruiz, on the other hand, discussed how he had a student who wanted to go for a sociology major. The issue was that one of the student’s friends told them how sociology would not work as a major in the business world. Ruiz reminded the audience that no matter what major students go for, the skills learned in that industry can be applied to other career paths.
Ryan Murphy, sophomore accounting student, appreciated having the situation be hosted in the first place. “Just how to be more inclusive with your company and how a company can do that and how to spot red flags with that.” Going forward, he feels more confident in the job searching process.
For more information, visit the Career Center for their professional closet, mock interviews, and resume building.