6 Tips for Building a Diverse Talent Pipeline

Higher ed desperately needs to attract and retain talent from diverse backgrounds to deliver effective marketing for institutions, but where should we start?

By: Jaime Hunt

In 2020, I posted a position seeking a senior director of marketing and communications. Four weeks later, I had more than 200 applicants in the pool. Another role—a senior multimedia producer—had nearly 300. To plow through the piles of application materials, the search committees for each of these roles had to divide and conquer, with each member reviewing 40-50 applications each. Our first-round interviews took several weeks, and we had solid backups for every offer we made. 

In 2023, I look at those days with wistful nostalgia. Pools are approximately 10% of what they once were, and although very strong candidates are still applying, having just a small handful of applicants in the screening interviews is now common.

Amid all this, I have been conscious of the glaring whiteness of our profession. We desperately need to attract and retain talent from diverse backgrounds to deliver effective marketing for our institutions. Diversifying our talent pool is a top priority for me. In conversing with my colleagues in higher education across the country, I know I am not alone.

Here are some general tips for building a talent pipeline, as well as some ideas for attracting a more diverse hiring pool.

1. Network and Build Relationships

Attend conferences and participate in professional organizations to connect with potential candidates. Stay in touch with former colleagues and even candidates you interview that aren’t the right fit at that moment. 

One of my most recent hires was someone I interviewed three years ago. I stayed in touch with her because I saw her potential. Once I had a position I thought would be a good fit, I asked her to apply. She impressed me, even more, the second time around and is joining our team later this month.

2. Use Social Media

Use LinkedIn and Twitter to post job listings and engage with potential candidates. As you build your network, people will share your postings with their followers, increasing your reach. LinkedIn can be especially helpful. 

For one recent assistant vice president position, I searched for individuals with a director- or senior director-level title at organizations in my state and several surrounding states. Several of those people applied; others said they weren’t willing to relocate at that time but shared the posting in their networks. 

3. Post the Salary

Posting the salary range can help ensure that the hiring process is transparent and fair for all candidates, as it sets clear expectations for compensation from the outset. This also helps save time and resources during the recruitment process because it reduces the number of candidates who apply for positions outside their desired salary ranges. If your institution doesn’t let you share the salary in the posting, be upfront about it when you invite people to first-round interviews. I always share the salary and in-office expectations before bringing any candidate to campus for an interview.

4. Fair and Inclusive Recruitment

Ensure your recruitment and hiring processes are fair, unbiased and inclusive. This includes reviewing job descriptions, interview techniques and assessment methods to ensure they do not discriminate against any particular group. 

Studies have shown that people from underrepresented groups are more likely to suffer from imposter syndrome, which could cause them to avoid applying when they cannot check every box. One reason for this disparity could be that underrepresented groups often face systemic barriers and biases in the workplace, making them feel less confident about their skills and qualifications.

Additionally, job descriptions may often include gendered or biased language that discourages underrepresented groups from applying. Make sure that your required qualifications are genuine requirements of the job. Move anything you consider desired to the preferred qualifications list to prevent self-elimination by candidates. 

5. Use Diverse Recruitment Channels

Post job listings on websites and social media platforms that target diverse communities. Hue is one example of a job board that specifically targets BIPOC applicants. I have also tried sharing postings with colleagues and friends who work at minority-serving institutions, asking them to share within their networks. 

6. Build Relationships with Diverse Communities

Expand the reach of job postings and connect with potential candidates by building relationships with diverse communities and organizations. Be an active voice for diversity in the profession to ensure your participation is genuine and authentic.

On my campus, I have worked to build bridges with the institution’s international student organization. As a result, I am working to hire a member of this organization as a student worker in my office. This is an opportunity to “sell” higher ed marketing to someone who will bring a necessary perspective to our work. I hope that he will consider making this his profession. 

Building a talent pipeline requires a long-term commitment and ongoing effort. By adopting these steps, institutions can attract and retain qualified candidates, reduce time-to-hire and ensure a continuous flow of diverse, highly qualified candidates.

Jaime Hunt

Jaime Hunt


Jaime is the vice president and chief marketing officer at Old Dominion University, and the host of the podcast “Confessions of a Higher Ed CMO.”

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