By Staff Writer
The Native American job candidate with a tribal worldview offers an opportunity to increase diversity and inclusion in the interest of increased innovation and competitiveness. Their ability to navigate between a tribal worldview of which they are proud and American culture is just one reason that they add value to any organization. Many Native Americans have assimilated into American culture, but this article focuses more on those who maintain a close connection to their tribal culture. The goal is to help organizations better recruit (and retain) Native job applicants.
- Recruiters need to have a proactive and compassionately aggressive view of the majority of Native American candidates. One of the most frustrating challenges for recruiters is when a Native American candidate appears to be very interested in the interview yet doesn’t show. The recruitment approach for Native Americans must be unique in important ways if you want to be successful. They are often first-generation college graduates with parents who are unfamiliar with the college graduate job application process. Recruiters cannot make any assumptions, therefore, about what candidates know. They must, instead, take an active role in finding out what the applicant expects in the recruitment process and educate them so that they can put their best foot forward. The ability to educate and probe without appearing insensitive and condescending requires cultural competence.
- The “drop in and out” style of recruitment on college campuses with large numbers of Native Americans is common and ineffective when recruiting these potential applicants. The potential recruits want a job, but feel unsure of how to select the best organization or job for them, particularly when looking at out of state opportunities. It may take two or three years of visiting their schools before seeing benefits in a number of applications. Setting up a booth is not enough. The recruiter must get to know the people who have a considerable amount of responsibility for matriculating Native American students. They can help in the hosting a gathering on campus, particularly if your attendance will offer valuable information on various topics – How to Find the Right Job for You, etc.
- 3. Recruitment of Native candidates requires an approach that involves selecting candidates with their retention taken into consideration. Central to the strategy is building long-term relationships in Indian Country. If a Native American applies for a job with your organization and is successfully recruited, provide them with culturally competent support to retain them. The goal is to make them feel welcome and successful so that they spread the word to boost future applicants. If that recruit leaves as a result of poor treatment, the likelihood of another applying from that community decreases – They have a tight-knit community. Another way to say it is that the “moccasin grapevine” works well among Native people. This is one reason that it is important to identify, and work particularly hard to retain, a Native recruit who is the first from a community to attend college.
- 4. Find out who the local tribal education people are and form a relationship with them. Too many organizations work hard to recruit diverse candidates across the country while ignoring the Native communities in their own backyards. Building relationships with local tribes early on in a student’s education is crucial. Forming collaborative relationships with tribal people initially can offer the support needed to help recruits with difficulties in adjusting to and negotiating the organization. Negotiating Native communities is not an easy task. It takes cultural competence, which includes a lot of patience and compassion.
- Sponsor opportunities for area tribal leaders and educators to make them familiar with your organization and its efforts to recruit Native people. Tribal educators and leaders can be an invaluable source of information and support. Invite them to take part in the admission process by reading and evaluating files (of Native candidates, if possible) and take part in a mock admission committee. The recruiters will learn a great deal about how to recruit Native candidates and gain invaluable insights from Native recruitment allies.
- Recruitment in vocational school and tribal colleges offer fertile ground for attracting candidates. Native Americans who aim for higher education too often get funneled into vocational schools and are three times as likely to attend two-year colleges compared to white Americans. Most tribal colleges, which have been very successful at retaining Native students, offer two-year programs.
- The number one reason the majority of low-income students give for not attending college is the cost—this is especially the case for tribal people. The proactive organization will offer scholarship programs to either pay or offset the costs for Native college and university students. While the money is well spent, it does not guarantee a recruit. What it does is give the organization the publicity needed to become a candidate for the employer of choice.
- Focus the potential recruits’ attention on the investment they are making in being employed in your organization. They will be impressed with how much they learn about what it means to be part of your organization and the rewards that come with it. Retirement plans, family benefits, work schedule, additional compensation, and the like are certainly important. Your organization will get a lot of mileage out of talking up front about social responsibility, volunteerism, and environmental consciousness initiatives that reflect the mission and vision.
- Demonstrate a long-term commitment to including Native Americans based on the organization’s efforts to develop their competence as an employee. Talk about the knowledge and skills the recruit can acquire in the job role that best suits them. Emphasize the support they will receive in carrying out their responsibilities and promotion opportunities. Emphasize how the competencies they acquire will be an investment in their future and the opportunities available to build on them. Leave them with the message that their material possessions may come and go, but your goal (and be honest about this) is to equip them with competencies that no one can ever take away—That makes what your organization has to offer one of the best investments you can make in them as an employee.
- Unless absolutely necessary for the job role, avoid requiring Native people to take any kind of standardized test as part of the selection process. Native people are very sensitive to such tests and the role they have played in denying those before them opportunities to gain access to education and jobs. All too often the skills and competencies required for the job role do not require testing to measure applicant qualifications. The alternatives should be used as often as necessary.
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This article is based in part the article Recruitment of Native Students—A Counselor’s Perspective by Whitney Laughlin, Ed.D. (2001).