Keys to recruiting to reflect the communities we serve

The Great Reflection (or Great Resignation depending on your experience) shows no signs of letting up. Pandemic impacts have led to losses of key employees—particularly women and people of color. Employee burnout is high.  All this means there is unprecedented competition for top talent at a time when many of us are looking not just for great people, but great people who reflect and value the communities we serve.

Raftelis executive recruitment experts Catherine Tuck-Parrish and Pamela Wideman presented this month at American Water Works Association’s Transformative Issues Symposium in Cincinnati focusing on how employers can make it easier to recruit talent and be the employer of choice, so you retain the talent you have.

Makeover your recruitment process to help candidates find you

  1. Evaluate minimum requirements—are they really the minimum?
  2. Be crystal clear about your process and your timelines—you need to work fast!
  3. Post salary and benefit specifics – highlight your telework policy and flexibility
  4. Cast a much wider net
  5. Have you given your online job application software a test run? You might be surprised by how many hoops you are asking candidates to jump through.
  6. Don’t ask for information you don’t need—you can always gather more later in the process.
  7. Consider mentoring and on-the-job training to attract good people who need to brush up on their skills to become great

Catherine and Pamela stressed that employers need to re-think their recruitment methods to attract the kind of diverse talent they are seeking.

They suggest identifying talent early by targeting high schools,  community colleges, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and building community partnerships externally. It is equally important to ensure employees feel connected and organizations should start or support current  affinity groups. And incentives are key—your current employees are a great resource to refer you to people who might be a good match, but they may expect a referral bonus. Above all, telling the story of what it is like to work for and with you is critical. Videos featuring employee faces and voices can help you put your best foot forward.

Given the strong job market, employers can’t just focus on recruiting new employees, they must invest in their current workforce too. Catherine and Pamela suggest defining career paths and providing focused academies or training so employees can get the certifications and licenses they need. Robust leadership and supervisory training is critical—employees cite supervisors as one of their primary reasons for looking for another job.

Once you have new hires, you’ll want to get them connected. We used to call this onboarding, but now teaming is just as important. Getting your new employees collaborating and feeling valued immediately is the best way to start them on a path to success. Add them to cross-functional teams and schedule regular check-ins to see how they are doing. Provide cohort learning and affinity group introductions so your employees can rapidly find a group of people they feel connected to.

“As an employer, when you think about your path forward, we’re being asked to do a lot,” said Catherine. “Flexible hours, remote work, signing and retention incentives, and constantly recruiting means your HR team may be maxed out.” Peer-to-peer HR networks can be a great support mechanism, as can outsourcing for specialty areas or short-term needs like special projects, process improvements,  and hiring for executives and leadership positions.


Raftelis is committed to helping you further integrate diversity initiatives into your hiring decisions. We have worked extensively with local governments and utilities in making key hiring decisions– filling key positions, such as: City and County Manager: General Manager, CEO, CAO; Executive Director; Assistant/Deputy Manager; Police and Fire Chiefs; and Financial Director/Chief Financial Officer. You can reach Catherine at and Pamela at