Are these 4 candidate attraction issues holding your organization back?

Are these 4 candidate attraction issues holding your organization back?



As a single working mom, Shayna Smith found herself stuck.

She had a bachelor's degree in fashion design and marketing. Like so many other graduates, her studies didn’t pave the way towards a career. She took on a range of jobs in call centres and customer service and wound up working in healthcare to make ends meet. She knew she was building up valuable skill sets, but was this really the end destination?

It didn’t feel like it. Shayna was overstretched financially. She believed she had the potential to do more – for herself and for her daughter.

She realized that she’d always had an interest in computers, with people turning to her to help figure out fixes for their devices. Could technology be her niche?

She took a leap of faith. On top of her already-crammed schedule of work and family, she went to evening school to complete a master’s degree in computer information science.

Still, even after she graduated a second time, she felt disheartened when she looked at her resume.

“I didn’t have anything on my resume that said, ‘IT IT IT’! There was no data science or engineering, only my previous jobs. If I had decided to go on my own and go rogue [applying for jobs in tech], I wouldn’t even have got a callback.”

Shayna is not alone. Far from it.

For our Diversity in Tech: 2021 US report, we surveyed more than 2,000 early career workers and 270 business leaders. The research revealed an ongoing suite of barriers that are blocking organizations from attracting brilliant people from diverse backgrounds.

Some of those barriers are practical. Some are emotional.

Let’s look at a snapshot of findings from the report, the root causes at play, and the implications for organizations.


Candidate attraction issue 1: lack of awareness

How do young people outside of the industry feel about careers in tech? Which misconceptions are preventing them from exploring the possibilities it offers?

We asked the 18-to-28-year-olds in our research whether or not they think technology offers excellent career opportunities. A massive 42% said no.

What’s more, over 1 in 10 (12%) said they know nothing about careers in technology. And when we look specifically at respondents who identify as non-white, this number rises to 17%.

Even today, as we can see in Shayna’s example, technology isn’t always on the radar for people who have the requisite interest and aptitude for a career in this area. It’s clear that significantly more needs to be done to achieve equality of opportunity, as well as spreading the word about the breadth and depth of careers in tech in general.

See the stats in full in our Diversity in Tech: 2021 US report.


Candidate attraction issue 2: lack of confidence

Gender is a big one here. A lack of confidence disproportionately affects women, who are more likely to doubt their skills and expertise than men.

Our research found that:

  • Nearly twice as many women are worried that they’re not good enough at math and science than men (31% vs 18%).
  • 48% of women are worried about their qualifications in general, compared with 43% of men.
  • 33% of women are worried that they don’t have the right educational background, compared with 24% of men.

Asian respondents also had particular concerns around their abilities, with 25% convinced they’re not intelligent enough, compared with the average of 18%.

It’s a bleak picture that won’t resolve itself. Hiring managers have to consider the entire candidate journey from the perspective of minority groups, from job descriptions to CV screening to interview formats.

See the stats in full in our Diversity in Tech: 2021 US report.


Candidate attraction issue 3: negative perceptions about the industry

A lot of attention has been given to diversity issues in the tech industry in recent years.

With this in mind, perhaps it’s unsurprising that 28% of our female respondents said they believe the industry is too male dominated, and 18% think they wouldn’t feel welcome in the industry. Or is it all the more surprising that there’s still so far left to go?

These fears were echoed by other minority groups, with 40% of Asian respondents, 27% of Black or African American respondents, and 20% of Hispanic or Latino respondents worried that the industry is not ethnically diverse enough.

The reputation of the tech industry is fueling preconceptions that deter young people from pursuing job opportunities. To challenge these preconceptions, organizations have to lead by example.

See the stats in full in our Diversity in Tech: 2021 US report.


Candidate attraction issue 4: bridging the skills gap

Following a devastating 2020, 89% of the businesses we heard from said they’re planning to recruit junior tech talent in 2021. The prospects for today’s young people are looking up. Hiring managers and HR teams have to work hard to get their job openings noticed.

The majority of businesses we surveyed (51%) said they have trouble recruiting diverse tech talent at the entry level, while 68% feel there is a lack of diversity in their tech workforce.

And yet – this is where things get really interesting – a contradiction emerged in our research:

  • Nearly half of businesses (45%) say they are yet to invest in anti-bias training for hiring managers.
  • Over half (54%) aren’t actively trying to address a lack of diversity in their tech teams.
  • 1 in 5 (20%) exclusively hire graduates from top colleges, and a further 29% said they’re more likely to hire graduates from those institutions than elsewhere.

Is it any wonder there’s an ongoing problem?

There’s no way around it. To achieve greater diversity, organizations have to widen the talent pool and rethink what “best” means. They have to seek candidates with demonstrable potential, rather than candidates with prestigious academic credentials in the optimal subject for your field. There aren’t enough of those folks to go around.

The upshot? It’s becoming increasingly necessary to invest in an injection of targeted training to get candidates job-ready. That’s what you’ll find in our mthree Alumni programs, which exist to connect education to the working world.

By doing so, organizations can expand the demographics they’re able to reach, bringing diverse, skilled workers into high-demand, high-powered tech jobs faster.

See the stats in full in our Diversity in Tech: 2021 US report.


Shayna’s journey

For Shayna, a lot has changed over the past year. She’s now happily working as an Production Support Analyst at a Tier 1 Investment bank – a technology role she found through mthree Alumni.

“mthree gave me that opportunity to speak to those people that I wouldn’t necessarily be able to if it was just on me. They coached me, they trained me, they guided me. I was saying to myself, can I do this or can I not? I said, I can do this. I just want to get my foot into the door. Someone giving me a chance.”

Her intensive industry-aligned training at the mthree Academy included Sequel and Java among other things. She describes the curriculum as “really hard”, especially for a beginner, but says it made sense for getting up to speed in the practical fundamentals of production support.

Then came the interview process, along with a range of concerns – and the need for handholding. How do you present yourself in front of a Fortune 500 company? What do you say to an investment bank? For anyone whose background is atypical within an industry, these questions can feel overwhelming.

“I had an interview every week that I was in training. Reviewing and preparing, keeping it in the perspective of what [a hiring manager] wants from their employee and what you want from an employer. It’s a conversation, not necessarily checking points off a board. Can we communicate? Can we drive with this thing?”

We’re glad that the answer was a resounding YES.

The industry is changing, but there’s still work to be done. To find out more, download our Diversity in Tech: 2021 US report.