By – Joel Crandall, VP of Programs at MnTech

Twelve years ago, I had one of the most exciting and draining summers of my life. I spent eight hours a day training young people to succeed in their first corporate technology job. Each trainee invested 120 hours practicing handshakes, writing emails, and reloading operating systems on decrepit PCs. One of the biggest challenges I faced that summer: I was only a few years removed from trying to succeed as a corporate technologist myself.

My undergrad education was long on youth development and short on switches and routers. Nonetheless, I landed a temp role as a project coordinator for a tech startup after struggling to find a nonprofit job a few years after undergrad. My memory leaves me simultaneously proud of how hard I pushed myself to learn, grateful for support from coworkers and leaders, and embarrassed at how much I didn’t know I didn’t know.

It wasn’t just the technology that was baffling. The cube farms, performance reviews, and unspoken office culture were equally obscure. My experience as accidentally corporate and accidentally a technologist shaped the way I trained young people. And, as I grew in my career, my own experiences, along with the experiences of the technologists I trained impacted the way I viewed corporate technology training and hiring.

Twelve years later—I want to share some of my observations on how companies and individuals can recruit younger, more diverse talent to join their organizations.


1. Companies leading in talent strategy actively question the ways they post and hire for jobs.

As this article notes, if companies are trying to fish in new pools of talent, they must first take down the fences they’ve constructed to keep themselves away from these pools in the past.

    • Do you need a college degree? Or, is it a filtering tool causing you to miss out on the hires you actually want or need?
    • Do you need to be in person? Or, does your goal clarity and management training need to improve?
    • Do you need two full pages of candidate requirements rooted in industry or company jargon? Or, no…you probably just don’t need that.
    • If you don’t know who it is you are looking for, you can’t tell others. If you can’t tell others, you’ll struggle to attract anyone. If you struggle to attract anyone, you’ll struggle to change the demographics of whom you are hiring.

Recommendation: Start small. Is there a job family that seems especially ripe for this? Is there a way to look at a career stack and question the first few rungs? Can you build consensus and test?


2. Companies pursuing younger, more diverse talent at their company or in an industry do the good work within their control.


    • Focus on good – great or perfect is rare and often the biggest distraction to getting started.
    • Focus on work – what work are you doing yourself to minimize bias? What work are you doing to collaborate with work already happening at your company?
    • Focus on within your control – it’s easy to stay fixated on what you would do if you had someone else’s job. It’s easier to complain about the ineptitude that surrounds you. It’s harder to determine what you can do now, but it’s worth it.


3. Companies growing young, diverse talent do more than required diversity, equity, and inclusion trainings.

They have a guiding belief that emboldens their actions. They hold onto these beliefs even as they also do the hard work of creating short-term and long-term ROI.

Recommendation: Hang out in the tension. Have an open conversation as a company/team about what you most want even if it doesn’t feel measurable or achievable. Then, work creatively to create high-impact, short-term investments.

    • Curious questions might sound like: “We want our company, at all levels, to reflect our customers.”
    • “We know that inadvertently or intentionally, we’ve hired a lot of candidates recently that have the same profile. We’re missing important value that other profiles bring, and we’re going to figure out how to get them here and ensure they are successful.”


4. Leading companies ask the most important question: Are we an employer of choice for young, diverse talent – and if not, what stands in our way?

Though adding young, diverse talent may be one of many considerations for your business, asking the question this way forces you to take stock of your current market position. It also leads you back to look for answers from young, diverse talent to devise a strategy.

Recommendation: Instead of asking this question theoretically, could you ask it directly? Could you use your network to generate a focus group of high school or college students to ask them what would help set your company apart? What could you demonstrate to differentiate your brand?


5. Companies leading in talent strategy are partnering with their competition to solve larger workforce challenges.

Some challenges are too big to be solved individually. To address the challenges our local economy is experiencing in terms of attracting and retaining technologists, collaboration is needed. In March of 2022, the Minnesota Technology Association hosted the TechTalent forum where several companies gathered to discuss the issues they are facing and potential solutions.

These types of gatherings are critical, and MnTech will continue to convene companies to address problems and combine resources.

Note: These strategies are based on LinkedIn posts I made over the last year on engaging young, diverse talent under the hashtag #T11SEYDT. Check them out in their original context, look at replies or feedback, or connect with me on LinkedIn to continue the discussion. 

Next week I will be sharing insights on how to recruit and retain diverse talent from a management perspective.