When The Outbound Collective needed to fill a new customer success position last September, CEO and co-founder Brian Heifferon decided to skip advertising the job in the usual places in favor of a new approach: posting the position on just one, the In Solidarity Project’s job board, a platform caters to job seekers from underrepresented communities.
“I believed in its ability to deliver the right kind of candidate,” Heifferon said. And it did: Outbound Collective hired one of the 48 applicants who responded, the vast majority of whom were members of the BIPOC community. “That stands in stark contrast to jobs we’ve shared on LinkedIn and other platforms,” Heifferon said.
A deep-seated industry problem
A crucial part of making the outdoor industry more inclusive is hiring more diverse employees across the board. But even though plenty of companies want to step up, they struggle to reach potential employees from diverse backgrounds.
To help with the problem, Teresa Baker, founder of the Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge, included the job board in the launch of her In Solidarity Project website last June. She’d been fielding increasing requests from the industry asking her to share job openings across her network; the job board formalized that system of informal matchmaking.
“There’s a long history of the outdoor industry passively posting jobs, and hoping that as a byproduct they might be able to find more diverse candidates,” said Heifferon, who helps Baker manage the board.
But diversifying a company from the inside out “requires being more proactive and sharing opportunities with those communities directly,” according to Heifferon. Posting a job with In Solidarity is one way to do that. Using the board costs $75 per post—more than a free site like LinkedIn, but on par with many other targeted job boards.
So far the platform’s growth has primarily come from word-of-mouth marketing and shared promotion within the industry. To date, 194 job seekers have registered with the site (users don’t need to officially register to apply for jobs), and 135 different employers have posted a total of 230 positions.
The platform in action
Sawyer, a manufacturer of water filtration and first aid products, posted a social media and community manager job exclusively on the job board for a month last fall, said Andrew Glenn, the company's brand and marketing manager.
“We wanted to have integrity in our hiring process, and [we knew] that if we were to post a job internally or within our circles—on LinkedIn or a typical job posting site within the outdoor industry—it would get a lot of the same viewers,” Glenn said. “The outdoor industry is very white, and we were excited to get in front of new people.”
About two dozen of the roughly 200 people who applied came through In Solidarity’s board; though Sawyer ultimately hired someone who applied through a different site, two In Solidarity seekers made the final round, and, as Glenn said, “We looked at the In Solidarity applicants pretty thoroughly and used them as a litmus test for the rest of our applicants."
Pushing the industry in the right direction
“It has always been a challenge to find exactly the right type of talent you’re looking for,” Heifferon said. When those candidates belong to groups that haven’t historically been well represented in the industry, the challenge intensifies. “It’s a problem that needs to be solved, and this is one of the many ways I think the industry is trying to solve it.”
Plus, Glenn pointed out, In Solidarity’s board offers benefits for prospective employees, too. By posting jobs on the board, companies are able to communicate that they value inclusivity and are actively recruiting more diverse talent.
“Speaking as a queer person, I’d feel much safer going through In Solidarity,” Glenn said. “I’d have trust that I’m going to have merit for my work. Going through LinkedIn or Workable, you don’t know that. You have all these other brands that, unfortunately, don’t hold the same values.”
Right now, the board features jobs ranging from a technician at Specialized Bicycle Components to a designer at BioLite to a VP of marketing and communications at Protect Our Winters. As more employees and job seekers join up, it just might grow into a critical tool in the push to make the industry truly inclusive.