I recently invited Emily Vogel, university recruiting lead at Box, to come to Handshake and join me in a webinar to share her diversity and inclusion strategy with hundreds of employers across the country. In the year since Box redesigned their recruitment strategy, they saw a 5x increase in applications from underrepresented candidates.

Box is a Bay Area-based tech company that serves over 82,000 businesses across all industries. If you’re accessing work files on the cloud (e.g., a Powerpoint deck for on-campus info sessions), there is a good chance that Box is where they’re stored.

Emily’s small but mighty team of three recruits for a variety of roles across the business including software engineering, sales, internal consulting, and customer support. Emily and I discussed the unique elements of their plan – specifically, how their strategy brilliantly covers every stage of the applicant journey.

In the following sections, we’ll cover:

  1. The revamping of Box’s hiring process and how university recruiting is a key driver of their D&I strategy
  2. Box’s approach to creating a rich and an inclusive employer brand to attract underrepresented students from across the country
  3. How Box integrates affinity groups into the recruiting process so candidates know they have a community
  4. The benefits of creating an equitable interview process, and how Box did it

Revamping the hiring process

“Our executive team has always been supportive of diversity and inclusion, but when we identified that we needed to redo our hiring process, this was a big ask. We were able to generate buy-in by aligning the program not just to D&I goals, but to other business priorities.” – Emily Vogel

After some research, Box’s university recruitment team decided to focus on two trends:

  1. Demographic shifts in the population: According to the US Census, by 2040, the majority of the US population will be people of color.
  2. Gender and ethnic diversity on teams: A recent McKinsey & Company study found that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.

Box identified trends in the U.S. workforce to get hiring managers thinking about how diversity, or lack thereof, could impact their team, product, and future success of the company.

University recruiting as a key driver of Box’s diversity strategy

“We received over 6,000 applications for only 15 summer internships spots. While, in theory, our pipeline was robust and had talented students, it was not diverse, and for our business and culture to thrive, we needed to proactively create a pipeline representative of America’s diversity.” – Emily Vogel

To avoid a homogeneous pipeline, Box increased the number of schools they recruited at and focused on schools with high populations of underrepresented students (including but not limited to HBCUs, and HSIs). Box also expand job criteria to include non-traditional majors, backgrounds, and skills (i.e., for sales roles, include liberal arts students).

“We’re a team of three, and we don’t have the time or budget to go to every campus, but the schools not on our core and target list had strong talent, were incredibly diverse, and the students weren’t even aware of tech companies as an option. For students at those schools, we become a unique and exciting opportunity.” – Emily Vogel

Box discontinued their core school list approach and opted for an open school approach to reach and attract more underrepresented talent.

Here’s what happened when they expanded their school list from 6 to more than 200:

  • 84% of Box’s job views are from students going to school outside of California
  • They received 5x more applications than their industry peers

Box’s approach to branding

“Enterprise software can sound pretty boring, but our culture is much closer to a startup. We have to bring that picture to the forefront of the pitch to students.” – Emily Vogel

Last year Box launched it’s Business Fellowship for underrepresented students to gain business experience. The alternative spring break brought together 15 students from across the country. They spent the week at Box’s headquarters learning about different career paths available in the tech industry like sales, customer support, finance, and HR teams.

“We’re fighting the misconception that you have to have an engineering background to join a tech company. For example, after introducing a group of students to the HR team on a tour of our office, one student said, ‘Wow! All of them are engineers!’ We created the fellowship to dispel the myth that you had to be a software engineer here.” – Emily Vogel

Box’s interactive profile page on Handshake

Box’s proactive branding efforts on Handshake resulted in a:

  • 68% message read rate among students when recruiters sent student direct messages.
  • 70% lift in brand page views year-over-year
  • They also hired many students -one student shared her Fellowship experience here, and encouraged more student to apply!

“Handshake’s advanced filters save valuable time, especially given how small our UR team is. I think almost all UR teams are understaffed and with the amount of inbound you get from active candidates, it can sometimes be hard to justify sourcing, but sourcing is a crucial strategy to connect with students of underrepresented talent, especially from different schools and especially as we’ve found in business roles.” – Emily Vogel

Affinity groups at Box

“When we decided to reach more schools, we partnered with our affinity groups and integrated them into the recruiting process so candidates know they have a community. This worked particularly well when building relationships with diversity-focused organizations like Society of Women in BusinessNational Society of Black Engineers, and many others across the country.” – Emily Vogel

Affinity groups are a body of people at a company who form a group to support a shared identity such as gender, race, age, religion, and sexual orientation. They play a significant role in Box’s inclusive culture and attraction strategy. At Box, they organize recruiting events and serve as mentors for candidates.

When one intern candidate, who cared about her experience as a woman in engineering, Emily connected her with Box’s Women in Technology (WIT) group. After having a phone conversation with one of the members, the candidate shared with Emily that she had a deeper understanding of the internship opportunity and Box’s culture. She ultimately chose Box for her summer internship, and now she meets regularly with the (WIT) group and organizes community events.

Armed with active and a diverse affinity group members, candidates are engaged and ask authentic questions like, “what does it feel like to be a Latina engineer here?” and receive an authentic and transparent answer.

How Box created an equitable interview process

Box had struggled to hire women who were software engineers. The previous year they made 10 offers to women, but none accepted. Emily shared with me, “we realized we needed a big change and so we decide to completely redo our hiring process.”

The old interview process gave applicants limited time to ask hiring managers questions about Box’s culture.

The new process included a two-week take-home test with resources and “office hours” with the engineers…

The results?

Not only did the new process help Box build better connections with students, but it also helped differentiate Box as an employer that cared about their candidates, and was prioritizing diversity and inclusion. One student interviewee shared:

“I really enjoyed the take-home exercise. The fact the Box was willing to try this new interview process also influenced my decision to join Box.”

Student engagement requires creativity

“Students are interested in new approaches to recruitment. When we implemented these different ways to hire, we saw an amazing response!” – Emily Vogel

There are multiple approaches to attracting, retaining, and growing underrepresented talent at your company. Box’s University Recruitment team realized they had to do something different when they noticed students weren’t receptive to the typical recruitment strategy – post a job and pray students apply.

Emily offered parting advice for employers on the webinar, urging them to identify new, innovative, and engaging recruitment strategies, that will differentiate them as an employer that’s creating a place where people from all backgrounds feel like they belong.