Baltimore-based Diversity Recruiter Practitioner Torin Ellis has been in the recruitment game for 17 years. His aim? To change the face of the American workforce. And if you let Ellis tell it, it starts with diversity in tech and rolls out from there.
“Tech companies are at the forefront of the diversity conversation,” says Ellis. “But the issue is much larger than that industry alone. My thoughts are that ALL companies must embrace diversity and inclusion initiatives that have the support of leadership. It works best when the leadership showcases their buy-in.”
Born in Florida and raised in the Midwest, Ellis, 47, has placed hundreds of workers in the engineering/technical arena over the years. In 1998, he formed his own recruiting company and has been contracted by giants such as Verizon Wireless, Oracle, AOL and Expedient. His specialty is offering advice to companies on why businesses should put their resources and efforts into diversity recruitment especially in the tech industries.
When he’s not placing high-level candidates for employment in executive, sales and sales leadership positions, Ellis is dabbling in television, career-development boot camps and most recently, books. This month, he plans to flex his recruiting chops as one of six contestants on “Top Recruiter – Reign of the Bosses,” which airs on Netflix, November 22.
Ellis says the show will focus on testing the recruiters’ business acumen, their emotional quotient, and their ability to connect with others. “As recruiters, this is what we are charged with doing. What we do is all hinged on our ability to find people, tell compelling stories and move them from one opportunity to another. And the best of us do that through great discovery and through intelligent interaction and engagement when we connect with people at that very human level,” he shares.
Here, Ellis talks to TNJ.com about “the art of recruitment” and his career as an employment recruiter and career coach.
TNJ.com: What challenges go along with being a recruiter?
Torin Ellis: Business development. We deal with organizations that have so many companies, agencies, vendors, and new Human Resource and human capital tech on the market. The challenge is always being approved as an individual or organization that can work on those open opportunities.
Also, some candidates have a poor respect for the art of recruiting, if you will, and they don’t trust that we are going to do what we say we’re going to do – in large part because so many of us have not done what we said we were going to do in the past.
So in the beginning whenever we engage with a candidate, we have to spend a fair amount of time building a high degree of rapport so that they do trust us to tell the ensuing story that may potentially move them from point A to point B.
That’s in the larger scheme of recruitment. For me, specifically, as it relates to diversity recruitment, I always feel like David and Goliath. For so long, the diversity conversation has been present. When we look at what Intel is experiencing, their diversity numbers have not really moved since 1998.
Yet and still, people have hijacked the conversation around diversity and now when you say the word, it carries such a heavy and negative connotation that people often run from such. And so, I have an extraordinary amount of pressure to be able to do the work that I do because I just want to make sure we open the doors of opportunity for so many individuals that are qualified and talented. That is my personal recruiting challenge.
TNJ.com: Tell me about your “Rip the Resume” endeavor which you developed in 2008.
T.E.: I developed it because I wanted something that would scale my availability as a recruiter who works with fast moving organizations, startup organizations and established organizations. I recruit in the $150K to $300K space. Those are typically the people that I place. But I recognized early on, back in 1998 when I started recruiting, that students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities were lacking this intel…this recon…the networks that some of their peers and counterparts were able to establish at predominantly white institutions or other GenPop institutions.
So, I developed “Rip the Resume” in 2008 because I wanted to get in front of the career centers and the undergraduate students to give them what they were missing. After five or six years of doing it, Petersen Publishing is going to turn it into a book that students and adults alike will be able to purchase at bookstores and college campuses around the country in September 2016.
TNJ.com: You’ve been a keynote speaker at Black Tech Week in Miami. How was the event and how did it begin?
T.E.: Felicia and Derek Pearson founded Black Tech Week in Miami earlier this year. The genesis for such was that they felt like a lot was happening down in that South Florida region but black and brown folks were often out of the conversation and off the radar for consideration. So in February, they launched their first Black Tech Week sponsored by the Knight Foundation. They brought in 50 to 60 different speakers from around the country, also from Africa, talking about technology, Venture Capital, startup funds, building teams, managing logistics and social impact. A variety of different speakers were there and naturally I was there to provide a bit of contribution to talk about diversity recruitment and preparation. It was held at Miami Dade College campus, so many of the attendees were college students. It was an invigorating, rewarding experience featuring a range of powerful speakers.