Diverse Hiring: Exploring the Edge Effect to Find New Talent

By Kristen Harris

As a firm that recruits marketing and creative professionals for our clients, we are constantly expanding our talent network and broadening our search efforts. We’re always looking for new talent in new places. 

Now, more than ever, companies (including our clients) are focused on building marketing teams that reflect their customers and the population as a whole. When looking to attract new and more diverse talent to your team, it’s helpful to remember that if you keep looking in the same place, you will keep finding the same thing. So, you have to look somewhere new to find something new.

Recently I heard Elise Mitchell talk about a concept called the “Edge Effect.” She was discussing a subject entirely unrelated to recruiting. Still, I immediately saw how this concept connects with the work we do.

First, the science nerd part…the “Edge Effect” is an ecology concept that refers to the changes in a population or community along the boundary of a habitat. On the border between a farm field and the woods, for example. Or a suburban neighborhood that backs up to agricultural land. Diversity and change are more prevalent where ecosystems overlap. 

This concept applies to ecosystems of people as well. Think about all of the different communities you’re part of–your family, friend group, work team, industry organization, college alumni, etc. The areas where those communities overlap, the “edges” between them, are likely to be more diverse and permeable. 

The “Edge Effect” allows you to cross the border from one community to another. Or to create change in that space where the two communities intersect. The trick is to find those borders, those places where different ecosystems intersect, and then be brave enough to cross the border. The “Edge” is a blended zone, an area shared between both communities, making it easier to transition from one to another. 

Here’s a practical example. Think about your friend group and a professional industry organization you’re a member of. Those are likely two different groups of people, at least in the beginning. But, maybe one of your friends is exploring new work opportunities, so you bring them to your industry group event and introduce them to new people. They have crossed the border and are now in a new community with an entirely different group of people. At the same time, maybe you really clicked with someone at the industry event, so you invite them out for drinks with your friends afterward. They’ve crossed the border and are now in your friend group ecosystem. 

So how can you apply the Edge Effect to your professional relationships, team diversity

  • Explore your “weak ties.” You stay in touch with some people all the time; they’re always top of mind for any opportunity you see. When you focus on connecting with people that are “weak ties” (more casual connections, friends of friends, business associates, etc.), those people are likely to be involved with communities different from yours. By strengthening your “weak ties” relationships, you can help each other cross the border into new communities.

  • Find “connectors.” Identify people within other communities to build alliances and partnerships with. These relationships need to be mutually beneficial; you’ll make connections for them in your ecosystem and ask them to do the same for you. Some people are naturally connected to lots of people and involved in many different communities. 

  • Identify overlaps. Pay attention to combinations of skills, background, interests, or experiences and look for where they might overlap. Suppose you’re looking for a candidate with a few specific interests; they are likely to participate in communities that cater to those interests. Where do your communities overlap theirs? Think of it as the color wheel–if I’m blue and you’re red, we’ll find each other in purple.

  • Cross the border. Leave your ecosystem and explore another–to find something new, you have to look somewhere new. This might mean asking a friend to take you to their work event or volunteering for an organization your colleague is passionate about. Find ways to inhabit the “edge” between communities to expand the people you interact with. 

Whether you’re building a career, changing jobs, recruiting talent, or working on expanding your team, it often requires stepping outside of your ecosystem. By finding the edges between communities and crossing the border, you can significantly expand your connections. We’re always exploring the edges looking for new marketing and creative talent. If you need to grow your team, fill a role, or connect with new talent, we’re here to help