A mini guide to inclusive recruitment
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A mini guide to inclusive recruitment


The following by Dana Kohava Segal is an inspirational read.

I feel like I should open this blog with a disclaimer: I’m not a recruiter. I don’t work in recruitment. I’m just a regular human who has been both an employer and an employee, someone who is surrounded by people from a huge range of backgrounds and life experiences, who is trying to make things better. I am left with the feeling that too many organisations and people in our sector still aren't doing enough to understand and implement small changes to their recruitment that make a huge difference to inclusivity. In the words of my awesome friend Martha Awojobi: “it’s not revolutionary, it’s just inclusion.”

Don’t require a degree.

There are loads of reasons including a degree is exclusionary:

For entry-level roles, it discriminates against younger applicants from lower socio-economic backgrounds. How much did you pay to go to uni? It certainly wasn’t £9,000 a year like it is now. It’s just not a feasible option for so many people and no one should be punished for making wise decisions about not getting into debt - if anything they are showing good financial acumen.
For senior roles, it discriminates against applicants who have plenty of relevant work experiences but didn’t go to uni. I know plenty of people who are great at their jobs who never went to university. In adding a degree requirement in, you might be leaving your perfect candidate out...

Some of the world’s biggest companies don’t require a degree - Google, Apple, BBC, Virgin. We need to attract talent in to our sector. We have to make it more attractive for people to work in the third sector. And this is a big part of that.

Practical actions to take:

Next time you’re writing a new job description, think twice about adding it in as a mandatory requirement. Is it really relevant? REALLY? I didn’t think so. Take it out!
If you’re updating an old one, take it out of there!
Get your colleagues to take it out!
Make it part of your organisation’s HR policy to not have it as a mandatory requirement
Use #NonGraduatesWelcome when advertising your roles on socials to let non-graduate candidates know they are welcome to apply

Reads & resources:
Non Graduates Welcome

Advertise the salary.

Gender pay gaps, ethnic pay gaps and age-related pay gaps are everywhere. People doing the same jobs, at the same level, being paid differently. That is totally unfair.

A huge part of this is the recruitment point when organisations simply say ‘competitive’ and lock candidates between a rock and a hard place: pitch too low and you undersell yourself, pitch to high and they don’t consider you.

Practical actions to take:

Put the salary or salary range on every job you advertise!
That’s literally it...

Reads & resources:

Follow @ShowTheSalary on Twitter:
ONS Statistics about ethnicity & pay gaps
Good reads that explore the challenges of gender pay gaps include Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg and Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez

Give interview questions in advance.

Interestingly this is the one I’ve had the most emails/comments about. There are many discriminatory reasons for this:

Not providing any preparatory information or questions at the interview stage discriminates against neurodivergent people, who may need additional time to process tasks and questions before they are faced with them.
It also discriminates against younger candidates, candidates who have been in long stretches of unemployment, and/or candidates who are new to the job market who might not have any immediate answers to questions like ‘tell us about a time where you helped improve a system’ but with a bit of time and prep could construct a good answer.
No one can “cheat” - even if candidates make up answers, it will clearly be found out in the follow-up questions and conversation that arises.

Ultimately this boils down to whether you are in one of two ‘camps’: you are someone who believes that an interview is an opportunity for candidates to perform to the best of their abilities and then select based on that, or you see the interview as a competitive process in itself that helps you select the right candidate (i.e. that person performed better under pressure, therefore, are a more suitable candidate).

The Halo Effect is a common unconscious bias, where one trait of a person is used to make an overall judgment of that person. In this case, many people believe that how they perform at an interview tells them about their ability to do the job. Unless the job is being interviewed all day every day, it’s just not an accurate marker of this. So stop it.

Practical actions to take:

If you can, give the specific interview questions well in advance
If you can’t, give the interview questions at least 15 - 30 minutes in advance and provide a suitable, quiet space for candidates to review the questions and make notes
If you are after the ‘element of surprise’, at the absolute very least, give candidates a specific list of topics you plan to discuss in the interview

Reads & resources:
10 Reasons to Give Candidates Interview Questions In Advance
Example of a Fair Hiring Guide that includes this practice

Offer alternative options for applications and interviews.

This one comes from my recent experience of recruiting new Board members for Emergency Exit Arts.

As well as the usual “CV & cover letter” we also offered candidates the chance to apply by video instead. We got rid of complicated language and asked for people based on their qualities and values. We set up an open evening on Zoom where people who were interested in applying could meet our trustees and staff to ask questions and get to know the people behind the forms before applying.

This led us to have over 5 x the usual number of applications we normally get. Yes, many people submitted CVs & letters, but we also had videos. The applications were more diverse in age and ethnicity than ever before too. One person saw the application with 1 hour to spare, and instead of scrambling around to update her CV and write a cover letter, was thrilled that they could just record their video and send it over to us.

Similarly, with the interview processes, COVID-19 has meant that for the first time, en masse, we are all doing away with the traditional scary ‘power table & panel interview’ and literally giving everyone - employer and employee - equal space on the screen and therefore in the interview. This is a game-changer that should be here to stay.

Practical actions you can take:

Offer alternative application options (e.g. video or audio cover letters)
Offer alternative interview options (e.g. like in person or video call, with or without table, in an office or a neutral setting, sitting down or taking a stroll)

Reads & resources:
A great read from Young Trustee Bronwen Edwards about the turn off of non-inclusive recruitment practices
Four Alternatives to a Traditional Job Interview (need to register to read)

Diversify your panel.

My amazing friend Martha Awojobi, is a talented fundraiser who is a woman of colour. She has been to many interviews in her time but has never been interviewed by someone who looks like her. And she was interviewed just once by a man of colour.

I hate that this has happened to her. I hate that this happens to talented people of colour, disabled and or/ LGBTQ+ people every day. It needs to stop, and a simple way to do this is to ensure that your panel actually represents the range of candidates you want to attract.

Practical actions you can take:

Don’t have an all white / all male / all hetro / cis / all non-disabled panel
If you don’t have anyone in your organisation to stop the panel from being this way, take a long hard look at yourself…

Reads & resources:
Martha Awojobi on Fixing Fundraising Podcast

Beware the phrase ‘they seem like a good fit’.

This is entirely connected to many of the points above. Also strongly connected to a cognitive bias called the Affinity Effect. Studies show that, in general, people extend greater trust, positive regard, cooperation, and empathy to people who are more “like us” compared with people who are less “like us”. The markers we use to identify this are ethnicity, gender, class, geographic… and there you can start to see the problem.

This means that in interview situations, whether we like to think it's true or not, we are likely to give people who are more like us preferable treatment when it comes to candidates' performance in an interview. For example, if both a female and male candidate didn’t perform well in interview, I may use external reasons for justifying the performance of the woman (e.g. “she might have had terrible bosses in the past that have affected her confidence”) vs personality-based reasons for justifying the performance of the man (e.g. “he didn’t seem to care about selling himself”).

When we start to say someone feels like ”a good fit” we are revealing our unconscious bias. If you truly want to diversify your workforce, you also need people who are “not a good fit” - because they will create the challenge that makes the cultural and systemic changes the organisation needs.

Practical actions you can take:

If you catch yourself saying it - stop - and ask yourself why you said that
Try not to use this as a reason to favour one candidate over the other

Reads & resources:
Helen Turnbull on Affinity Bias

Use skills-based questions.

By combining skills-based questions with answers in advance, you can give a better, and more equal footing, to make your assessment based on their ability to do the job… not on whether they “seem like a good fit” or not.

Skills-based questions can offer you insight into both a person’s technical skills for the job at hand, as well as the softer, character-based skills such as integrity, adaptability or resilience.

Reads & resources:
A bank of 200 example skills-based questions

If you can’t do any of the above… pay someone to do it!

Recruitment isn’t always easy. Sometimes we just don’t have the right amount of time or energy to make it as meaningful or inclusive as we should. There are very talented people out there who can support your organisation to recruit in a way that is inclusive.

You might be saying ‘But how can I release some budget for that?’. The real question is, how much will it cost you to get it wrong? Plus, we know that more diverse companies perform better. So investment in the right external support will be worth it.