Written by Gus Alston, CEO, Stonegrove Community Trust.
Staff recruitment is one of, if not the most important management tasks there is. If you recruit the right people and manage them well, then they will achieve great things. Because of this, I’ve worked hard to get better at it.
I’ve always put myself forward as a volunteer to get involved with a recruitment process any chance I got: as a Trustee, junior staff member, or as an external volunteer for another charity. I wanted to learn as much as I could about effective recruitment, to help me to become a more effective and impactful manager and leader.
Although I did see positive practices whilst supporting others with recruitment, on reflection I learnt even more from the less positive parts: the areas of recruitment which seemed to be fairly standard, with little thought as to why we did things that way.
Stonegrove’s approach to hiring
I am very proud of the recruitment practices that we have developed at the Stonegrove Community Trust (SCT), and they have brought about some exciting results, but I am not an expert. I’m still learning, and I hope one result of this blog post might be others getting in touch to share what they have tried, or learnt. We need to grow and learn together, and I’m very open to continuing to share with anyone interested, as well as open to being challenged on my practices and ideas.
The first time we really shook up and redesigned our recruitment processes at SCT was in late 2020. We had a small amount of funding to recruit a Food Projects Coordinator, part-time for only six months. This person would be responsible for taking over all of our pandemic crisis work, whilst I and the rest of the team tried to begin to work out how to reopen the OneStonegrove centre and work back towards some kind of normality.
This new staff member would essentially be trying to replace the work of many, supporting huge numbers of Barnet residents in need, whilst using much less space and resources. It was a high-pressure recruitment for us, and I knew that I had to work hard to ensure success. I decided therefore that this was the time to adapt and change.
Top tips for inclusive recruitment
I’m now going to dive into the practical. Here is what we have implemented so far, and what I would urge others to consider adopting in their recruitment practices:
- Short and honest job description. Don’t attract people who won’t succeed, by misleading them in terms of what the actual job involves.
- Minimal number of essential requirements, and lots of desirable requirements, explaining that you don’t expect anyone to have them all. Be flexible to who is out there, and try to hire for aptitude over experience.
- Never, ever, ever ask for a “degree or equivalent professional experience”. It’s meaningless and exclusionary. For more on this, see Non Grads Welcome on Twitter
“We are not asking for a set amount of experience or for unnecessary qualifications – sometimes life takes us in interesting directions” ??? https://t.co/cIZs9GCBvs
— #NonGraduatesWelcome (@NonGradsWelcome) January 17, 2023
- Send the interview questions in advance. Allow people to prepare, and let them bring notes.
- Be crystal clear on the process, such as: exact timescales including interview date, decisions, one/two stage interview, who is on the panel.
- Offer a named person with contact details, whom people can contact to ask questions, and/or visit your workplace.
- Offer the maximum flexibility that is possible within the role, and be completely explicit about this throughout.
- Ask if candidates would benefit from any adaptations to any part of the process.
- Offer feedback in chosen format to any candidates who are rejected after the interview stage.
- We offer a voucher (supermarket or similar) as a token of appreciation to every candidate interviewed. Job searching can be tough financially, so we try to remove, or at least reduce this barrier.
- When we implemented this in 2020, it did cause extra work. I had a busy month trying to speak with everyone applying, and trying to meet the expectations we had publicly set for ourselves! The results however were fairly incredible.
From one day of interviews we achieved the following amazing feedback… Note these were both from candidates that we rejected.
“The nicest recruitment process that I’ve ever taken part in”
“It was the first time I ever felt truly seen as a whole person when applying for a job”
One candidate who I gave verbal feedback to the next day, opened up about her neurodiversity. We connected on this as I was awaiting my (now completed) ADHD diagnosis. She joined us as a volunteer for the next seven months. She said later that what she learnt from the process and working with us, was that she needed to prioritise finding a workplace that could accept the whole person she was, and provide decent support. She moved on and found that.
One candidate agreed to mentor another candidate. She was just leaving human rights law as her career, and the other candidate was training as a lawyer.
One candidate we stayed in touch with, and she now has been working freelance for us for the last two years.
Oh, and lastly, we appointed a truly incredible Food Projects Coordinator, also neurodiverse, who was utterly transformational to our work. She efficiently increased our scale and impact, and bought even more love and care to our work and our community.
The work we put in was rewarded many times over, and I’ve since been speaking to whoever will listen about what we learnt. I hope to share ideas, successes and challenges with some of you reading this in the future, so please do get in touch.
I’ll leave you with a couple of links that I have found helpful while researching inclusive recruitment. I hope that you will find them as useful as I have:
- Twitter thread on making recruitment more inclusive for “working class folk”.
- Also check out @NonGradsWelcome and @ShowTheSalary, though not active any more.
- Collaborative Futures. I recently attended their excellent one-day recruitment course and learnt loads. If you ask, they will provide a small charity discount. Also check out the Collaborative Futures Blog and Collaborative Futures Free Resources.