Go Higher West Yorkshire: The power of inclusive recruitment
In this collaborative blog, we outline how and why Go Higher West Yorkshire (GHWY) is trying to move to more inclusive recruitment practices. We also share our experiences of this to date.
Helen Sykes, Head of GHWY
We are aware that having a more diverse workforce can foster greater innovation, result in higher levels of staff retention, increase morale, and help us challenge assumptions which may inadvertently be disadvantaging some groups of individuals, particularly those with whom we work.
As a core tenet of our activity is ‘reducing inequalities’ we want to turn the lens on ourselves and look at how WE can be more inclusive, before we can expect it of others. We have therefore been exploring strategies and techniques for more inclusive recruitment practices.
One of the things we have looked at is our interview process. We have considered what we are really testing when we undertake an interview in a traditional way, and whether this is genuinely evidencing the skills required for the job.
Inclusive recruitment practice is now in place at GHWY to increase the likelihood of finding the best fit for the job.
John Hague, GHWY Area Manager
I wanted to share my recent experiences as hiring manager for a role in our team.
In June 2023, we decided to trial sending the interview questions 24-hours* in advance to all candidates. Bamboo have written an excellent article that sums up why we decided to take this approach.
When we sent the invitation to interview, we made our candidates aware they would receive the questions the day before. This meant they knew to look out for them, and we hoped it would give enough time for people to focus their existing interview preparation.
To ensure our practice remained ethically sound and adhered to employer policy, regular contact was maintained with our HR contacts at the University of Leeds (where we are based). They crosschecked our communications with candidates throughout the pilot (see the notes section at the end of the article for the wording we used).
As hiring manager for the post, I felt positive and reassured by the trial process. The genuine nature of informed preparation suggested candidates may have a more balanced opportunity to present their talent to panel members.
I have always believed that the interview process works twofold; the employer is interviewing the candidate, but the candidate is also interviewing the employer to see if this is the right fit for them.
I definitely sensed that candidates were calmer than usual when they arrived at the interviews. In comparison to feeling pressured and on edge, I felt confident that we were offering a fair opportunity for applicants to showcase themselves effectively. It felt like rapport had already been developed between panel and candidate, creating a warmer environment to assess potential as opposed to grilling candidates on the spot.
During the formal interview process, it was clear which responses had taken on board the question preparation by structuring specific and relevant examples tailored to each question. In comparison to previous interview experiences as a hiring manager, panel members agreed that the new level of informed preparation allowed candidates to expand in much more detail relevant to each competency.
Candidates were also presented with a competency-based interview task to ensure skillsets aligned with question responses in an attempt to search for integrity between interview and task.
We were very interested to know whether our good intentions were having any effect: what might our approach actually feel like for those on the opposite side of the table to the interview panel? We therefore informed candidates that they would receive an anonymised survey to feedback on their experience. The results demonstrate the positive impact of sending out the interview questions in advance:
- 3 out of 6 interview candidates responded to the survey
- 3 out of 3 respondents agreed with the statement ‘did receiving the interview questions beforehand help you with the interview?’
- 3 out of 3 respondents agreed with the statement ‘did you receive clear and concise information before your interview when making arrangements?’
Each respondent provided further comments:
“My confidence was a lot higher, and I showed that I put great effort and thought into my answers. I was a lot more comfortable too to the point where I could show my personality as well as professional experience that would apply to the role […] I much preferred the interview style to the traditional style I have experienced, having the questions in advance was fantastic and having practical tasks to do that would test my skills as well as give an insight into the responsibilities of the role was very smart.”
“I felt comfortable and prepared […] I appreciated receiving the interview questions beforehand because it helped me feel comfortable enough to be able to talk about everything that I wanted to. It helped to ease most of the pre-interview nerves.”
“Confident with my answers I gave.”
Although a very small sample size, we felt this was broadly indicative of a more positive and less stressful interview experience for our candidates.
Additional strategies for implementing inclusive recruitment
To diversify our recruitment channels and reach a broader range of talent pools, we have recently expanded our promotional strategies to include social media platforms, dedicated webpages and professional associations where possible.
As standard practice at GHWY, we always aim to ensure that interview panels include individuals from diverse backgrounds.
More members of the team are now starting to implement the techniques mentioned in this article due to raised awareness, sharing of experience, and training within the team.
I am keen to encourage this type of practice across the board after witnessing the first-hand positive effects.
Inclusive recruitment is not a one-time initiative but an ongoing commitment to embracing diversity and fostering inclusion within organisations. GHWY’s recent experiences will hopefully inspire other organisations to adopt inclusive recruitment methods in order to enhance candidate experiences, leading to quality appointments and ‘the right fit’ for both sides.
We look forward to progressing further within our own practice at GHWY in an attempt to lead the way to a greater, stronger and more diverse workforce.
Helen Sykes (Head of GHWY) and John Hague (GHWY Area Manager)
Notes: communication with candidates
“We aim to make the interview experience accessible for all. Each candidate will be asked the same questions, and to help candidates feel comfortable and well-prepared, we are sending the interview questions 24-hours* in advance – you will receive the questions on Sunday morning later this week.
“We would encourage you to be aware of the overall interview time when answering the questions. Please also feel free to bring any notes to support you in the interview process. The format will be a standard interview, so we don’t expect presentation-style responses, and we may ask follow-up questions not included in this list.”
* Please note that in the future, a wider trial has suggested that sharing questions three days in advance may support greater equity.