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Fair Recruitment


Published: 23 Mar 2023

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A company’s values are increasingly important to those looking for a role or training contract, and this includes a fair recruitment process. ICAEW authorised Training Employer the University of Bath has introduced a range of strategies. We talk to the university’s Head of Talent Acquisition, Sarah Sutton

You’ve decided to pursue the ACA qualification and are looking for a training agreement with a company. What next? Many factors influence us when we’re looking for a role: sector, location, salary and benefits, the role itself – we’ve been prioritising these kinds of considerations for a long time.

But our relationship with work has changed. Research shows that 60% of us now choose a place to work based on our beliefs or values, and among these values is fairness. A fair recruitment process means a positive experience for a candidate. It is also the first step to ensuring a company has a diverse workforce and an inclusive culture.

To achieve this, companies must be objective, consistent and non-discriminatory in their hiring. They base their approach to recruiting people on candidates’ rights, focusing on the skills, knowledge and experience they can bring to a role, rather than where they went to university, for example.

A fair recruitment process is also reflected in how companies advertise roles and attempt to reach potential candidates. They should consider inclusion – how they reach candidates from all backgrounds, for example. Such considerations should flow into the application processes; teams responsible for hiring should themselves be diverse and are required under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments for disabled candidates, for instance.

How roles are advertised inclusively

Six thousand organisations around the world, large and small, across all sectors, are authorised by ICAEW to train ACA students in their qualification. One such authorised training employer (ATE) is the University of Bath, which employs roughly 2,180 people, has about 19,926 students, and has developed a fair recruitment scheme as part of its diversity, equity and inclusivity strategy.

“We promote that we are an equal opportunities employer and have an excellent international reputation, with staff from over 60 different nations,” says Sarah Sutton, the university’s Head of Talent Acquisition. “All those involved in recruitment and selection are signposted to complete recruitment and selection training as well as training in unconscious bias and diversity in the workplace, to ensure they have the knowledge of how to recruit and select inclusively.”

The university runs its job advertisements through a platform called Textio which eliminates bias in job posts, and promotes all of its roles through BMEjobs.co.uk, LGBTjobs.co.uk and Disabilityjob.co.uk. It also uses positive action campaigns when needed, to ensure that it is positively trying to attract candidates from under-represented groups for particular areas or roles within the university.

“We are constantly seeking to reduce the unconscious bias that enters any assessment process, with the goal of creating an inclusive and equal assessment process,” Sutton explains. “To support this we are currently trialling anonymous shortlisting, where personal details on application forms are removed at the initial shortlisting stage.”

How the entire recruitment process is accessible

The university provides clear examples on its website of some of the adjustments it can make for applicants, to make sure the recruitment process is accessible for all. These include modifying communication to candidates to ensure it’s as clear as possible, and offering to use different methods of communication if needed, such as video rather than phone calls or email.

“We support chairs and panels in making any potential adaptations to ensure the process is accessible – for instance, providing interview questions 20 minutes in advance of interviews,” Sutton adds. “In many instances we provide interview questions in advance which are inclusive and autism-friendly.”

The university will also adapt the interview environment to reduce sensory stressors when necessary and provides information and materials in different formats. “We’re proud to be an autism-friendly university and a disability-confident leader that values, promotes and celebrate inclusion,” Sutton says.

How fair recruitment increases diversity

Since its creation in 2019, the recruitment strategy has seen a 4% increase in the number of staff from ethnic minority groups and 19% more staff declaring a disability. “We have also implemented a data dashboard that tracks diversity impact during the recruitment process [and gives us the] ability to analyse trends and target particular areas for improvement,” Sutton adds. The dashboard can show both the entire university and specific departments.

The approach to recruitment has also increased the proportion of women in senior roles at the university by 2% and continues to grow the proportion of female professors – currently up from 16.4% to 22.1% since 2017. Two years ago, women comprised 41% of senior professional service roles; now they make up 50%, including an additional two members of the university’s Executive Board. 

“The newly formed Gender Pay Gap Working Group has made recommendations on how we can continue to diversify the gender profile of senior staff,” Sutton adds. The university has also created the new position of Executive Chair of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee who sits on the Executive Board.

The university’s positive commitments to progressing gender equality and intersectionality have won it a Silver Athena SWAN award. This quality charter mark framework and accreditation scheme recognises good practices in higher education establishments in gender equality, representation, progression and success. The scheme has improved the recruitment of both staff and students from under-represented groups, thus better reflecting society.

“We aim to be an inclusive university, where difference is celebrated, respected and encouraged,” Sutton says. “We truly believe that diversity of experience, perspectives and backgrounds will lead to a better environment for our employees and students, so we encourage applications from all genders, backgrounds and communities, particularly from under-represented groups such as people of colour and disabled people. And we value the positive impact this will have on our teams.”

ICAEW’s ATEs understand the benefits of a diverse workforce and realise that inclusive recruitment is a vital element of any diversity and inclusion strategy. They know that recruiting and retaining people in a truly fair way is the only way to increase workforce diversity.

So when you are looking for a role with an ATE, consider what’s important to you. Alongside sector, role and location, what values do you want to see reflected in your employer? How do they communicate their diversity, equity and inclusion practices? The knowledge that ICAEW’s ATEs are focused on inclusion and diversity, should reassure you when looking for a role. 

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