I recently participated in a webinar for a recruitment exercise seeking people with disability for roles on a Commonwealth department.
There was a lot to like about the experience. The exercise was being undertaken by a professional recruitment agency, which is a huge plus as it gets away from the unconscious biases of unskilled recruiters. This may have been helped by the fact that what was being created was a merit pool from which candidates would be matched to roles – so a lot of the bias risks arising from local work unit control of the recruitment process are eliminated.
The webinar itself was sensitively run. Speakers gave audio descriptions of themselves for blind participants. A department’s representative gave a strong and very positive presentation on how inclusive the agency is. It sounded very good. But, as readers, well know the proof will always be in the experience. If the department walks it’s talk, that will be impressive – and refreshing.
I thought the recruitment process showed a lot of refinement and reflexibility. I took notes from the screen shots and what I want to do here is run through them.
There was a detailed discussion of the adjustments available. The ones I particularly liked were:
- Interview in person or by phone or video
- Additional time to complete interviews
- Liberty to have a support person accompanying
- Larger or smaller interview room with suitable lighting (however in this instance most interviews would be via MS Teams – but the thought is a good one)
Process and timelines
Perhaps because this is a bulk recruitment exercise this information was especially helpful as the whole exercise is spread over 2 months from the date the applications close.
It was good to see process and timeline clearly laid out.
A recruitment team member will contact an applicant to ensure the minimum requirements have been met and to confirm what adjustments will be needed, and preferred contact method.
This is a nice touch. It goes a long way to making the whole exercise more personalised.
This was a new idea for me. Candidates will get an email with a link to a pre-recorded video which will ask 3 questions based on the core capabilities of the role/s applied for.
Candidates have 5 days to respond and may do so by video, audio only or in writing. This is impressively flexible.
There is a later panel interview as well. For that there is a suggestion that the STAR method is used by candidates in crafting their response. Perhaps this same suggestion could have been made here as well?
A sample of written work that might replicate a task in a selected role is required – if the candidate is progressing to the next stage – the interview.
The candidate has 3 days to complete this. This is a sensitive time frame because it takes time pressure off, and this avoids triggering anxieties. I should observe here that anxieties around recruitment experiences don’t flow into work performance.
The panel interview
This will be via MS Teams and is usually 30 minutes, but the time may be varied as part of a previously requested adjustment.
The panel consists of 3 members and a scribe. I like this, because it means panel members should be able to be fully attentive to the candidate and not hastily scribbling notes, or just looking at their notes. This can come across as disengagement, and it can also conceal actual bias in DIY panels. By DIY panels I mean interview panels formed and convened at the level of the work group where the vacancy is – and lacking any professional refinement.
The questions will be based on the APS capability framework and will be provided 48 hours in advance of the interview. That’s a good amount to time to prepare.
From the sample questions given they seem uncomplicated and clear – designed to elicit a useful response. There is an impression that the capabilities are being used as intended here. There is a hint about using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) in forming responses.
Under the reasonable adjustment options, a candidate can elect to have the interview with the camera off, but this should be addressed before the interview.
In terms of being inclusive and accessible, this process is the best I have seen. As noted above, the webinar was a very well-presented, inclusive, and sensitive introduction.
I have assumed here that the interview panel will be well managed and professional (controlled by the recruitment agency I hope), however, I am not convinced that the panel interview is an indispensable part of the recruitment process. It is the part of the recruitment process that is most vulnerable to the two dire negatives in recruitment exercises for people with disability – bias from the panel and performance ruining anxiety from the candidate.
That said, this is a decent attempt to reduce those risks – and certainly the best I have come across.