At Imperial College London, when recruiting, we want to get the best person for the right job.
In order to do this, we need to recruit in a way that is inclusive to all and does not disproportionately affect historically under-represented groups such as minority ethnic, female, LGBTQ+, or disabled applicants. Fair selection in recruitment must be objective, consistent, and non-discriminatory resulting in the best person being selected for the job.
This is the right thing to do and is also in line with our values and makes our community stronger and more resilient and able to strive for excellence.
Prior to the recruitment process, it is important to reflect on the role that you are hiring for, and what kind of individual you are looking to recruit.
Consider the current makeup of the team, including thinking/working styles, how they are motivated, and individual/team values. Are you looking to recruit someone who works similarly to existing team members, or someone that works in a very different way?
Very often, diversity of thought and experience can lead to diversity of identity.
Job Description and Advert
On both the job description and advert, it is important to flag, not just that you value diversity, but what you mean by diversity and why it is important to the specific role being recruited for. This signals to applicants that the hiring manager truly values diversity within their work and department, much more so than standardised text.
Consider the role and person specification and review the core requirements in particular. Sometimes, having specific requirements for types of experience or background can lead to barriers for people from minority identities.
For example, some roles may have a requirement for a degree, despite the fact that experience from someone who did not attend university might also make them a suitable candidate.
Use the College approved tool Texio to check the job description and advertisement text for unintended bias. We have created a guide to using the Textio tool.
It is also important to consider where you advertise the job. For example, if you would like to attract more minority ethnic talent to apply, you may want to consider sharing the advert on LinkedIn and online networks for people of colour e.g., BBSTEM, LGBT Jobs, STEM Women.
You could also consider including a section on the current team, and (if appropriate) you as a manager. Describing the team’s experience and working style provides a level of transparency, and allows the prospective candidate to consider how they would fit in with the team. You do not need to go into specifics about individuals, but instead look at how the team works as a whole (fast-paced/goal oriented/data driven/etc).
Almost all job advertisements should show the salary of the role (and not simply say ‘competitive’). Not only does this increase the number of applicants who are relevant for the vacancy, but it also builds trust with the candidates. Research shows that omitting salaries discourages many applicants from asking for better pay, particularly minority ethnic applicants and women.
Invitation to interview
You may want to consider making clear which 4-6 criteria from the job description you will be assessing at interview to aid candidates to prepare and reduce anxiety. This is also highly likely to ensure you get a better quality of answers on the day.
When inviting candidates to interview, outline the selection process and ask them if they require any adjustments. The selection process should involve shortlisting, and can involve a varied selection process, such as selection, tests, skills tests, psychometric testing, in tray assessments, stakeholder meetings, presentations and interviews.
It is also advisable to offer a range of days and times for interview slots to ensure there are slots that everyone can do.
Having diversity on the recruitment panels is important.
Having people from different backgrounds and with different protected characteristics means that the people on the recruitment panel will be able to bring a different perspective. This can lead to more effective challenge and questioning of decisions making it more likely you will get the best person for the job.
By having visible diversity on the panel, where possible, it also provides clear evidence to the interviewee that Imperial is a place for diverse talent.
Ensure that everyone on the panel is able to contribute openly to the conversation at all stages of the recruitment process, and ask a range of questions – don’t just instruct the diverse individuals to ask questions about diversity.
For some vacancies, it may be difficult to find diverse people to sit on the panel, particularly for senior roles. In these situations, we would encourage you to look broader across the department (even if it means having a more junior colleague on the panel) as well as looking to different departments who may be able to offer a stakeholder perspective as well as diversity.
Via Talentlink, hiring managers can opt into characteristic anonymised recruitment. This will hide the ethnicity, gender, and name.
By hiding this information, it eliminates some triggers for unconscious bias and focuses the shortlisting process on the job application and evidence the applicant has provided.
A 2017 UK study found that just a third (32%) of HR managers felt confident that they are not prejudiced when hiring new staff. Nearly half (48%) admitted that bias affects their candidate choice, while 20% said they couldn’t be sure if bias affected their decisions.
In one study, universities seeking a laboratory manager were randomly given CVs with male or female names. Those with ‘male’ names were rated as “significantly more competent and hireable.
Please contact the Recruitment Hub to discuss the possibility of characteristic anonymised recruitment.
It is important to consider when you advertise a job and for how long.
Advertising during the school holidays is likely to reduce the number of applications from people with child-caring responsibilities. Similarly, having a very short recruitment window will reduce the number of applications from those with responsibilities outside of the workplace.
Where possible, share all dates and timelines in the job advertisement so candidates can plan accordingly.
When considering dates for applications closing and interviews, as much as possible, be aware of religious holidays and rest days. The Interfaith Network for the UK has produced a list of religious festivals.
It is also important to ensure that your recruitment window gives you sufficient time to make any necessary adjustments for candidates that need it. For example, candidates who may need more preparation time if you are using assessments in the recruitment process, candidates who may need a preparation call in advance of the interview, etc.
In addition to the recruitment and selection training that we encourage all involved in recruitment to participate in training on equality, diversity and inclusion. This will ensure the panel is not allowing unconscious biases or unintentional discrimination preventing the best person getting the job.
Imperial offers the following courses to staff:
Some people, such as those living with a disability or long-term health condition, may find that adjustments to the recruitment process enable them to perform at their best. Such adjustments might include:
- Receiving recruitment materials in a different format, like braille or large print
- Standard interview questions being shared in advance
- Additional interview time
- Accessibility support for in-person interviews
Under the UK Equality Act 2010, the college has a duty to provide “reasonable adjustments” where they are requested by a disabled person. For an adjustment to be deemed as reasonable, factors to consider include the cost and practicality of an adjustment, and the resources available to the college.
For example, a deaf candidate could request that a sign language interpreter be present at their interview. If this request was made less that 24 hours prior to the interview, it would likely not be considered a reasonable adjustment, as it would be challenging for Imperial to facilitate such a request on short notice. However, if the request was made 14 days prior to the interview, it is far more likely to be considered a reasonable adjustment.
Requests for adjustments should be made by candidates in writing. If a candidate makes a request in conversation, you should send an email to them confirming what they have requested, for documentation purposes.
If you are asked by a candidate to make an adjustment, and you are unsure of how to proceed, please contact EDIC for support. The Government has also created a guide on the duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments for their staff.
You should highlight the availability of reasonable adjustments at all stages of the process. In job adverts and written communication, you can add a section at the end to highlight this. During interviews, consider asking a question about adjustments at the same time that you make introductions; “Before we start, are there any adjustments we can make during our time today to ensure that you are comfortable?”.
Once you have selected your candidate and they have excepted the position, it is important that they are onboarded into the College in a way that makes them feel welcomed and helps them hit the ground running. To help you with this, please see the College’s onboarding checklist.
Before they start:
Ensure you have gone over practical information around starting such as sharing the campus maps, dress code (the College does not have a formal dress code but candidates may be comforted by hearing what people typically wear).
The New Staff website should be shared as it gives information on benefits such as childcare vouchers and facilities.
If they have disclosed a disability, express that you would like to ensure they have the support they need and ask what support they need so you can start to put it in place before they start. You should also share the support pages for staff with disabilities.
Share the information on Imperial’s staff networks to all new starters in case any of the networks are relevant to them and to also underline the organisation’s commitment to supporting diversity.
Sharing the link to join the Imperial Today mailing list will help begin to foster a sense of belonging to the College by providing them with news stories about Imperial.
It would also be helpful to share the Imperial Values and Behaviours framework.
Once they start:
All new starters should attend the Imperial Insights Day which welcomes new starters, explains our values as well as introduces them to the staff networks and support available to them.
They will also need to complete their Imperial Essentials training which, amongst other things, equality, diversity and inclusion.
Following the recruitment process, data will be available on the diversity of applicants and successful candidates. You can request this data by contacting the recruitment team.
It may be worth reviewing this data at regular points throughout the year, or after a large recruitment push, to identify any themes that might be emerging. For example, perhaps large numbers of female candidates are applying to roles, but very few are making it to the shortlist stage.
This allows you to consider any subconscious barriers that might be present in the recruitment process and take steps to address them.
Positive action means taking specific steps to improve equality and reduce discrimination for certain groups. These steps must be proportional to the need. Organisations are allowed under the Equality Act 2010 to take positive action to address disadvantages faced by people with protected characteristics.
Positive action is different from positive discrimination. Positive discrimination involves automatic favouring of those from a protected group, without proper consideration of merit. This is illegal, though there is a limited exception to treat a disabled person more favourably.
One example of positive action would be to encourage applications from particular groups, by placing job adverts to target particular groups (see advice above) or including statements that particular groups are encouraged to apply. The College has produced an Academic recruitment at Imperial – case studies and toolkit to showcase some of the good practice departments have implemented.
The College held a workshop on positive action and the College’s inclusive approach to recruitment in November 2022. You can view the recording of the workshop (Imperial log in required) and download the presentations from the workshop: Positive Action and Know Your Pool (PDF).
For more guidance on positive action in a University setting, the law firm Farrer & Co have written a guide.