Getting more diverse and BME applicants for public affairs jobs

Yesterday I tweeted asking for help on where to advertise to find a diverse pool of applicants for an early-career (first/second job) public affairs person — particularly to find excellent Black and Minority Ethnic applicants.

Twitter delivered superbly — here are some of the recommendations:

Lots of people gave a shout out to the brilliant Taylor Bennett Foundation https://linktr.ee/TaylorBennettFoundation — I’ve worked with them before and will certainly do so again for this job.

Other organisations / agencies / networks recommended were:

Creative Access https://linktr.ee/_creativeaccess
Patchwork Foundation https://patchworkfoundation.org.uk/
Koreo https://www.koreo.co/
BYP Network https://linktr.ee/bypnetwork
Women in PA https://www.womeninpa.co.uk/
BME PR Pros https://bmeprpros.co.uk/
POCIMPACT https://www.facebook.com/groups/pocimpact/?ref=share
People Like Us https://www.plu.org.uk/
Restless Development https://restlessdevelopment.org/
Vercida https://www.vercida.com/uk
PubAffairs https://www.publicaffairsnetworking.com/
POC in Campaigns https://www.facebook.com/groups/564993310267094

People also suggested that I contact university politics departments and student unions. The PRCA reminded me about their apprenticeships and Kickstart programmes, and someone else mentioned the Speaker’s Internship Programme.

And someone also recommended https://www.beapplied.com/ — a platform for anonymised bias-free recruitment.

What happens next?

We’re going to kick off recruitment for the public affairs job (and a great early career website assistant role too) soon. DM me if you want me to share the ads with you.

I’ve rewritten the job descriptions and person specs to remove flowery effusive language (eg replacing “excellent” with “good”), make sure they are clear and in plain language, and to express better that we want candidates to share our trade union and antiracist values.

I’m going to explore the networks people shared with me and work out an advertising and outreach strategy. I’ll make sure I pay for ads or offer a donation when I’m asking self-organised or volunteer-led networks to share them.

The TUC already runs a BME briefing for lots of our jobs — it’s an information session to give BME potential candidates the chance to ask no-strings questions, get info about the job and the organisation, and make a decision on whether to apply. They are usually online. In the past I have asked an independent person to chair them. We’ll definitely run BME briefings for these two jobs.

I’ll write tweets on each ad, focussing on different aspects of diversity (eg highlighting our flexible working policies or our BME briefing), and ask my followers to share them.

At a recent recruitment round, I made my twitter DMs open and positively invited people to ask me questions or arrange a call, and I’ll do that again. (More than 15 people took me up on the offer of a call last time!)

We also already run no names recruitment, and we also ask applicants not to tell us which schools and/or university they may have attended. These jobs don’t have the requirement for a degree, and we positively encourage people with the right experience to apply regardless of qualifications. We’re the trade union movement — lifelong learning and the value of experience and volunteering is in our DNA!

Our application form is simple, and we try not to ask for irrelevant info. Far more important than CV details are applicants’ paragraphs on each line in the person spec — that’s what we score the application on. At least three people will read every form (we usually get 70+).

I also recently changed the order of our recruitment process to make sure we are relying on hard info about people’s actual skills in selecting for interview. We intend to longlist around 12 applicants using the application forms, and invite them all to do a timed online test. We will then choose those who we invite to interview (probably 5 or so) using the scores and information from the test.

At the interview, we will have a diverse panel in terms of race and gender, and the interview will be online to cut out travel time and costs for applicants.

We’ll ask 5 or so questions, most of which will be of the format “Tell me about a time when you…” and are related to aspects of the person spec. The best way to answer these questions well is to think about your experience, pick an example and then talk about it in answer to the question, using the 3Cs to structure your answer:

  • Context: what was the situation or issue or problem?
  • Conduct: what did you do (not your team — you!) to fix it / improve it?
  • Conclusion: why did what you did make a difference? What changed? What did you learn?

I really want people from all backgrounds to apply to work with us at the TUC. We have a brilliant pay and benefits package, and are reviewing our flexible working policies in light of working from home during the pandemic (the policies are pretty amazing already). Our head office is Grade 2 listed Congress House in Bloomsbury — a wonderful place to work.

I have a 2yo myself — so I can testify from personal experience that we are a good place to work for parents — and I would love other working mamas to think about applying, and career switchers or returners to consider it too. We are on a journey to being a more inclusive workplace — we aren’t perfect, but we are working on it, with the involvement of our BME staff. And our commitment to antiracism and to equality is absolute.

Our Campaigns, Communications and Digital department is a friendly and diverse place to work. We care about people developing and getting to do brilliant work. We like to win — not just put up a good fight. We’re professionals and we have high standards — but we also care a lot about one another, and we are proud of each other.

Do let me know if you’ve got questions, are thinking about applying or if you have any thoughts on what more I can do to run a better and more inclusive recruitment process.

TUC head of campaigns & comms. South-east Londoner.