Building better recruitment

When we set out to build Systemic Justice, we committed to building a different kind of organisation: an organisation that would question so-called best practices, and an organisation whose work, externally and internally, is rooted in its foundational values of anti-oppression, intersectionality, and justice.  

A key part of building an organisation is building a team, which is why we have thought long and hard about how to develop recruitment practices which improve on what is typically a taxing process for everyone involved. Here are ten of the key things we are doing:  

1. We focus on skills and experience, not formal qualifications 

Having recruitment criteria centre formal education and “professional” work experience perpetuates systemic inequality. When advertising a role, we purposefully frame what we need from applicants as the skills and experience they can bring (their ability to take up crucial aspects of the role) rather than any formal qualifications (degrees or diplomas they have obtained). While this is not always possible (for example, when recruiting a lawyer, we do need candidates who have a law degree), we try to avoid excluding people on something as arbitrary as educational background. Similarly, you won’t see our advertisements refer to “professional” work experience or the need to have worked X years in a specific type of formal role. People gain skills and experiences in many different settings, and for the communities we work with, this will often include situations that are not confined to a paid role in a workplace. 

illustration of people with different physical characteristics building a construction by putting blocks together

Illustration by Kim Nguyen for Fine Acts x OBI modified

2. We hold open information calls 

We want to make sure our recruitment is transparent and fair. This involves giving everyone the same information, and giving no one special access to talk to us about the role. We don’t discuss recruitment with people individually, but host open information calls in advance of the deadline for every role we recruit for. Anyone can sign up for these calls, and ask questions about the role, the organisation, and the recruitment process. The calls are set up so that participants can stay anonymous. We also provide answers to the most frequently asked questions we receive to ensure everyone knows what to expect. 

3. We respect people’s time 

We communicate the timeline for every recruitment process as part of our information calls so people know when they can expect to hear from us, and so they can plan their schedules to be available for interviews if they are selected for one. 

4. We list the salary range for every role 

Transparency about salary ranges is a proven way to improve pay parity, but it is still frequently absent from many job ads. It is a simple and effective way to improve equality and there is no good reason not to do it. 

5. We try to accommodate people’s accessibility needs  

We recognise that online recruitment processes can be more challenging for some people, regardless of how considerate we try to be when designing them. So we make sure to give people the option to request accommodation of their specific accessibility needs by simply telling us how we can assist them.  

6. We don’t ask for a cover letter 

We find that generic cover letters are not very helpful in assessing whether a candidate would be a good fit for a role. That’s why we ask people to answer 3-4 questions which are tailored to each role, and which really tell us what we need to know to invite them for an interview. 

7. We let people know what questions we’re asking them in the interview 

We provide everyone who is invited for an interview with a briefing note that sets out the role as advertised, as well as the questions we’ll ask in the first interview. Providing the questions we want to ask in advance turns the interview situation – which can often be an uncomfortable and stressful situation for the applicant – into a conversation that gives the candidate a chance to really prepare and present themselves in the best possible way. Plus, it helps reduce people’s nervousness and performance anxiety.  

8. We ask people to do a (small) assignment that we give them ample time for  

Applications and interviews provide only a limited sense of people’s capabilities. This is why we ask applicants who progress to the second interview stage to do a small assignment between the first and second interview. The assignment is geared towards getting a sense of how people approach certain topics that are crucial to the role and we avoid asking for things that could be perceived as extractive. Recognising that people’s time is valuable, we limit the assignment to something that people can do in about an hour and we make sure people have at least a full week to complete it.  

illustration of people with different physical characteristics building a construction by putting blocks together

Illustration by Kim Nguyen for Fine Acts x OBI modified

9. We prioritise getting back to people quickly  

Recruitment is often anxiety-inducing because of the uncertainty and waiting time involved. In every step of the process, from applying to getting invited for an interview to getting offered the position, we let people know when they can expect us to come back to them, and we stick to that timeline. 

10. We provide feedback to final candidates who aren’t selected 

While we wish we could provide feedback to all candidates, we unfortunately do not have the capacity to do so. But we do want to honour the time and effort people put into the process of applying and interviewing with us, which is why we offer a feedback call to final candidates who aren’t selected.  

Recruitment is obviously just a small part of doing human resources differently, but it’s a hugely important part. We are continuously learning and adapting – we are grateful for the feedback we’ve received from people who have applied for our open positions so far, and have made some significant changes from when we first started based on that feedback. In the months to come, as we’ll develop other aspects of the human resources side of our work, we’ll share more about. Stay tuned and sign up for our newsletter to stay updated about future vacancies. 

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