In September, we launched a recruitment process to find two new people to join the Producer team at the heart of Catalyst. These roles will be central to helping steward the network’s work and ambition over the coming years. So it was vital for the recruitment to be as open, inclusive and accessible as possible.
We also wanted to create a process and templates that would be easily reusable by other teams and organisations across Catalyst, providing opportunities for us to iterate, learn and evolve best practice as a network.
This blog is co-authored by Ellie Hale, Catalyst Producer, Tess Cooper and Prisca Munzemba from Catalyst’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion partner, Collaborative Future, who shaped and led the recruitment process.
Designing an inclusive process
The key practices Collaborative Future highlighted, and that we followed, were:
- No CVs. We wanted to let people’s creativity, talent and suitability for the role shine through, regardless of their previous employment history. Instead of CVs, we initially asked people to answer three short questions specifically about the role, then complete a paid task (£150 for 3-4hrs) if they made it to interview. As explained on the Collaborative Future blog, there are many reasons for using a task-based approach, ‘from attracting a diverse pool that otherwise would not have been able to go through a lengthy and rigorous hiring process due to other jobs, caring needs or disabilities, to ensuring those who are not natural performers and entertainers also get a chance to showcase their talent by having their work to talk about in depth.’
- Creating a transparent and mutually valuable experience. Reciprocity is key to any network thriving, and a core value for Catalyst. We felt candidates should enjoy the process and learn something about themselves (and Catalyst) from it, which would be useful regardless of whether or not they got the job. And it was a chance for those of us in the hiring team to connect with and learn from new people, and about ourselves too. A voyage of discovery all round!
- Conscious assessment. As decision-makers we are influenced by various biases and frames that affect how we view ‘strengths’ and ‘weaknesses’. These aren’t necessarily bad or wrong, but they need to be acknowledged, discussed and potentially challenged. We identified some things up-front that we might automatically value or overlook, then in the interviews we wrote down things that triggered or resonated with us alongside our scores, to discuss at the panel meeting.
- Mediated decision making. Within a panel, everyone scores differently, and a mediated discussion creates space to explore differences of opinion and what these differences symbolise. Through a group discussion facilitated by Collaborative Future, we examined whether our rationale for certain scores or feelings felt valid and in service to our overarching aim (to find the right people to support Catalyst’s next phase).
At the very beginning, Tess and Prisca ran a session with Ellie, the Catalyst hiring manager, to identify:
- Hopes and concerns
- Things the new team might find themselves doing (which could inform the job description)
- The qualities and characteristics of people we wanted to hear from
- The benefits of the role, in order to sell the opportunity to as wide a range of people as possible.
We discussed who should be on the interview panel (what signals would this send? How could we ensure a balance of perspectives and experience to help guide this important decision?) and how we might best recognise the contributions of everyone in the process (e.g. paying interview candidates and the hiring panel; holding space for everyone to share and learn from each other).
2. Job ad
We put together a Notion page to house the recruitment pack. It borrowed from the excellent examples of CIVIC SQUARE and is a template that’s explicitly intended for reuse (look out for a job posting from the Tech for Good Organisers’ network using this, coming soon!)
Ellie wrote a blog publicising the role, which was posted on the Catalyst website, newsletter and social channels. We put paid promotion behind the social posts to ensure they reached more diverse audiences, and they received nearly 4,000 click-throughs. Collaborative Future also promoted it through their networks and offered support to folks thinking about applying, particularly those from groups traditionally under-represented in sector leadership roles.
4. Recruiting an interview panel
Six people from the Catalyst network got in touch about joining the hiring panel, following our call in September. We landed on Ab Brightman and Kathryn Dingle, who were chosen for the balance of different perspectives and closeness to Catalyst they would bring, which would complement Ellie and Prisca’s own viewpoints.
Interestingly, one person who was based in India applied to this, having followed Catalyst’s progress with interest from afar. While we decided against them on the grounds that some knowledge of the UK charity digital space would be important for assessing candidates’ suitability, it’s exciting to see we’re reaching international audiences!
5. Inclusive recruitment training for the interview panel
Collaborative Future ran a session to help the panel (and people who’d applied to be on the panel) consider the biases and dynamics they were bringing to the process. We discussed how our scores would be the jumping-off point for an honest conversation about what we valued and why.
6. Codesign of task and interview questions
We designed a task that would showcase interviewees’ strengths. This was deliberately a ‘real’ task, so people could get their teeth into precisely the kind of work they’d be doing if they got the job. We asked them to present one idea or approach for how to practically go about the network engagement part of the Catalyst review process. We weren’t assessing people on the specifics of whether we agreed with their idea or thought it possible, as we understood they wouldn’t necessarily have all the context they need. Rather, we were most interested in understanding:
- Their approach to experimenting and trying things out
- Their understanding of participatory decision making
- Their ability to work with possible ambiguity
- Their decisions around how best to convey and communicate ideas and processes
- How they’d identify where there are gaps in information and how they would seek to fill these gaps.
The interview questions were divided into three sections: task-related, strengths-related, and scenario questions. Task questions allowed people to explain their approach to the task and how they might approach it differently given more resources or time; strengths questions aimed to find people with complementary strengths to Ellie, and each other, to ensure a good balance across the team; scenario questions gave people a chance to speak about their experiences and perspectives.
Tess, Prisca and Ellie reviewed the submissions and, after much deliberation, finalised a shortlist of 10 candidates. These were then sent to Ab and Kathryn at the beginning of the week of interviews.
We shared the task we’d designed with those shortlisted at least three days prior to interview, and the questions at least 24 hours before. This meant people weren’t put on the spot and had time to consider their answers beforehand.
We held 10 interviews. They ranged from 45 minutes to 1hr 45 minutes long. They were definitely the most enjoyable and inspiring part of the whole process!
Prisca welcomed candidates into each interview and framed the process in a friendly and accessible way. This warm energy relaxed candidates from the start.
We got into some really interesting discussions around the potential futures of Catalyst: hopes, values, culture, governance models, anxieties and what made us most excited. It was a great chance to explore these areas with people who are currently contributing as part of the network in various guises, as well as some who’d only become aware of Catalyst through this opportunity.
9. Mediated decision panel
Initially scheduled as a 2hr chat, this then became three separate check-ins that took around a day in total. They were independently facilitated by Tess and Prisca from Collaborative Future.
10. Follow-ups and feedback
We’re actually still in the process of following up with everyone, as there are several people who we can see opportunities to work with in other ways. We hope this will be the beginning of many relationships.
You can read about what we learned from the process in our follow-up piece, Recruiting a dedicated Producer team for Catalyst: What we learned.
Check out Collaborative Future’s full presentation on Transparent and Inclusive Recruitment, which many of these screenshots are taken from.