The (Inclusive) Recruitment Crisis
This article has been co-authored by an Autistic teacher working in Scotland based on their experiences. They wish to remain anonymous but I thank them for their valued insights and input.
No truly inclusive school can exist without an inclusive recruitment process. As I was researching links for this blog I stumbled across this post by the awesome Nancy Gedge about the lack of disabled teachers in the UK. Indeed the get into teaching site has little or no information for those looking to get into teaching. If we exclude potentially excellent candidates we miss out on all the benefits a diverse staff team bring. It is well known that an interview is not a great indicator of future performance in a role; yet interviews are the primary technique used for selecting new staff.
Sure a great application is essential but it is the rest of the process that secures the job. In my experience the whole rest of the recruitment process relies on a candidates communication skills. Take too long to answer a question, don’t make eye contact talk to loudly or too quietly and you don’t tick the right boxes. That is even before we get to being able to articulate complex hypothetical situations with no processing time.
I have never had an interview where these are presented in any format other than verbally. does anyone else think it’s strange how the questions are guarded and revealed like state secrets? When did we decide no one should be able to prepare answers for questions that in reality you would not answer off the cuff.
Many questions rely on deep knowledge and understanding of policy, legislation and should be supported by facts and research. How many of you like to take time to ponder, discuss and find out the correct process for dealing with potentially very sensitive situations? In the scenarios often presented at interview you wouldn’t say the first thing that came into your mind. I would rather employ a candidate that considered their answers than a blagger – and which of those candidates does an interview favour?
If you are looking for a school leader you want someone who is Inspirational, knowledgeable, skilled and caring. All of these can be evidenced outside of an interview day. Ask for outcomes and examples beforehand or in follow up.
The theory of universal design should be part of any school building. There is really no excuse in a modern school for an interviewee to climb sets of stairs or to have the room adapted. Each learning or meeting space ideally would be equipped to support all employees. Whether this is something as simple as making sure the lights work and the windows can be shaded. That the room is quiet and distraction free, after all you are assessing the candidates ability to complete tasks however they would in post. If they would not be expected to complete a task in the midst of a busy room then provide an office.
We are not talking about reducing challenge we are suggesting removing barriers so you can attract the best candidates. All these considerations should be made to all candidates wherever possible. If additional adjustments are required please make them you may just find the perfect candidate.
Ensuring your recruitment process is as inclusive as possible.
Advertise in publications and on websites that cater for those with additional needs. this will flag up your inclusive culture and make it clear you value application from all candidates.
Posibility magazine has listings for employment opportunities. Only 5 at the time of writing.
Evenbreak has a number of listings but only 2 at the time of writing for the education sector.
I automatically disregard adverts that cite outgoing personality characteristics. I know that they have already decided the (Neuro)type they want and I would not be it.
Think about your wording and the skills hat would truly benefit your organizsation.
Adapt your candidate pack. Many candidates who require adaptations will make them themselves i.e text to speech. If you want to ensure a candidate knows you are really an inclusive employer prove it from the start.
Use clear text and font.
Provide digital not just paper copies of all correspondence so AAC technology can be used.
Ask the candidate to collate a portfolio of successes they want to share this can reduce anxiety around forgetting key information under pressure.
Provide an outline of the day and stick to those times.
I was once taken early, so missed my chance to use the toilet as I had planned and this threw me. I didn’t feel I could say I needed to use the bathroom and I didn’t want everyone to know my business.
Provide a private area and clear access to private toilet – Some candidates may need to medicate, pray or toilet at specific times.
Be prepared to accommodate a support worker i.e a BSL interpreter, welcome them as well.
Make sure the room is set up and accessible from the start. If you need a ramp have it in place.
For panel interviews, tell me what the expectations are. Is one person going to ask all the questions? Am I supposed to look at all the people or not? Who do I address my answer to?
Think about how you deliver questions. I don’t know why these are always kept secret. Consider supplying candidates with some key questions before the interview so they can evidence and prepare an answer.
If you want my best answer, you need to give me thinking time. One employer offered all candidates the opportunity to arrive a 1/2hour prior to interview to read the questions and take notes to support responses. This sheet could be referred to during the interview.
Provide the questions digitally on arrival if you don’t want to allow to much preparation time. This will allow candidates to process the questions and articulate answers better.
Have any questions you ask verbally presented in written form in clear font.
Make sure the point of the question is clear. I have heard questions asked that are really three questions that almost force candidates to give a stock answer.
If questions could be based on real experience, rather than hypothetical, all the better. The interview should be an opportunity for the candidate to showcase their strengths, in a manner that suits them. I don’t care if this makes the “scoring” process problematic for HR.
Allow the candidates to present any way they choose. A well prepared video or booklet will give you a greater insight into facets of their skill set that a spoken presentation may not.
Provide water, ask the candidate if the environment is right. Make sure you know how all the AV equipment works. There is really no excuse not to know how tech works in your interview rooms.
I think my handwriting is enough to stop any employer in their tracks. Have computers set up and available or encourage candidates to bring their own.
Save time during the recruitment day by setting a task to be completed by that morning.
Major companies such as Microsoft and Google have seen the benefits of inclusive recruitment There is no reason schools should not start leading in this field. Any alterations or adaptations really need to be seen as excellent NORMAL practice as this is the only way we will come to value the strengths of our differences.
I think it’s time for schools to step up and actually try and recruit across the board. If you have a recruitment crisis in your sector you work to encourage people to join that industry not make excuses for why the barriers exist. If you want to know more about your rights check out the gov.uk page.