Accessible recruitment – what we’ve learned so far
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One of the key aims of Culture Collective is to create work – jobs – for artists, and so far Culture Collective projects have filled well over 300 roles. With such a remit, it’s naturally important that we attract and support a diverse range of applicants – to reflect the diversity of Scotland’s communities and to bring a wide range of insight to the network.
We’ve asked three of the Culture Collective projects to share what they’ve been doing to try to make their recruitment processes more accessible, in the hope that some of their learning may be useful to others. It’s worth noting at the outset that none of these projects would describe themselves as having ‘nailed’ accessible recruitment – these are steps on a journey, shared here in the spirit of openness and generosity.
Mhari Robinson, Independent Arts Projects, Sensory Collective
In autumn 2021 the Sensory Collective recruited a team of six Artists and one Producer to deliver a new year-long programme of Sensory Arts activity in six areas across Scotland. This project collaborates with disabled people to co-design a year-long programme of sensory arts projects for those who experience multiple barriers to access mainstream arts activities. As such, it was especially important to recruit a team with lived experience of disability.
Here are some of the steps Sensory Collective took to make their recruitment process accessible:
- Job packs were made available in a range of formats. Here, this included PDF format, audio format and as videos (alongside a captioned introductory video about the project), as well as in large print versions in mono and in blue, green and purple colours.
- The team held fifteen one-to-one sessions (via Zoom and phone), and one group session, for potential applicants to ask questions about the role. FAQs from these sessions were written up (anonymously) and shared on the website for the benefit of those who didn’t attend a session.
- When it came to interview, a freelance artist was paid to sit on the interview panel to bring an additional perspective to interviews.
- Information about the interview process was sent to interviewees 48 hours in advance. This included information about who would be be on the panel, what questions would be asked, and what the interview structure would be. Interviewees were offered a choice of Zoom or face to face interviews.
- The panel took a more ‘human’ approach to recruitment, with personal emails acknowledging applications, thanking applicants for their time, and offering feedback.
The call outs remain available for reference here.
Feedback from applicants underlined the impact of this approach:
“I have only watched the first video outlining what the yearlong project and positions will look like. I have found this to be the most encouraging thing i have ever come across to apply for a position. I am nearly in tears, im not sure why. Its almost like i felt like the video was talking to me (obviously not!) For someone in the creative industry and having dyslexia, scrolling through job posts online can be the most overwhelming thing to ever do. But to have a video format alongside a job description is just GAME CHANGING! Thank you, for truly being inclusive in your approach. Apologies, I just felt compelled to share my experience so far with going through the information on positions available.”
“I have to say, I really appreciate the care and effort that was taken to make the job spec as accessible as possible! I have done a bit of accessibility consulting in the arts and it is so nice to see someone doing this work off their own back!”
Natalia Palombo, Deveron Projects
Deveron Projects is working with artists through three open calls: Room to Fail; Room to Grow; and Room to do anything you like, tied into Deveron’s curatorial framework: The Town is the Venue. The project’s rural location often means that artists need to relocate to Huntly for the duration of a residency, so it’s especially important to help artists understand whether the role is right for them. In this case, Deveron’s recruitment process included the following considerations:
- Very flexible, open briefs encouraged applicants to bring their own experience and input to shape a role and remit that suited their interests. They also encouraged the artists to choose the length and structure of their residency.
- The application process consisted of two stages, with the first being a simple one-page expression of interest. Applicants who were invited to progress to stage two of the recruitment process were paid £250 for their time in preparing for – and attending – this stage.
- Stage two of the recruitment process was a discussion between the applicant and the organisation which specifically drew on questions and detail from their stage one application. This shared the responsibility of preparing for this stage more evenly between the applicant and the organisation.
- The team were aware that the scale of these commissions (£18,380 fee plus £10,000 production budget) felt intimidating to some artists. As such, Deveron made a particular effort to contact artists directly, as well as a fully open call, to encourage them to make an application.
- Deveron Projects encouraged applicants to call members of the Deveron Projects team to discuss these opportunities, and their experiences of working with the organisation and living in Huntly. This helped make sure that applicants have enough understanding and information about the local context to propose projects relevant to their place.
Katharine Wheeler, The Stove Network, What We Do Now
The Stove’s Culture Collective project, What We Do Now, recruited creative freelancers to work in five towns across Dumfries and Galloway. The intention of these roles was to amplify less heard parts of their communities through place-specific, relevant, community-led artistic projects. In thinking about accessibility through the recruitment process, the team aimed to create the spaces, give the time, and ensure they had the resources available to make their call-out and application process approachable and supportive to diverse individual needs. This included:
- An application pack that used straightforward language. There was detail provided on the Stove’s understanding of some terms used, such as what they consider to be a ‘creative practice’.
- Options for applications to be submitted in varying forms (such as an audio file or video recording), and Clear Text and BSL video versions of the application materials were provided.
- Clear detail was provided on the selection criteria and application process, including expected dates for interview and the length of time people would likely need to wait to hear the outcome of their application.
- Holding group sessions and offering 1-2-1 information sessions, which were open to anyone interested in the opportunities. This was a very successful approach with a substantial take up.
Reflecting on the process, Katharine notes:
“To really approach accessibility and try to offer more person-centred approaches to recruitment takes time, and the team really put their whole selves into this process. I think we all learned a bit more about the resources and energy needed to manage and support accessibility issues effectively through this process. As a sector I think we need to keep reflecting this to funders and partners, in our communication, our budgets, and through honest reflection and evaluation, in order to make opportunities more inclusive and available to ALL. Note to funders; expect additional requests for more money for less activity to support more accessible approaches”.