Attracting diverse talent

19 April 2021

As we say in our Manifesto On Inclusivity, we want everyone who's part of Supercool to feel welcome, listened to, and valued. And that includes anyone who's applying to join the team.

In a recent recruitment drive, we adapted our process to make it as open and inclusive as possible. We did things like redacting certain info from CVs to help reduce unconscious bias, and providing folks with a list of interview questions in advance to give them time to prepare their answers.

But here I want to explain what we did before the applications came in – i.e how we encouraged nearly 200 people to want to join our small but mighty team.

What we did to appeal to a diverse talent pool

👉 Focused on flexible working

Flexibility was highlighted in our job adverts. We made it clear that we all work from home, and that working hours can be adapted to suit different lifestyles and commitments. According to the Tech Talent Charter's Diversity in Tech Report 2020, flexible working strongly encourages women to apply, as well as some disabled people. And flexible working is becoming increasingly expected by a younger workforce.

👉 Showed the money!

Few people could accept a job, no matter the salary. The bottom line is that most of us need to work to pay our bills, so we need to be paid – and know how much we'll be paid. So, we showed the salary to help people decide whether or not to apply.

👉 Didn't ask for educational qualifications

Despite an 'Education' section being included on the vast majority of CVs, we don't ask for any educational qualifications to join the team. Instead, we make it clear what experience we're looking for – and whether that experience is required before joining us, or is something that can be learnt on-the-job.

👉 Promoted professional development opportunities

We always make sure there's room for learning on-the-job – another important factor in encouraging women to apply (according to the Diversity in Tech Report). So, we included that in our job adverts. In hindsight, professional development opportunities could have been explained more clearly.

👉 Advertised on targeted jobs boards

Although we advertised across all kinds of targeted jobs boards – women in tech, Black tech, LGBTQ-friendly jobs, it was Arts Jobs, Creative Scotland, and LinkedIn that sent us by far the most applicants. As and when we next hire, we'll need to do more research into where we should advertise to help us further increase our reach. (Depending on the role available, we may also connect with coding bootcamps, as we had some great candidates who'd done these.)

👉 Considered our use of language

According to the Gender Decoder, our adverts were 'feminine-coded'. This means our ads are "very likely" to've appealed to women, with minimal risk of men being put-off by the wording. This was perhaps inevitable – the team's mostly women, and it's women who write/edit our recruitment ads.

👉 Talked about our company culture

Though it's super-tricky to define clearly, the importance of company culture cannot be underestimated. We've been pretty vocal in promoting inclusivity and environmental sustainability, and this has resonated with lots of people. At the Inclusion In Tech Festival earlier this year, it was mentioned several times that people are increasingly looking for purpose in their work – so, maybe it's no surprise that so many folks cited our commitment to inclusivity and sustainability, as well as the fact we work exclusively in the arts, as key reasons for wanting to be part of the Supercool team.

How successful were we?

The roles we advertised were Client Services Assistant and Front End Developer, and I was interested to see how much diversity of applicants differed across these two – very different – roles. So, I did some analysis of the applications:

Around two-thirds of Client Services Assistant applications came from women, falling to about a third for the Front End Developer role

That's a big difference. A difference I initially found quite disappointing – until I considered that women make up only 19% of the entire UK IT industry. (And are generally less inclined to apply for more technical roles.) As web development is a highly-specialised role, just over a third of applications being from women isn't too shabby.

Around 1-in-10 Client Services Assistant applicants were from an ethnic minority background, rising to about half for the Front End Developer role

Client Services Assistant applicants were roughly proportional to the working population – 12% of the UK workforce are categorised as being part of an ethnic minority. I also wonder how much of an impact it had that this role asked for experience working the arts; as that's not yet a very diverse talent pool. Looking at the more technical role, the proportion of the UK tech workforce categorised as being part of an ethnic minority rises to 16%. But we saw a significantly higher proportion of applicants than this.

I need to do more digging to unpick this number but I do want to stress that our categorisation is crude – it's far from ideal using 'ethic minority' rather than more granular categorisation of individuals' ethnic backgrounds. The Tech Talent Charter's Diversity In Tech Report 2020 shows that people of Asian ethnicity make up 7% of the tech workforce – 2% of the working population – which disguises under-representation of Black people in tech.

Around a third of Client Services Assistant applicants and a quarter of Front End Developer applicants didn't list a degree on their CV

It's hard to accurately measure data around social mobility without having access to lots of information about parents'/guardians' incomes. One of the factors often considered, however, is whether or not people attended university. So I analysed how many applicants included a degree of any kind on their CV. (Though it's possible some people simply didn't include their Higher Education qualifications – as we didn't ask for them.) Going on The Bridge Group's data (as discussed at the Inclusion in Tech Festival) that 84% of people working in tech hold a degree; means that 16% of people don't. So, the percentages of applicants without a degree suggest we may be helping to encourage folks without a degree into the tech sector.

In summary

We've not gone into this much detail when monitoring diversity of applicants before (we don't recruit very often!), so it's hard to judge how successful it was compared with previous recruitment drives. Within the tech sector we're doing fairly well – but smaller companies tend to be ‘better at diversity’ than big corporations; and we can always do more.

That's one of the reasons we became a founding partner of the Tech In Culture EDI Alliancesignposting, sharing and discussing useful, insightful and effective information, programmes, work, and ideas across the range of considerations and questions that EDI encompasses.

Other Supercool articles about inclusion:

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