Making your communications and PR recruitment more inclusive

I work for the TUC – the UK’s trade union movement. We’re trying to make sure our staff team reflects the communities we serve, and that our organisation is inclusive of all our staff.

I’m currently recruiting for a public affairs officer (go check out the ad!) and this got me thinking about running a more inclusive recruitment process.

If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume you recognise a union, and you have worked with your union to offer better-than-statutory wages, benefits and entitlements. If you don’t – go fix that first.

I don’t claim to know everything – but here are my top tips for inclusive recruitment…

  1. Write the job pack to appeal widely

Only specify a degree if it is genuinely needed for that role.

Write the documents as plainly as possible. Ask for “good” skills rather than “excellent”. Some applicants – such as women and those early in their career - may be discouraged from applying if they don’t believe their skills to yet be “excellent”.

Reduce the number of “essential” criteria. If you have too many, candidates from less represented backgrounds who don’t meet all of them may not apply, whilst others, usually from a more advantaged background, will apply regardless. List other criteria as desirable.

Make sure you indicate your values – we explicitly cite “antiracism” alongside trade union values. 

Tell applicants the facts - pension, holidays, benefits, location, hours and that you are open to flexible working. Always specify a salary. Make sure your maternity and parental leave policies are (a) great and (b) public.

  1. Design the application process to include

Take names and uni/school off the information that your shortlisting panel see. Removing names helps your panel not to discriminate against Black and Minority Ethnic applicants. Removing place of study helps your panel not to recruit in their own image, and not to stereotype applicants based on where they studied. 

Don’t ask for CVs. Instead, ask applicants to tell you how they meet the person specification.

Design the application form so it has to be completed in the way you want. Explicitly ask candidates to answer how they meet each of your essential criteria in an individual text box for each one. This reduces the advantages of candidates who have been trained in writing application forms. 

  1. Reach the people you want to apply

Work with the Taylor Bennett Foundation, to encourage Black and Minority Ethnic comms professionals to consider applying.

Share with the widening participation, BME and women’s networks in your sector. A search on Facebook or LinkedIn will bring them up. Make a donation if you’re asking volunteer networks to share your vacancies.

Get your team to share your ads on their personal social accounts.

Run a briefing for potential applicants from BME or other underrepresented backgrounds. It’s an informal online information session to hear about the job and the organisation, and to ask questions.

Encourage people to call you for a chat about the job. Answer all their questions and wish them luck.

  1. Shortlist and invite to interview based on evidence

Pick a panel of three or more – at least one woman and at least one BME member. This panel will long- and short-list, mark any tests, and attend and mark the interviews. Make sure they have time to do it properly.

Read every application. Use your essential criteria to score every applicant. Discuss all of them, and use the scores pick the panel’s top 12. 

Invite those 12 or so to do a timed online skills test (at a time of the applicant’s choosing). Provide stimulus material so you don’t privilege those who already know the issues you work on. For a press officer post, we would usually provide a policy report and request they write a press release, for example.

Score the tests, and invite the top five candidates to interview, based on the test. Basing interview invites on the skills test and application form helps us find great candidates.

Turn down and thank unsuccessful applicants at every stage.

  1. Interview to help your candidates succeed

Everyone finds job interviews nerve-wracking. So help your candidates feel at ease.

Have a diverse panel. Introduce yourselves properly. Hold the interview online. Make sure candidates know what to do if their connection goes down. Be clear it makes no difference if their doorbell rings or their housemate interrupts.

Tell them how many questions you will ask (six plus follow-ups is enough).

At the TUC, we ask five or six questions, usually in the format “Tell me about a time when you…” Each is about a line in the person spec. The best way to answer is to pick an example and then talk about it, using the 3Cs to structure your answer:

  • Context: what was the situation or problem?
  • Conduct: what did you do to fix it?
  • Conclusion: what was the result of what you did? What did you learn?

Be wary of questions that ask for specific knowledge or to give an opinion. Better to ask candidates about what they have actually done in their career so far. This is a way to give candidates confidence – and avoid privileging over-confident candidates from advantaged groups, who are more comfortable speculating.

Ask follow-ups  - especially if a candidate didn’t answer the initial question well enough, to give them a chance to get back on track. Remind them to answer about their own contribution – not their team’s.

Try and make it like a conversation – be interested in the candidate and their experiences. Make sure you offer the chance to ask you questions too.

Make lots of notes. At the end of the interview, score the answers while they are still fresh. At the end of the interviews, compare scores and discuss the candidates’ performances with the whole panel.

  1. Close it right and give feedback

Call the successful candidate as soon as you can – preferably the same evening. Tell them how excited you are to have them start. Don’t negotiate on salary – pay the wage you advertised, no more, no less – this makes sure you don’t open up gender or ethnicity pay gaps.  

Don’t take up references until they have accepted the job and given you permission. 

Contact all the unsuccessful candidates as soon as you can. Thank them and offer proper feedback. 


I really want people from all backgrounds to apply to work with us at the TUC. Right now we are recruiting for a public affairs officer. We are on a journey to being a more inclusive workplace — we aren’t perfect, but we are working on it, with the involvement of our BME staff. Do let me know if you have any thoughts on what more I can do to run a better and more inclusive recruitment process.

Antonia Bance, Head of Campaigns, Communications and Digital Trades Union Congress (TUC).