Q: Can I follow my charity's equal opportunities policy and still recruit people who are the right 'fit'?
A: I am delighted to have the opportunity to answer this question because it is an issue close to my heart. I need to preface my response by saying that I am using my experience both in charity management and as chair of interview panels in the NHS, not as a qualified HR professional.
The most valuable training courses I have ever taken part in dealt with equal opportunities for recruitment. What I learned from them has affected so many aspects of management that I would advise new or aspiring managers to book themselves on such a course immediately. The concept of 'funnel questioning' - asking a series of questions that get deeper and deeper into an issue - works well in one-to-one meetings and appraisals; and appreciating that a right answer is not necessarily only the one you would have given yourself helps to develop people skills and the process of objective thinking.
However, the formal processes that are rightly linked to equal opportunities in recruitment - job descriptions, person specification, competency frameworks, formal interview questions and the like - can unfortunately be interpreted in a way that leads to unhelpful rigidity. The result can be appointing someone who ticks the right boxes but ultimately does not perform or leaves quickly. That's a classic case of hitting the target but missing the point.
'Fit' can mean choosing a candidate who matches the interview panel in terms of background, education and lifestyle - a person they can imagine going to the pub with on a Friday night (if that is how the panel likes to spend their Friday nights). This is not only inappropriate but also unfair, irrelevant and possibly illegal.
Luckily, the solution is quite simple and one I learned from best practice in the NHS: values and behaviours. I worry about discussing whether someone fits, but it is entirely appropriate for a person specification to state the values the organisation expects its employees to buy into and the behaviours they should display.
Values and behaviours are what make an organisation successful or not. If I was recruiting for Valerie Morton plc, I would want to employ people with the highest professional standards; people who are 100 per cent honest and willing to admit their mistakes; people who show respect to all their colleagues (not just those above them) and who agree that shouting at people is as inappropriate in the workplace as it is at home; people who share knowledge and experience that will benefit the professional development of others. These are only a few examples.
Including selection on the basis of behaviours and values as part of your recruitment process will make sure the right people work for your charity while keeping that rich diversity of background and experience that makes working with colleagues so rewarding.
Valerie Morton is a trainer, fundraiser and consultant
Send your questions to Valerie.Morton@haymarket.com