How We Recruit

We’re setting up a new organisation, the National Leadership Centre; this is how we’re building our team

Here at the National Leadership Centre we’re building something new. Our job is to help leaders work together to improve public services.

We support CEO-level (Chief Executive Officer) leaders across the whole public sector. The exact job title varies depending on where you work, but it is generally the highest-ranking person in an organisation. We have a three fold offer: we run a programme for people newly appointed to this level, we work to bring the whole group together through events and digital tools, and finally we are becoming a global hub for leadership research and data.

There’s more information on our website here:

Today I’d like to share a bit about how we have been recruiting and why it matters to us.

The last few months have been busy. As well as recruiting and inducting lots of new people we’ve also invited our first attendees to the programme, published our evaluation advert, launched our brand, website and twitter and had our first stall at a public show (our soft launch).

Recruiting a great team has been really important for us. We serve the whole public sector, so we were very clear we need a diverse team (in many senses). Our recruitment processes are deliberately set up to support this.

We launched a set of adverts in December and January and deliberately mixed our recruitment between quite specific roles and broad, open adverts — depending on how much we knew about the work the person would be doing. Our biggest campaign was a single advert for team members for all of our teams. We had ten vacancies and knew we wanted people with a variety of skills and backgrounds, so we described some of the kinds of the work in the advert but were deliberately open, rather than specifying ten particular roles.

We have been conscious that this is an offer for the whole public sector, not just the Civil Service, so we wanted to build a team that included experience from other areas of the public sector. To that end, we did our best to reach other sectors, sharing it on twitter and blogging about what we were up to — and were really impressed how far it spread! The feedback we had from enquiries showed that more people could ‘see themselves’ in the role and this meant they were more likely to put themselves this forward. It was a matter of pride to me that we had enquiries from a whole range of backgrounds who would never have thought applying to the Civil Service.

In writing job descriptions, we have always tried to use a human tone, and we made a point of balancing how gendered our language is using this: We continually face a challenge with coded language though, as leadership is coded masculine and its hard to write about the National Leadership Centre without mentioning that word!

And of course, I made a point of offering to talk to potential applicants about what the jobs might look like, which meant I spent weeks meeting all kinds of great people!

In order to sift applications and assess interviews, we used the new Civil Service Success Profiles process [available here].

We found it quite clear to use. This new framework gives us the opportunity to explore more about the candidates than the previous competencies process. Its readily available online, which is an important part of making sure we are accessible.

Unfortunately I’m not able to share the exact statistics, or breakdown of applicants’ diversity characteristics, but I can say we had more than the maximum I had ever reached in a previous recruitment campaign. For the advert for team members we had *well* over 100.

We fully subscribe to the importance of diverse panels and the ‘if you can see yourself, you can be yourself’ concept. At the sift and interview stages we made sure that the interview panel had a gender and ethnicity mix. As a really small team we struggled with this, so I pulled in favours from across government and the CORE (Cabinet Office Race Equality) Network, who were very generous with their time. Huge thanks to all who helped us. I also tried to include other kinds of more hidden diversities — and we did, but not as comprehensively as I would have liked. I’d like to improve on this in the future and spoke to a:gender recently as a first step.

The volume of applicants meant that our interview process was quite an industry, and we need to ensure we always assess consistently. At interview we followed exactly the same process for every individual, with pre-agreed questions (and scoring) based on the published Success Profiles. [Edit: We also make a point of telling interviewees which Success Profile we’re asking about when we ask questions] At times this felt a bit stilted in order but its the best way to ensure fair practices. Also, because we work in a large formal building with security at the entrances, coming into our building can be quite daunting and this kind of thing has been shown to be a barrier for some people. Whoever was bringing the interviewee to the room would make a point of having a chat to calm the interviewee’s nerves and demystify the daunting building.

Of those we appointed, we are proud to say that not only do we have different kinds of diversity characteristics represented, but also that our team have come from many different backgrounds: the police, NHS and motor industry; some are new graduates, some have had longer careers; some are more introverted, some more extroverted; some have caring responsibilities, some don’t; and we’re based in both Manchester and London.

The common feature across our brilliant team is a commitment to do our best, a dedication to public service and a desire to improve people’s lives. We’re all working hard for a shared purpose. You can really feel the buzz, and I am so very proud of what we’re all doing together.

P.S. I had a conversation over Twitter that reminded me to say, if you need adjustments to help you in any way, that’s ok! Paul (@wiggazzz) has depression and generalised anxiety [I checked, and he’s ok with me sharing this] and he asked for some adaptations, because mental health conditions are a disability. He asked for things like the questions 30mins in advance, 15mins extra on the interview, to bring in and refer to his notes (although that is fine for any and all interviewees), to take his suit jacket off as soon as he sits down and to not have all the interview panel sat opposite him. I asked to share this because I wanted to say all this would be fine when interviewing with us too! You only have to ask.

National Leadership Centre

We are creating a first — a national centre to support senior leaders across the whole public sector.

National Leadership Centre

Written by

We are creating a first — a national centre to support senior leaders across the whole public sector.

National Leadership Centre

We are creating a first — a national centre to support senior leaders across the whole public sector.

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