How to implement an equitable recruitment process

Authors: Lauren Kay-Lambert
  • Reading time: 3 min.
  • Posted on: March 8, 2022

The marketing and communications sector has a huge diversity issue (just see PR Week’s latest pay gap project) — that shouldn’t be news to anyone who knows this industry. And in spite of broad awareness of this systemic problem, those ratios have moved little in recent years, in fact they’ve stagnated. 

It was with this imbalance in mind that Recruitment became one of the core themes of our first Race Equity Strategy, fast tracked and made all the more poignant and resolute by the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent resurgence of Black Lives Matter in the summer of 2022. 

As part of our mission to become an anti racist agency, we’re addressing every aspect of the business to create greater equality of opportunities, and starting with who we attract in the first instance seemed like a logical place to start. Bringing a wide range of people into any organisation needs to be followed by a positive and welcoming environment where new team members are paid and promoted equally. 

This is why having an inclusive culture is a huge part of who we are at Shape History; our recruitment is one major aspect to achieving this. By focusing initially on who you are , not how old you are, if you went to university, or who you know.


Stage 1 is completely blind: we ask 5 questions to see how aligned candidates are with the agency’s values. For example, Tell us about a time you’ve educated someone about a social issue or what’s something you’ve been working on for yourself recently? We want to understand the person behind the words more than a CV ever could tell us. 

Stage 2 we ask a long list of candidates to perform a short task, either written or visually creative to give as much flexibility as possible. The task is not based on any live project, (or takes too long — if we’re asking someone to be putting hours in, they should be paid!)

Stage 3 – shortlisted candidates are  interviewed by a recruitment panel that always includes at least 1 team member from a racialized group.  Most importantly, they are instrumental in decision making. There have been many times where people have told me they go to interviews and never see someone on the panel that looks like them. A learning from the pandemic has been to go digital for interviews to allow for greater accessibility of a wider range of candidates. 

Our work is only as impactful as the team who delivers it. We want candidates who are passionate about what we do and our partnerships. Our interview process is key to understanding this. Some might say we’re spending far too much time asking candidates about their passions, values and what compassion means to them — but it matters. We’re looking for people, not a laundry-list of job titles.


Since launching our recruitment process, not only have we received applications from a hugely diverse group of individuals across ethnicities, genders and socio-economic backgrounds, but the feedback has been incredibly positive from those that have applied. Of course, we’re still learning as an agency but I think it’s important to share what works, as well as what doesn’t. 

Here are three recommendations based on what we’ve learned so far for creating a truly equitable recruitment process: 

1 Ensure you either already have — or are building — a meaningful race equity strategy and that you also have a clear understanding of any gender and race pay gaps. Without them, you will be poking in the dark!

2 Embrace digital —we’ve found that virtual interviews have been particularly helpful for getting to talk with a much more diverse range of candidates, easier.

3 Ensure your recruitment panels include racialized groups — the panel needs to reflect the diversity you want to see in your organisation.