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blog • Resource


Megan Raybould

11 August 2020

This week we’ve been researching how to create inclusive and accessible role descriptions and interview processes.

Normal practice is not necessarily best practice. What’s wrong with the way it’s often done at the minute?

We asked our members what their experience of applying for trustee roles had been, and what they thought would have made it better. Here’s what they said:

  • Explicitly say you are open to young people or to people of all ages and backgrounds applying.
  • Include criteria beyond finance and legal expertise. That’s important but there are other skills needed on a board too!
  • List a contact person that people can reach out to and chat with about the role before they apply.
  • Make the application process simple, a CV and cover letter should be enough. You don’t need a full application pack like you would for a job.
  • Let applicants know if they have been unsuccessful - it can be really disheartening otherwise.
  • Include other members of the board in the interview process so the candidates don’t just meet the Chief Executive.

Amelia Ireland: “Removing the requirement for 'x years of governance experience' from trustee job descriptions. It deters young people who don't have prior board experience from applying, when actually they likely have transferable skills and valuable insights which would benefit the organisation!

When I first read the job description for my current trustee position I didn't think I was suitable. In the end I only applied because a member of staff reassured me that my lack of board experience didn't matter, but had we not had that conversation I definitely wouldn't have applied.”

“Actively stating in their diversity and inclusion statement that they're eager to hear from young candidates (or writing a D&I statement if they don't have one), or by stating that they're signed up to the Young Trustees Movement, or both!

Katharine Barnett: Diversity & inclusion statements are important, and evidence from companies such as shows that a well articulated, authentic and meaningful statement can increase applications from all backgrounds. For example: How to craft a sincere equal opportunity employer statement Although, cynically they can be thought of as lip service (and if not actually implemented throughout the business, they are!) they do make a measurable difference to application rates. I think this is simple to implement and will make applying for trusteeship roles less intimidating and more accessible.

Secondly, stating that they're a supporter of the Young Trustee's Movement would also make a difference. It adds a marker of credibility; it indicates that they understand the movement and have actively sought to participate in it. Additionally, it makes them publicly accountable to their statement. It will also makes it super clear to all aspiring Young Trustees that the organisation is eager to hear from them!”

What have other organisations done?

In this week’s spotlight story Bronwen Edwards explained how she had worked with the Directory of Social Change to recruit their trustees:

  • We made sure that we weren’t asking for things that we didn’t really need.  So we worked on avoiding the sort of language that excludes people, for example ‘expertise’ or ‘years of experience’.
  • We worked on making our wording feel warm and inclusive –  we focussed on a friendly tone and talked about working together and giving support where people lacked skills or skill specific experience when it wasn’t needed in our advert
  • We focused on attitude and life experiences rather than traditional skills.
  • We had three key areas that we were looking for and you only needed to fulfil one of the criteria (which was made really clear); experience of working, volunteering or using the services of small charities; experience of leadership in any sector; experience of delivering digital innovation.
  • We undertook blind applications – to prevent unconscious bias – that included removing references to schooling; age; further education etc.
  • We had two trustees shortlist applications and a different two undertake the interviews.
  • We made it clear that applications were open for those who hadn’t bee trustees before and, that training and a full induction and a ‘buddy scheme’ with an existing trustee would be provided.
  • We linked in with organisations who work with those from protected characteristics – to try and get the ad in front of their membership base/beneficiaries

Typically, DSC might in the past have had 10 or so applicants for a vacant trustee position. This new approach attracted 40 applicants of which we shortlisted 8 for interview.  Our new approach to advertising produced the most outstanding quality applicants and reducing the 40 to 8 was really hard.  In the end the standard was so high that we ended up taking on five – for three of our newbies this was their first ever trusteeship!”.

You can read Bronwen's full blog here.

Bilgin Yuksel works for the recruitment agency Peridot Partners We asked him to write down his top tips for seeking to recruit young trustees. Here’s what he said:

  1. State that you are open to young or first time Trustees in your advert.

Sounds simple but seeing the words “we are open to first time Trustees” makes a big difference.

  1. Remove all references to expected years of experience in your role profile.

Instead of saying we expect you to have x years of experience y etc, you could say experience in or significant interest in x.

  1. Recruit for potential

Some organisations become fixated on where candidates are currently in their careers, often expecting them to be operating at senior leadership level already. However, Trustee roles are often for 3 to 4 years with an option of a 2nd term. Your panel should be considering where candidates might be in 3 years’ time.

Candidates operating at senior level have more options, and by giving someone a chance and recruiting for potential you might get access to someone who you would struggle to interest later in their career.

  1. If there are training and development opportunities, say so.
  • What training and induction programmes do you have for Trustees?
  • Do you have a buddy scheme for Trustees in their first year?
  • Are there any courses you send Trustees on?

If the answer to any of the above is yes, say so in your advert or pack. If you don’t include training programmes,  why don’t  you? It’s really important to offer your trustee a meaningful experience and keep them up to date on best practice.

  1. Treat all your candidates with decency and respect.

Whilst it’s a privilege to be a Trustee, it is ultimately a volunteer role. Based on living wage and the average time commitment Trustees make, they will be giving at least £3,348 worth of their time over the course of a four year term. It’s important to respect that time commitment.

You can start to do this by making sure candidates  have access to good quality information in the process, ensure there is someone to speak with and give them the information needed (warts and all) to make an informed decision.

Should I recruit a trustee role like I would a job?

Recruiting a trustee role is very different from recruiting for a job.

Rather than asking competency based questions focusing on experience, you could focus on the recruiting for the specific skill or situations that you need expertise for.

When it comes to recruitment, what is the one most important thing you would say to people who are stuck in the traditional mindset?

When your team comes to recruiting trustees everyone should understand the intention behind the decision to be inclusive, and the value of including diverse perspectives on your board.

    • The benefits of diversifying your board are to:

      • Navigate uncertainty
      • Make future proof decisions
      • Reflect the interests of their communities
    • Values you should be centering in your decision making are:

      • Intersectional diversity of perspectives
      • Ensuring young people are safe and can make informed choices
      • Taking responsibility for the the burden of change, rather than putting it on the young people

How can I apply these values to the way I think about recruitment?

Ask yourself when making decisions what is my train of logic and why am I making the decisions that I am? Break down what you think, and ask yourself ‘why do I think this’ with curiosity.


“I think we can’t have young trustees”.

Ask yourself, why not?

“We can’t have young trustees because we don’t have an induction process and the boardroom can be intimidating”.

Examine this train of logic.

The problem here is not to do with the incoming trustees being young. The problem is that there is no induction and that the culture of the board room is intimidating. This is still a barrier to young people joining the board, but it’s not inherent to them joining.

"So, how can we fix this problem?"

Having an induction for all trustees and trying to change the culture of the board away from being an intimidating place would address the issue.

This will benefit the young trustee, but it will also better enable the board as a whole. The problems listed don't just affect young people, but all trustees.  Having young people joining the board simply shone a light on the issue.

EXAMPLE 2 - what are you valuing?

“This young person needs their expenses paid in order to attend the interview, but we don’t have the budget to cover that.”

Are there any other options that you’ve not considered previously. Can you examine the reason you think other alternatives wouldn’t work. For example, can interviews be done online so that it won’t create a cost?

When you make a decision, think about what is a priority and what is being valued. For example, are you valuing face to face contact over inclusion in your decision making?

EXAMPLE 3 - prioritising your emotions over being inclusive

As we work to be more inclusive, we will face challenges and realise we’ve made mistakes. That can be uncomfortable and emotionally draining. However, it’s important to work through those feelings of discomfort.

If we decide not to continue our work for fear of making mistakes (or fear of having to own up to mistakes) what we are really doing is prioritising our own feelings, over the end goal of being inclusive.

You will start the work with good intentions and realise something went wrong. Rather than backing away from that, it would be better to work through it, put it right and prioritise the value of inclusion throughout that process.

The idea in these three examples is that you take time and think through your decisions based on the values and outcomes you most desire. In this case, the value we believe should be central to you is inclusion and the outcome, through having a more diverse board, is better decision making. 

We’ve taken this image based on the book ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ to demonstrate the way of thinking your board might currently be using in making decisions which have led to exclusivity in the boardroom. By challenging the way we think - better decisions in recruitment, and ultimately at board level, can be made.

Where can I find a good example of how to recruit?

There are lots of organisations that are recruiting in an inclusive way. These examples might not be perfect, but there’s lots of really good stuff included:

The NSPCC recruitment pack is specifically designed to recruit young trustees, there is no reason this can’t be used as a general recruitment pack. An accessible recruitment pack doesn’t just benefit young people!

What’s good about each of these examples?

Each of these examples includes some of the elements recommended by our members above. For example:

  • The Belgrave Trust explain clearly the training and support they can offer the appointed candidate.
  • NSPCC ask that applicants express interest by submitting a CV and cover letter - which is a simple way for aspiring trustees to apply. They also provide information of who to contact if you want to know more about the role.

What resources can we use as a basis for creating our role description?

Getting on Board has produced this fantastic guide for recruiting trustees. We’d really recommend taking a look here. The Getting on Board guide covers everything from what to include in your advert, to where you can advertise the role.

We also worked with #IWill to create this recruitment checklist that you can download here. You can use it as a handy basis for starting your recruitment campaign.

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