30 October 2023
The best teams:
Are diverse – enabling problems to be tackled from multiple different standpoints;
Have a high level of trust – enabling rapid communication and decision making; and
Purpose-driven – giving clarity of purpose and consistent optimisation.
These are the teams we want to offer clients and they are the team we want within Oxford Insights.
There is a lot that we do to maintain that culture, but a crucial first step is making sure we have the right people on board. We want everyone, regardless of background or circumstances, to get a fair chance to work with us.
To think about what we needed to do we started with an anti-problem a few years ago: thinking about how we could hire exclusively privileged white guys from elite universities. We might only advertise the roles at Oxford and Cambridge, create overlong lists of must haves, and screen out all the people who didn’t sound like a privileged white guy. That was good but might not go far enough … we could only pick people who went to elite private schools or who had lots of social indicators of status, and have aggressive interviews of the kind Oxford and Cambridge drill you for. Still not enough … we need to create a hostile environment — we should all work 12 hour days and be ‘always on’.
With that list in hand we set about doing the opposite. As a result we now have a process designed to counter all those points:
We advertise widely amongst universities
We explicitly welcome applications from those who might feel like it isn’t for them
We deliberately advertise to reach a range of types of candidates, e.g. returning parents
The process is CV blind until the final round, instead relying on questions to let people show us who they are
We have gender-balanced interview panels
We design the process to show potential and interest rather than explicit attainment
We are a remote organisation and interview remotely
We are flexible around interview times to accommodate existing work or caring commitments
We try to minimise the time investment from candidates as you progress through recruitment
Because we want people to be able to show us who they are and who they can be.
While people are with us we want them to grow and be supported. That is why our day-to-day work is:
Remote first (with an office for those that want one)
Flexible and outcome focussed – so people can fit in life commitments (and get to the gym when it is quiet)
Respectful – we take care to treat everyone with respect.
While this has been good, it has not been perfect. This year we will be doing more to refine our process and improve. (Those who know me, know that this is a perpetual theme in my life!)
Living wage internships for those who are not the usual suspects – We will create opportunities for those who often feel excluded so they can get paid to get the experience they need to break into the sector (or decide it isn’t for them after all).
Refine our initial questions – The questions we had worked, but the word count was too low and they drew quite ‘samey’ answers out of good candidates. We will be redrafting so they do the job of helping us find interesting people to talk to at interview.
The final thing we are doing is talking more about our goal to be a warm, inclusive employer with the best employees and working environment. This is partly to encourage folk to apply (regardless of background) and partly because we don’t think we have this nailed yet or have all the answers. I am pretty sure there are other small businesses facing the same challenges and with different bits of the solution.
If you have ways we could improve please get in touch.