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Cornwall Museums Partnership

Working in partnership to recruit more inclusively

CMP is committed to inclusive recruitment. As my colleague Jenna described last year, we’ve trialed a couple of different approaches with great successes along the way. In my role, I work closely with many museum partners, mostly the seven museums who make up our NPO consortium. I was inspired to see how we could apply some of the techniques CMP has tested, in our partnership.

Our Trainee Curator programme is run with five of those seven NPO partners – Bodmin Keep, Falmouth Art Gallery, Museum of Cornish Life, Royal Cornwall Museum and Wheal Martyn – each hosts a trainee each year. CMP also provides a mentor and training coordinator to support peer-to-peer learning and develop a programme of CPD for the cohort in addition to their specific training needs provided by their museums.

At CMP, we know that working in partnership can often be harder, longer and more expensive than going it alone. However, the benefits we reap from collaboration hugely outweigh this; we are greater than the sum of our parts.

I knew this would also be the case with recruitment. At CMP we’re in a luxurious position to have a brilliant Officer Manager, Karen, who coordinates all our recruitment and takes on the lion’s share of the administration related to that. This isn’t always something that’s replicated at museums and for that reason, we decided to approach Inclusive Recruitment in the same way that you might build a house – brick by brick. This year, we worked together to agree consistent approaches to:

– Standardised application and equal opportunities monitoring form

– Launch and locations of adverts, and timeline (deadlines, interviews, etc.). Each question was followed by some informal guidance to help applicants understand what we were looking for in their answers.

– Anonymised shortlisting, only taking into account answers to the following questions:

  • Explain why you’re interested in [museum] and our collection
  • What are you most excited about for this traineeship? What will be the biggest challenge?
  • Most recent and previous experience (employment, volunteering, or other unpaid)
  • Supporting statement (written or film)

– Interview dates published at the time of the job ad

– Interview questions circulated in advance

– Expenses for travel to interview

– Informal interviews with maximum two ‘panel’ members

We also asked for feedback as part of our Equal Opportunities Monitoring form, recognising that we’re not always in the strongest position to know how different types of diversity intersect. The feedback on the form has been great and I’ll be writing about that soon in another blog.

What did our partners think?

Until this year, Trainee Curators’ recruitment has been different at each participating organisation, with each museum following a slightly different process. Some of our partners recognised the change this year, welcoming the consistency a shared approach caused. For others, the process was very similar to their normal recruitment methods.

Providing interviews questions in advance was the most significant step forwards and gave our partners significant insight into the candidates who had prepared for the interviews and those who had not. Feedback from one appointed Trainee also referenced this as invaluable in giving them a pre-interview insight into the museum’s ethos and ambitions, further helping them prepare.

Resoundingly, our partners found the anonymization hard; in such small teams its difficult to find enough people to undertake recruitment. This inevitably meant some of the people administering the anonymization were also those shortlisting. And for many, elements of a personal statement and/or listed experience meant applicants were recognizable to them, e.g. people who had volunteered for them.

Did it make a difference?

This is the million-pound question and the disappointing answer is – we don’t know (yet).

The eagle-eyed readers among you will have noticed Equal Opps listed in the f ‘things we collaborated on’ above. This cohort is the first time we’ll have truly comparable data because all applicants filled in the same form. There are some things we’re able to share at this point – we’ll be able to share more when we’ve cleaned the three years’ worth of data, more on that later this year.

The 2022 cohort is the most age-diverse ever and is proportionately more varied than the pool of applicants.

25% of applicants identified themselves as from a non-white/non-white British background

13% of applicants identified themselves as Cornish; this year’s cohort has the highest proportion of appointments from people already in Cornwall, demonstrating our increased relevance and visibility across the Duchy

Points to consider

Our applicant pool remained dominated by unmarginalized groups, especially straight, white people with higher socio-economic backgrounds; only 13% of applicants came from those classed as lower socio-economic backgrounds. 85% of applicants had an undergraduate or Masters’ level degree and 64% of applicants had museum-related qualifications. Very few (4%) applicants had caring responsibilities.

However, for 42% of applicants, this was their first application to a paid museum job, some of our new cohort fit into that category too. Congratulations to them! The applicant pool was also relatively diverse in relation to disabled people.

CMP are not inclusive recruitment experts; we’re researching and testing new methods all the time. Many of our museum colleagues have limited opportunities to undertake recruitment. Creating a consistent experience is important to us all. This shared process has shown us the great range of skills and experience in recruitment in our museums and how much we can learn from each other. We know of only one museum with a member of staff dedicated to HR; for many museum staff recruitment is a task they take on with little or no support. We’ll also be researching and looking for external training and development opportunities we can provide to ensure these inclusive recruitment methods remain a priority and are implemented well.

We will continue to work together to improve our process each cohort. We will learn more by working together and understanding each other’s experiences. We’ll also continue to be transparent about our future attempts to receive applications from a more diverse pool of candidates.

– Charlotte Morgan, Collaborative Programmes Manager

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