Inclusive recruitment


Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to creating caring, efficient, productive and safe services that deliver high quality healthcare. Taking proactive steps to ensure the workforce is reflective of the community it serves is an important first step in this process.

The NHS Long Term Plan and NHS People Plan both identify inclusion as a means to improve retention and attract a high calibre of candidates into the workforce.

Inclusive recruitment is a strategic approach that has been shown to enable this, by considering how different backgrounds, approaches and thinking styles can help deliver innovative services and develop the organisation into one that reflects the diversity of the population it serves.

Although training plays an important part, and with it that understanding of bias, stereotypes, assumptions and behaviours, the focus needs to be on removing bias from systems and processes and not simply focusing on removing bias from individuals via training.

In terms of fair and inclusive recruitment, bias has a greater impact on people from underrepresented backgrounds and those with protected characteristics which results in a lack of diversity within the workforce.

Key challenges

  • The widely adapted current NHS processes used during recruitment and selection place people from underrepresented backgrounds and those with protected characteristics at a disadvantage due to the inherent bias within them
  • The recruitment process is often subjective and it is not always evident what makes a candidate suitable for the role. This is where bias has a tendency to creep in and affect decision making
  • Staff involved in recruitment and selection have often not received any training around inclusion strategies. This can lead to decisions on who to appoint being based on who is perceived to ‘fit’ or people who mirror our own thoughts, ideas, background and appearances


  • Inclusive recruitment can help to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce
  • Generates a more creative and innovative workplace, as well as a more positive work environment for everyone
  • A workforce with multiple perspectives is better equipped to make sound decisions. This is because people with different backgrounds and experiences can bring different insights to the table
  • Helps break down stereotypes and discrimination

Current national outlook

Inclusive recruitment the current national outlook

Source: Workforce Disability Equality Standard 2022 data analysis report (Contact NHSE WDES team on for 2023 publications)

Inclusive recruitment the current national outlook

Source: Workforce Disability Equality Standard 2021

Current local outlook

  • All racialised groups are less likely to be employed in Greater Manchester
  • Pakistani and Bangladeshi people, especially women, are least likely to be employed
  • There are significant pay differences between white and racialised groups, particularly for people from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds
  • The employment rate for black men is 71% compared to 81% for white men
  • White women are twice as likely to be employed than Bangladeshi and Pakistani women

Source: Race Equality in Greater Manchester report

Strategies to promote inclusive recruitment

Even making small changes to processes can impact on who applies and is selected for a role. It helps improve the candidate experience thereby creating a positive image of the organisation and it being viewed as an attractive place to work.

Prior to commencement of recruitment process

  • Analyse the composition of your current workforce to see how it compares to local population demographics
  • Look at demographics in relation to banding, promotions and secondments

Review job description

  • Scrutinise what is essential to the role, research suggests aiming for no more than six essential criteria for a role
  • Is prior experience essential? Consider what can be learnt on the job
  • Language – certain phrases appeal more to men than women and other words will deter some applicants
  • Use of the word ‘fit’ this is not objective or measurable and therefore allows biases to creep in
  • Value of lived experience as alternative to professional experience or educational qualifications


  • Review where adverts are currently posted and consider alternative channels – community groups/local job fairs
  • Develop short video ‘in the day of’ to promote role
  • Promote flexible working options including less than full-time hours will be considered


  • Three-person shortlisting panel
  • Use essential criteria benchmark for scoring
  • Panel independently score prior to meeting as a group to minimise the effect of group influence


  • Think about and write a model answer for each question so panel members have a clear understanding of what a good answer is
  • Consider the use of a working interview or skills-based assessment
  • Ahead of the interview send copies of the questions to candidates
  • Be mindful of how non-verbal signals can be misinterpreted and the impact the panel may have on the performance of the candidate
  • Avoid scheduling too many interviews in one day

Deciding who to appoint

  • Panel members score independently
  • Recognise and challenge bias, judging different types of people more harshly using the same criteria (this is more prevalent when interviewing and scoring women and BME candidates)
  • Chair of the panel uses their position to facilitate the discussion and ensure all panel members have the opportunity to put forward their views; encourage diversity in thinking
  • Stick to the criteria!
  • Beware of making decisions based on a candidate having more qualifications or experience
  • Embed accountability process around rationalising why a candidate hasn’t been appointed with decisions held to account
  • Offer constructive feedback to all candidates, with clear areas for development

Case Study

Coming Soon: Inclusive Recruitment Toolkit (Ethnicity & Race)

(Image contains: front cover snippet from the upcoming Inclusive Recruitment Toolkit due to be released soon)

Useful links and resources