Person-centred recruitment

25 February 2015 | By Helen Sanderson

Blog by Nick Burton, Regional Operations Manager - South and West Yorkshire, Mencap - personal support and Andy Warsop (A Service Manager at our Mencap services in Sheffield).

The initial drive to improve our recruitment process was born from the pain of being sat in interview processes, kicking ourselves that the involvement of the person we support (who had been kind enough to give some of their valuable time to be part of it) was quite limited. We felt that there was great scope for the person to be far more meaningfully effective in the role.

Almost as soon as the recruitment finished, these feelings of embarrassment at our poor efforts were replaced by other thoughts, as we were dragged, as all managers are, to the next priority – budgets, appraisals, critical incidents, whatever, and the cycle began again. This is not intended to be an excuse but rather some explanation for our failings.

When, at long last we could take no more, we established a working group to look at this issue. Keen not to try and re-invent the wheel and already familiar with the great work of Helen Sanderson Associates (HSA), we took a starting point from work already done by Helen’s team in this area. We spent our first sessions looking at existing processes and some example documents in ‘Creating Person Centred Organisations’ and other papers. Shortly after we started, our initial group of three fell to two, following a departure from the organisation. This does seem a small number and we did spend some time reflecting on whether to include a wider group and/or to include some of people we support. Rightly or wrongly, we pressed on to try and get the work completed alone, taking the view that we just needed to keep moving forward at this stage, and that we would ensure that we had the views of a wide group of people through the pilot evaluations.

We were really excited by the things that we found and were impressed by some great work that others had done. We were keen to create a simple, flexible process that was specific to Mencap and used language the organisation is familiar with. We felt we needed to anticipate potential barriers and make user friendly, workable directions that we could explain to our colleagues. The existing work was an excellent guide, yet it was clear that there was still a lot to do to create a flexible process that we could roll out to our teams. We could see that we would need complete sets of supporting documents in place and any internal barriers already removed.

We were lucky to find enthusiastic supporters in both our regional HR Business Partner and the Head of Recruitment who provided us with invaluable assistance and advice as we worked through the creation of our process. Michelle from the HSA team was also wonderfully generous with her time and provided invaluable advice and also some encouragement when we doubted ourselves.

We enlisted help from some of the people we support and one of our service managers.  They were great in working through the information we gave to them and trying the process out for real.  We’d made a set of ‘sample’ documents to help with this, along with a simple user guide. We got some constructive feedback from the pilot and were able to amend the paperwork according to what we learned. We hope that this will provide easy reference points for our managers as they work through the process going forward.

We came across some challenges along the way that had to be overcome. The challenges tended to fall into two categories: either a process or document that we had not come across before e.g. What does a decision making agreement look like and contain? Or, working with an existing internal system or policy which was difficult to change, for example, our recruitment website has limitations in how an advert can look, or obtaining agreement to make changes to the standard job description.

Our initial pilot was a success beyond our imagining with more applicants and a significant increase in the standard of applications. Our new-look advert with one-page profiles and bespoke person specification attracted applications by a ratio of ten to one to the generic advert over the same time period. The feedback in evaluation has also been very positive and, most importantly, the people who are supported have selected their Support Worker, in the way they chose.

We are really pleased with how it’s gone and very excited about moving forward with it. Our next steps are to extend the pilot throughout the local area, before rolling out the pack to our wider regional team.



Blog by Nick Burton, Regional Operations Manager – South and West Yorkshire, Mencap – personal support and Andy Warsop (A Service Manager at our Mencap services in Sheffield).

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