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Write better job ads

Community Careers Officer Aksana Khan shares her advice for recruiting young people.

“Thanks for this! Unfortunately, we can’t pass this job ad forward...”

Our inboxes are full of chatter from our massively engaged network who're busy building a better art world than the one they entered. Contributing to the noise are links to job adverts we should tell our young people about. If they pass our checks, we forward it. If they don’t, it's because we think this is what happened when they wrote the ad:

A man applies white face paint to his face. Next to this image is the same man wearing full clown make up.

Thinking about context

Fairness is about recognising that people, and especially the young people we work with, experience life differently. This means that it’s important to think about their achievements in context of their background. They might not be able to afford to take on an unpaid work placement. They might have caring responsibilities and therefore had no time to access opportunities. This means they may have no formal work experience but will have developed transferable skills another way.

Because of this, traditional CVs, cover letters and written applications are not always the best way to assess if someone is right for your organisation and the opportunity. Alternatives that you could consider might be asking for a personal biography, a portfolio of work or responding to a short creative brief.

We refuse to green light bad ads because young people deserve better. The only reason why barriers exist is because gatekeepers don’t accommodate a young person’s needs and situation. So here are our tips for creating a genuinely good job advert.

Tell us about your workplace

  • State the salary. Equity demands putting your money where your mouth is. This manifesto explains beautifully why the lack of transparency is a harmful practice. The minimum requirement is that salaries conform to the Real Living Wage.
  • Pastoral care. Do you have a mental health policy? Do you have Mental Health First Aiders? Do you have staff networks? These questions are a start, but they’re not the only ones to answer.
  • Location. We have candidates available all over the UK, so let us know where the position is based and if you’re open to remote working.
  • Working hours and contract. Manage expectations!
  • Covid-19 accommodations. Do you expect people to be in the office? Does the job allow for remote working? Will you provide a phone/laptop/WiFi?
  • Expenses. We’re talking subsistence, travel, and devices. No-one should be out of pocket and in their overdrafts when they work for you.

Make the application process accessible

  • Use bullet points. Some sentences are abominably long. They start in England and end up in Australia when they finally get to the point. Bullet points make your ad easier to digest for those who are neurodivergent.
  • Be conversational! It’s refreshing compared to the usual long, jargon-y sentences written in a passive tone. Job adverts give an insight into your work culture. If your language isn’t easy to understand, good luck with your diversity policy.
  • Have a link to your website. Make it easy for candidates to research what you do.
  • Have non-written ways to apply. Cover letters and CVs are okay, but what about video and audio applications? It’ll open up your pool of candidates to choose from.
  • Have a contact so potential candidates can ask questions about the role. This helps create better tailored applications.
  • Send us the ad with four weeks to go before the deadline. Short turn-arounds aren’t helpful for anyone!

Don’t say your ideal candidate:

  • “is energetic.” It implies you’re looking for a younger candidate and it’s ableist because some people have health conditions which prevent them from being “bouncier".
  • “is mature.” It feeds into an idea that you need to be a certain age to be a team leader or manager.
  • “is a digital native.” It’s a horribly colonialist, ageist label which ignores the reality of digital poverty.
  • “must have a degree.” It’s lazy to put this in your personal specification if you don’t explain what skills you’d like from candidates.
  • “must have a driving license”. What workarounds do you have for those who can’t drive? Some people have medical conditions which means they can’t drive. And not everyone can afford the lessons, the car, and maintaining one. You must add a sentence on why it’s “essential”.
  • “must have [insert number] of years of experience in XYZ industry.” This creates a self-fulfilling prophecy on the lack of diversity in creative fields. Those who are working-class and/or people of colour are less likely to accrue paid experience compared to a white middle-class individual.

We hope this helps you craft better job adverts. We want to forward more on to our Young Community! If you have any questions about a role you'd like to share with us please get in touch.