The Manifesto Explained: Why ‘Desirable’ is not good enough

Our first birthday back in November was a time for reflection. We are pleased with the progress Fair Museum Jobs has made in the last year in generating discussions about unfair recruitment practices, changing attitudes, and successfully challenging offending institutions.

We are pleased that, with the help of our supporters and key allies, we have added our voice to those clamouring against credentialism – the insistence on degrees and postgraduate qualifications that perpetuates the practice of hiring managers recruiting in their own image, and seriously guarding the heck out of our sector’s already needlessly intimidating gates.

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Diorama of penguins at the American Museum of Natural History, New York

We feel that we are approaching the crest of a wave in a sea change in the way that our sector engages with the next generation of its workforce. Our efforts are only a trickle in this, but we are proud of our contribution none the less.

There is, however, one barrier to change that we encounter time and again. And that is the idea that making requirements for qualifications (without also accepting equivalent experience) is fine as long as these criteria are set as ‘desirable’ rather than ‘essential’.

We could not disagree more with this approach.

If there is a criterion that not everyone can reasonably have, making it ‘essential’ will exclude totally some candidates from a job role who could well otherwise be highly suited to it. Making that criterion ‘desirable’ will not totally exclude such candidates, but it will strongly disadvantage them in their application. This is certainly no fix, and we find neither situation acceptable.

The argument that ‘desirable’ is less bad than ‘essential’ because it throws ‘unqualified’ candidates a bone and floats the possibility that they may be considered for a vacancy is at best unhelpful, and at worst patronising and disingenuous, as we are always reminded of by our friends at @NonGradsWelcome

As we have said before, and as we will continue to say, our mission is never to make little of people’s achievement at university or the sacrifices that they made to get there. It is instead about accepting and promoting the idea that there could and must be many routes into the sector, and not just one (traditional) one. Part of that process is challenging lazy ‘quick fixes’ to the structural inequality that continues to have a presence in our sector.

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