A couple of weeks ago, one of our committee recorded a jobs and recruitment themed podcast with the Section for Archives and Museums within the Archives and Records Association!
You can find the podcast at your preferred podcast provider via this link: https://anchor.fm/carly-randall
Loads of questions were submitted, but in an hour Louise just couldn’t get through them all – in this blog you can find answers to some of the questions that didn’t fit in!
Does the profession and industry place too high an emphasis on education and qualifications than experience? This is particularly relevant in the Museum sector where some roles require a doctorate.
Yes. This one of the key tenets of our manifesto and we’ve explored it in more detail in these blogs:
The Manifesto Explained: Undergraduate Degrees
The Manifesto Explained: Postgraduate Qualifications
In short, there’s a definite over-emphasis on qualifications in the heritage sector. The question is right to point out that some roles require PhDs; often, but not exclusively, curatorial roles are affected – with the inevitable result that many Assistant Curator roles, especially in national museums, are filled by people with PhDs for a role that does not inherently require that level of academic study. As we said in the podcast, it’s not that there is no value in study, but a qualification is not a guarantee that you will have the skills required to do a job.
We would like to see much more focus on key skills/experience for recruitment, with the understanding that a qualification can be one way of showing that but should never ever be the only acceptable way to do so.
Do you think the sector will move away from offering short term and/or part time contracts?
It would be great to see the sector move away from short-term contracts, but it’s important to consider where this is coming from. Ultimately, the majority of these posts are related to funding. Typically, this is funding that is designed to be short-term, e.g. to complete a project, to design and implement an activity plan, to catalogue that one area of backlog. Until funding is overhauled, there’s no way that short-term contracts will disappear.
Part-time is a slightly different beast. Sometimes part-time is used as a money saving technique; cuts need to be made so a full-time job is made part-time, or perhaps a member of staff wants to go part-time and the remaining hours are lost to the ether. The difficulty here is that working part-time suits a lot of people – if you have caring commitments, or want to undertake other work or study, it can be invaluable. The problem is that part-time often does not pay enough to live on, and it often doesn’t truly mean part-time.
Do we have a solution to this? Frankly, no. But we should all encourage organisations to take care of their staff; ensure that part-time means part-time and you give that staff member the flexibility they need to take a second role if you aren’t paying enough to live on.
What changes do you think need to be made in the profession to improve how Archives, Museums and Heritage organisations carry out their recruitment processes?
Check our Manifesto for the full low-down on many things employers must, should and could do to make things better. In the podcast, hear about 5 quick and cheap changes that could be made!
How much experience would equate to a qualification when jobs ask for this or ‘near relevant experience’?
There’s no rule to apply in this situation – and it’s complicated. If you are reading a job description and the only thing putting you off applying is the qualification related criteria, then you almost certainly have what they’re looking for. If you read it and think you’re missing quite a few things, including the qualification then you probably don’t.
We would definitely advocate for more clarity in this area – if employers could focus more on required skills and knowledge, it would be much easier for applicants to know whether to apply.
How can companies ensure they are not hiring based on their own unconscious bias?
Being aware that it could happen is the first place to start. Applications that are as anonymous as possible are helpful – if there are no personal details or facts that can contribute to bias e.g. university names, it somewhat helps level the application field. Some good advice can be found here (although caution around the idea of getting an agency in – they come with many issues that could lead to the opposite result!): 8 Essential Guidelines to Reduce Unconscious Bias In Your Recruitment Process
How useful is it to keep volunteer experience on your CV after you have got a professional role?
Short answer: depends how relevant it is.
Long answer: everything you list on your CV should add value, so if your volunteering experience shows something relevant to the job you’re applying for, you should include it. If what you gained in that role has been superseded by something new, then take it out. If it’s irrelevant, take it out.
What role does privilege have in people being able to volunteer and how can recruiters address this to ensure opportunities are also given to those with less privilege?
The ability to work for free is 100% related to privilege – there are many reasons a person might not be able to volunteer: caring responsibilities, need for money is more important, can’t travel to your location, etc. etc.
The least a recruiter for a voluntary role can do is pay travel and ideally food expenses, be flexible about start and finish times and not require extensive minimum commitments; but ultimately, volunteering is never going to be open to everyone.
Thinking about what this means for recruiting for jobs: Expecting previous sector experience for entry level jobs definitely encourages volunteering, so as a sector we should welcome traineeships, apprenticeships and other initiatives that pay people in their first roles. We should also create truly entry level roles without the expectation of sector knowledge. Crucially, we need to value transferable skills from outside the sector e.g. retail, bar work, or many other typical first job experiences.
In charities, especially, job adverts often do not have a salary included which (rightly) get criticised. However, this is often to manage the trustees (who volunteer) and will often make trouble if they see a salary they think is “too high”. Do you have any experience of dealing with this type of work culture?
I do not have any experience of this work culture, but in all honesty, it is a cop out. I do know what working with trustees can be like, and I have been one: a good trustee should be safeguarding the organisation and salaries are a reputational issue as well as financial one. Someone “making trouble” is not a reason to not avoid doing what you know is right.
If you find yourself in this culture, you should use the existing standards such as those offered by ARA, the Museums Association, and the Institute of Conservation, to show what an acceptable salary is for the role. If trustees insist that it is too high, show them bench-marking roles from other similar organisations. If they still insist it should be lower, show them how much low paying organisation can get criticised and see if they still feel the same. If they don’t want to advertise a salary at all, show them the research about who is disadvantaged by this and why it is atrocious practice.