New Fair Museum Jobs Manifesto Explained

In the comedown from the #FMJSummit in November 2020, our committee took some time to think about what we wanted to do next and how we felt about the things we have in place now. We reflected on how the summit made us feel freer to be more radical in some of our recommendations, and in the light of this we are publishing a revised version of the manifesto. Click here to view the Manifesto.

The Fair Museum Jobs manifesto was first written in 2018, and has always been a living document. We have made some small tweaks over time and added new recommendations as we see practice emerge and change over time e.g. Not asking for previous or current salaries. We think that now is the time for a bigger set of changes to be made; but it is also very important to us that it remains an active document that we continue to change as needed. If you have any feedback on the manifesto, you can contact us at fairmuseumjobs@gmail.com

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

This blog, and another published at the same time to focus on the qualifications aspect of the manifesto, outlines why we’ve made the changes we have made in the new version. Note that this blog describes the major changes to content – in some cases we’ve rephrased statements without changing the meaning – we aren’t listing those here!

Qualifications

We have made significant changes to our qualifications statements. Read more about the changes here: New Manifesto: Qualifications Update

Salaries and Contracts

As well as requiring that salaries are listed, we strongly urge that all organisations list both the actual and full-time equivalent salaries for part-time jobs. This allows candidates to accurately understand the salary they will receive and shows that your organisation values transparency and honesty.

Our recommendation for minimum salaries is that you must conform to National Living Wage (or London Living Wage if relevant). As this is now our minimum required salary, we have removed the statement that jobs must pay National Minimum Wage. This is a legal requirement; and so we feel that to state it here should not be necessary – conforming to the law is not optional!

We continue to support use of the Museums Association salary guidelines to benchmark minimum salaries, however we have added the caveat recognising that they are 4 years old and inflation should be added to those listed salaries.

We have added a new statement specifically to support that individuals or community groups contributing to your projects, or acting as consultants should be paid to value their time and experience. This is crucial to ensuring that community projects are not exploiting participants; and that we are not expecting those with significant and important experience to work for free.

Clarity, Accessibility, Transparency and Communication

In considering how to make criteria more fair and equitable, we have added a new recommendation that criteria that focus on personality traits rather than skills must be avoided. We believe personality traits can never be fairly assessed; and asking for them is likely to lead to discrimination and often the issue of hiring in your own image. There are better ways to ask for these types of criteria, for example, rather than asking for someone “outgoing”, add “experience working with a wide-range of people”, “experience in a customer facing environment”, or “able to communicate confidently with stakeholders” to your job description.

We have also added some advice about what must not be asked in job applications specifically as it can lead directly to discrimination against particular candidates. We advise that you must not ask for sickness absence reports as this is ableist – discriminating against disabled candidates, or those with any long-term health condition. It is also very out of touch to ask this right now when we are all living in a major global pandemic. It is also not acceptable to ask people to declare their previous periods of parental leave, we have added a manifesto statement to this effect.

A key area of unfairness and inequity is around access to driving licenses and vehicles. We now state that organisations must not ask for a driving license or access to a vehicle and instead should outline the requirements of the role and allow the candidate to explain how they could achieve them. There are many candidates, including but not limited to disabled people, who do not have the option of driving; but would be able to fulfil any travel requirements through other methods including use of the Access to Work scheme. It is crucial that candidates are not disadvantaged financially by this; and so we also state that organisations must support alternative travel options in a fair and equitable way. It is also notable that many organisations state commitments to green and sustainable choices; looking at non-driving travel options for staff is a key part of this commitment.

We have noticed that organisations are increasingly asking for membership of professional bodies in their person specifications. This disadvantages candidates who cannot afford such memberships and adds a gatekeeping criteria for those new to the sector, or who are making a career change. If a membership is essential to a role, the organisation should support it financially. Therefore we note that organisations must not require membership of professional bodies unless they also state they will financially support this being maintained as part of the role.

We’ve added a new statement in light of the fact that many job applications ask for increasingly short word counts or page limits that do not allow all criteria to be addressed. We now state that application methods, such as forms or portals, or covering letters with word limits, must allow applicants enough space to fully evidence how they meet the required criteria. This is crucial to making the application process as accessible as it can be to the widest range of people, and ensures that the organisation can get the best information about their candidates.

We’ve added a new statement in light of the fact that many job applications ask for increasingly short word counts or page limits that do not allow all criteria to be addressed. We now state that application methods, such as forms or portals, or covering letters with word limits, must allow applicants enough space to fully evidence how they meet the required criteria. This is crucial to making the application process as accessible as it can be to the widest range of people, and ensures that the organisation can get the best information about their candidates.

Interviews

We have split the previous “Interviews and Outcomes of Recruitment” section into separate parts to allow us to add more information about good interview practices.

New points in the interview section are:

  • 6.1 Recruiting organisations must inform all candidates about the constitution of the interview panel and format of the interview ahead of time.

This is a basic requirement for all interviews; it ensures that the candidate knows what to expect on the day of their interview and allows them to prepare effectively and efficiently for the process.

  • 6.3 Reasonable adjustment requests for interviews should be actioned without undue delay.

This manifesto suggestion has been added in light of many stories we hear about interviewing organisations not understanding what reasonable adjustments are for.

It seems to be perceived that to change the process for some candidates makes it unfair for others; but this is not the case. The aim of interviews is to find the best candidate for the job; not the person best at doing interviews. Making reasonable accommodations allows this to happen as you are levelling the playing field for candidates where they would otherwise be disadvantaged by the process itself.

It is also crucial that actioning the request is not delayed, as this has a significant impact on a candidate’s ability to plan and prepare for the interview.

  • 6.4 Interviewers should consider how they format questions e.g. keep questions short and direct, and ask positively framed questions.

At the #FMJSummit, we ran a session with Kids in Museums about the experiences of young people applying for jobs. While much of our manifesto already supports good practice for interviewing young people, this point was specifically raised in their session.

We suggest that interviewers need to take responsibility for all candidates in making the circumstances needed for someone to be their best. How the questions are worded and formatted is a key part of this. We recommend that questions are kept short and direct; you can do this by making sure you ask one question at a time rather than nesting your questions. For example, ask “Tell us about a time you worked effectively in a team.” rather than, “Tell us about a time you have worked collaboratively as part of a team and what made you effective working in that team? Would you do anything differently next time?”

  • 6.5 Fair Museum Jobs recommends the sharing of interview questions with all candidates in advance.

Sharing interview questions is a commonly requested reasonable adjustment; and an increasing number of organisations are choosing to share interview questions with all candidates. At Fair Museum Jobs, we want to support and champion this practice as a way to ensure that interviews find the best person for the job, and not the best person at interviews. We believe it will encourage better and more accurate answers; reduce the stress on candidates and ensure that the candidate has time to give their best self to the interview process.

  • 6.6 Interview formats should be commensurate with the responsibility level of the role. Follow-up interviews should only be used when strictly necessary, and the purpose of the follow-up interview clearly explained in advance.

We have noted that interviews at some organisations are much more onerous than others. We have added this statement to promote the view that interviews need to be reasonable for the level of the role being applied for – it is not reasonable to request a full day of availability for an entry level role; but it might be for a director. Second and third interviews are often not necessary, and should be minimised as far as possible. If they are required then they must be clearly explained to candidates and ideally, the potential that it will be needed should be described at the outset of the process.

It is our view that the ability to attend an interview should never be a barrier to someone getting a job, therefore we have upgraded our advice that organisations should pay travel expenses to candidates attending interviews. In light of the speedy move that we have all made to video meetings this year; we have also added that alternative interview methods, e.g. video calls, should be accommodated. It is crucial to accessibility and ongoing inclusion for a range of candidates that this practice continues when it is no longer mandated by the pandemic.

Feedback

We have strengthened our manifesto on feedback to state that all interviewed candidates must be provided with meaningful feedback; previously we stated that they should. We have retained all other points relating to timeliness and ability to receive feedback if unsuccessful at the application stage. We believe that providing feedback is a crucial part of the application process – given that candidates may send hours on applying for your job; it is fair that you return some time on their investment. We also believe that giving feedback directly leads to more objective and evidence-based decisions – if you know you have to explain your decisions, you will interrogate them more thoroughly.

This links directly to our new point that those giving feedback must ensure as far as possible that it is constructive, actionable and honest. If you have made objective and evidence-based decisions, this should not be difficult as you will have a clear sense of why one candidate is more suitable than another. Giving useful feedback should never be hurtful or personal; it should allow the candidate to understand what they could do differently next time, or what to plan in the longer-term to become more competitive.

We have added a recommendation that feedback is not given at the same time as giving the recruitment outcome. It is human decency to allow unsuccessful candidates time to absorb the result of the application process. It will allow the feedback to be received more usefully by the candidate if you give them the choice of when and how to receive it.

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