Minority ethnic recruitment toolkit

A toolkit to support employers in recruiting from minority ethnic communities.

Approach taken by Scottish Government

New approaches to recruitment
This graphic highlights the key points in the Scottish Government’s approach, processes and stages, as well as outcomes of its diverse recruitment work.

Approach taken by Scottish Government 

The Scottish Government's approach to race equality and inclusion has increasingly focused on systemic change, developing around 5 principles:

  • Commitment: explicitly making an increase in diversity, and specifically, race equality, a key measure of success in our recruitment and talent activities.
  • Evidence-led: gathering, improving and analysing data, to inform and target our action and evaluate our impact.
  • Openness: trying new and innovative approaches and building our learning
  • Working collaboratively: with our Race Equality Network and external organisations
  • Taking a 'whole systems' approach: addressing the whole employment experience, including tackling our biases.

Many of these principles were tested and improved in our recruitment to our Graduate Development Programme in 2017 and 2019 and our 2018 campaign to recruitment 150 middle managers. Action included:

  • The Permanent Secretary setting a strong, clear direction at the outset of these campaigns: if they did not deliver increased diversity, they would be considered a failure. 
  • Working closely and collaboratively with our internal Race Equality Network, whose representatives formed part of a 'reference group' which was involved in every stage of the design and delivery of the campaign. REN provided valuable feedback on language in selection tests and communication; supported community outreach in person; provided role models and testimonials about their experiences; and joined the assessing panels to increase diversity of thought and perspective i.e. recognising that our different experiences, perspectives and diverse abilities shape how we solve problems and make decisions. 
  • Working with over 100 organisations (including 20 race-based external organisations) providing in-person presentations and a separate toolkit of key messages, example Tweets, etc. to enable partners to promote the campaign on our behalf.
  • Hosting a 3 day 'Future Leaders Conference' in 2018, providing 35 high potential candidates from minority ethnic, disabled or socio/ economically disadvantaged backgrounds with open-door access to the SG, advice on preparing for graduate selection and an on-going SG Mentor. Individuals described the conference as 'inspiring' 'energising' 'demystifying', and generating 'a warmth and connection to (the SG)'. Of those invited 2 went on to secure places on GDP 2019, and 2 secured 'near miss' appointments.
  • Testing approaches such as blended interviewing (strength-based and Situational Judgement Testing) and providing bespoke training to assessors on this and unconscious bias.
  • Anonymising recruitment – with assessing panels completely separate from recruiting teams – and increasing the diversity of panels. 
  • Scrutinising Google analytics throughout the advertising period to evaluate reach and to adapt the message and where it was placed accordingly.
  • Exploring the best available assessment approaches which advance equality of opportunity, using a considerable body of research from Government Recruitment Services with particular attention to the impact of certain exercises on minority ethnic candidates.
  • Analysing diversity data at each stage of selection testing to understand impact. This iterative approach identified less favourable results than predicted for minority ethnic candidates in some tests, and led to a change of approach in how the successful cohort would be identified. This was successful in maintaining the diversity of the cohort. 

The 2018 campaign for middle managers saw 7.9% of applicants and 6.96% of successful candidates identifying as being from a visible ethnic minority background. Notably, 85% of minority ethnic candidates who passed interview were in the top performing cohort.

The proportion of people who identified as minority ethnic being invited to the assessment centre rose from 6% in 2017 to 10% in 2019. Visible minority ethnic people were represented in the final 2019 cohort at levels above the benchmark of the wider Scottish population (5%). 

Some of the lessons learned:

  • Large, centralised campaigns lend themselves to building in the actions which can improve diversity (e.g. blind sifting, large-scale outreach, single point of contact for adjustments). 
  • You have to be clear on who you are targeting and what that will take before you start – plan first.
  • A marketing strategy must be tailored to the channels that will reach candidates – go digital and partner up for wider impact. 
  • The selection processes is a key factor in the accessibility of opportunity – we made changes.
  • Making offers and on boarding are where important impressions are formed.
  • Taking the time to engage can help you understand barriers better – perceived or real.
  • Keep it legal – especially if you are planning positive action – check with diversity professionals if you are unsure.


Email: mandy.watts@gov.scot

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