Social Security Experience Panels: agency recruitment

This report considers views on recruitment processes, perceptions of the Civil Service and how recruitment can be made more accessible.


Looking for jobs

Most survey respondents had experience of looking for a job at one point in their lives (92 per cent) with almost a third (31 per cent) having looked for a job in the last 5 years. The most popular places to look for a job tended to be online, such as on recruitment websites (68 per cent) or an organisation's own website (57 per cent). Offline methods were less popular, but still well used. Over two thirds of survey respondents had visited a JobCentre Plus (67 per cent) whilst almost half had asked for recommendations from friends and family (48 per cent).

Most survey respondents were not aware of previous Social Security Scotland recruitment drives (75 per cent). Participants who were aware tended to find out through the Scottish Government's website (50 per cent) or a news website (27 per cent). A smaller number found out through the agency's recruitment website (17 per cent), newspaper advertisements (16 per cent) or search engines (17 per cent).

Making the recruitment process accessible

Over half of survey respondents (54 per cent) told us they had encountered barriers when looking or applying for a job. Survey respondents and focus group participants told us that improving job adverts could improve accessibility and reduce barriers for disabled people looking for work. Respondents were shown a sample job advert used by Social Security Scotland and asked for their views. We heard that it is important for job adverts to contain the right kind of information, and to minimise the amount of unnecessary text. Participants felt the adverts should be 'short' and 'punchy' and explicitly state that they welcome applications from disabled people and minority groups.

It was felt that job adverts must clearly define the duties expected of the applicant to allow disabled applicants to apply with confidence. Descriptions of the interview process and the Civil Service competency system were often seen as confusing and could be simplified to increase accessibility.

Participants felt that job adverts often missed essential information that is helpful for disabled applicants to know, such as flexible working policies, information on reasonable adjustments and how to request documents in different formats.

Participants wanted the language used in adverts to be plain English and uncomplicated. The use of percentages in job adverts was thought to be confusing and sometimes unnecessary.

When applying for a job, participants said they would value being able to apply online and through a paper application form. The application form itself should be simple and easy to complete to avoid putting disabled clients off.

Views on the interview process included that there should be a disabled person on interview panels to give confidence to disabled applicants that the organisation takes accessibility needs into account. It was also expressed that interviewers should make a decision based on what the client says, rather than what they are wearing on the day. Participants felt that care should be taken so that interviewers do not dress overly formally.

Participants told us that information they would find useful, but was often missing from adverts included a point of contact to discuss accessibility arrangements, explicit information about the flexible working arrangements and information on how to receive feedback.

An employer's own people policies were seen as important in creating an accessible recruitment policy. Participants felt that flexible shift patterns, the ability to take medical leave without feeling unsupported and a willingness to make adjustments to the role to allow them to perform it with their disability were important.

Whilst employers' actions can go some way to creating an accessible recruitment process, participants identified a number of wider factors that caused issues when applying for jobs that were outwith an individual employer's control. This included benefits policy and the complex ways in which social security payments interacted with paid employment.

Other factors were more personal to the client, such as not having money to purchase clothes for an interview, not being able to use a computer or not being able to afford to travel to interviews.

Working for the Civil Service

Participants had both positive and negative perceptions of what it was like to work for the Civil Service. Positive perceptions referenced a good pension, relative job security and the work environment. Some participants said they would feel proud if a child or close relative was offered a Civil Service job.

Negative perceptions tended to refer to individual experiences participants had with civil servants, describing them as being 'robotic', 'inflexible' and 'unhelpful'. Some viewed civil servants as 'unreliable'.

Civil Service culture was described as 'target-driven' to the detriment of those who interact with the service.

Participant's perceptions tended to come from the media, family and friends and their interactions with government departments (usually DWP or other public facing organisations such as DVLA). Participants rarely viewed civil servants differently between departments.

Some participants made a distinction between Scottish Government civil servants and those of Westminster, viewing the Scottish Civil Service as being more trustworthy and honest.

Most participants had not considered a career in the Civil Service, and they felt that other factors would influence whether they would consider a job with Social Security Scotland more than their perceptions of the Civil Service as a whole.


Email: James.Miller@gov.Scot

Back to top