Thames Reach
Friday 17 November 2017
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Recruitment and selection

Photo of a former trainee
Mark Whiteford, a former service user trainee, is now a project worker at Thames Reach's Robertson Street hostel

The aim of the recruitment and selection process was to identify candidates with the potential to successfully complete the traineeship and move into further employment.   

Recruitment for traineeships

Thames Reach recognised that there was a need to modify our recruitment practices, as we had relied mainly on skills assessment and previous work experience when selecting staff.

A requirement of one to two years’ work experience posed an immediate barrier to service users who had no recent work history and had never worked in the sector before – but who did have a valuable direct experience of homelessness. We replaced these recruitment practices with a competency-based process to remove this barrier. 

Thames Reach decided not to change our recruitment process for the traineeships, because this would create a double standard. Changes made to the way we assess and select candidates (such as number of years of experience) were changed for all posts in the organisation.

This was important so that staff valued and respected recruitment decisions, and so that negative preconceived ideas or prejudices were not reinforced.

We also wanted to ensure our standards remained high. Having different procedures for the recruitment of service-users could have led to a lowering of our standards.

To ensure we selected candidates who were ‘job ready’, i.e., had a good understanding of the role, their own strengths, needs and motivation, and the skills and abilities suitable for the job, Thames Reach:

  1. Ensured all potential candidates had a full understanding of the role, the needs of our client group, and the necessary interpersonal and communication skills to do the job effectively (Information sessions and Assessed Project visits)
  2. Developed a set of minimum criteria relating to a potential candidates’ interpersonal skills, motivation, ability to support others effectively, professional boundaries and literacy skills (person specification)
  3. Developed a generic job description for support worker trainees that would cover support posts in a variety of different sets and teams
  4. Applied the same standards to trainees as other staff regarding criminal record checks and references.
  5. When possible, told candidates where they could receive assistance in completing application forms completion and interview skills.
  6. Provided unsuccessful candidates with feedback on how to improve their application forms and interview skills.
  7. Provided unsuccessful candidates with information and ideas on what their next step may be to successfully gain employment in the future. (Stepping Stone – TRaVEL)
  8. Ensured all candidates’ skills and attributes were assessed during the interview stage using relevant tests and questions

Applying for a traineeship

The traineeships are advertised through:

  • Thames Reach’s external website
  • Thames Reach’s internal intranet
  • Other homelessness agencies’ employment and resettlement services for clients
  • Local and national newspapers and publications targeting homeless people.
  • Other relevant sector websites and sites aimed at encouraging applicants from diverse backgrounds

Potential candidates are able to download an application pack from Thames Reach’s website or request a copy be sent to them via PeopleMedia, our contracted recruitment agency. 

The recruitment and selection process most often includes these elements:

  • Information session
  • Application form
  • Assessed project visit
  • Interview
  • Written test
  • Maths test
  • References
  • Criminal Record Check

The traineeship recruitment materials can be downloaded from the traineeship resources page.

Lesson learnt

Length of time to recruit a group of trainees

We also needed to consider the length of time it takes to recruit a group of trainees. In our experience, the recruitment process takes up to 5 months.

This may seem long, but a generous amount of time (2 months) is allowed for trainees to complete the application form (including producing a draft, receiving feedback from a support/advice worker, completing and submitting the form). By reducing the amount of time between advertising the post and the closing date, the recruitment process can be done in a shorter period. 

We also allowed two months at the close of the process to collect and verify references. (Schedule for Recruitment)

Thames Reach enlarged the list of potential referees for candidates, and collecting references took longer than expected. Trainees were all able to get references to cover the majority of the three-year period required,but it often took them some time to secure references from tutors, former key workers, doctors or probation officers.

Lesson learnt

No matter how much vetting you do, it is difficult to predict who will succeed

Some candidates who presented as insightful, capable and reliable did not finish the traineeship. A few these left in crisis. Personal issues and life circumstances challenged some trainees’ emotional and psychological resilience to the limit.

Two thirds of trainees in the first two years of the GROW programme finished the traineeship and secured further work.