Murdoch University recently recruited a Pride and Respect Officer. As the role was central to the University’s diversity and inclusion work, it prompted them to try more inclusive, equitable hiring methods.

What they did

Upon getting the go-ahead to recruit a full-time Pride and Respect Officer for 12 months, the People and Culture Office worked closely with Kelly Parsons (she/her) from the Access, Wellbeing and Equity team to capture the ‘Murdoch vibe’ in the applicant materials.

To attract a broad pool of candidates, they crafted an advertisement using inclusive language and tailored the candidate pack to the role. It included quotes from Kelly as line manager and Dr Rebecca Bennett (she/her) as the Academic Lead of Equity and Inclusion, as well as photos from recent Pride events at Murdoch.

Cover image on Murdoch Uni's information pack to support candidates for the Pride and Respect Officer position. Depicts an abstract pattern of red lines on a black background. A page titled "Meet the Team" from Murdoch Uni's candidate pack for the Pride and Respect Officer role. Shows four photographs: first of people playing in a rainbow-coloured bouncy castle; second of someone reading with the word "PRIDE" propped on a bench in large letters in the background; third of a woman addressing a group outdoors; fourth of people doing yoga outdoors. Kelly Parsons and Simon Walters, both Equity and Diversity Projects Team Leader, are quoted saying "A friendly, creative and energetic team of change makers, advocating for diversity, inclusion and wellbeing at Murdoch University." The page also reads "This is the place for free thinking".

The goal was to promote Murdoch’s diverse and inclusive culture as well as ensuring we are attracting a wide array of candidates across diverse communities; this was reflected through the advertising strategy across various techniques.

This involved branching out and researching different advertising platforms such as Ethical Jobs and Pink Jobs; the use of strategic, inclusive language and gender decoding tools; and creating the candidate pack to showcase this.

– Jess Carruthers, Talent Acquisition Team Leader, Murdoch University

Realising that this role would especially appeal to people who care about social justice, they decided to take a strategic approach to where they advertised it.

In addition to SEEK and the Murdoch vacancies webpage, Talent Acquisition Team Leader Jess Carruthers (she/her) posted the job on platforms like Ethical Jobs, which target jobseekers who specifically seek out roles that align with social justice values, and might not have been reached through their usual channels.

“This was a worthwhile experiment, with 20% of applications coming via Ethical Jobs,” said Jess.

From an equity standpoint, they were careful to emphasise that the position was open to job-share arrangements. As Kelly says, “The SAGE accreditation process highlighted how important it is to make jobs accessible to people who might be seeking fractional work opportunities due to study or caring responsibilities, or for health or work–life balance reasons.”

To reduce bias, bring an external perspective to the selection process and achieve gender balance on the panel, Murdoch engaged a panel member from Curtin University, a fellow SAGE subscriber institution.

The external member also promoted the vacancy amongst their own professional networks – a valuable gesture of support for each other’s initiatives, especially in a niche field with few practitioners.

“Finding the right person is crucial to Western Australian universities maintaining our prowess as changemakers and thought incubators in Diverse Sexes, Sexualities and Genders spaces,” emphasised the external member.

Interview process

The interview process took a unique three-tiered approach, which was designed to assess the candidate’s:

  • level of preparation, creative content and timely delivery;
  • on-the-spot preparation and ability to draw on their skill set at short notice; and
  • ability to function under pressure.

The following brief was sent to candidates a week before the interview:

  1. You are invited to prepare a short presentation (maximum 5 minutes) on a topic of your choice, ideally reflecting a piece of work you’ve been responsible for in the LGBT community. You can send us the file in advance or bring it on the day.
  2. You will be given 2–3 questions before the interview. Please arrive 15–30 minutes early to make the most of reading time.
  3. An additional 1–2 (unseen) questions will be asked during the interview.

Outcomes and impact

Kelly observed that each interviewee seemed to arrive calm and relaxed, knowing what was ahead, which helped them lean into their power and work to their strengths.

“Even though we chose the most inclusive way of assessing candidates, it wasn’t any extra work. It actually made the experience more enjoyable for everyone involved!” said Kelly.

“It’s really easy to transfer this approach to any recruitment process, so I’m excited to see how People and Culture can influence others to try it too.”

The research they conducted for their sourcing strategy also led Murdoch University to become a member of Pride in Diversity.

The external panel member, who is part of the queer community, was quick to praise the whole process.

“Recruiting just the right person makes future leadership so much easier… seldom have I seen this level of engagement and leadership in a process like this… I’ve had to up my own expectation of myself. Thanks on behalf of the candidates for the thought, care and genuine hard slog you’ve put in.”

What’s next?

Equitable recruitment is one of the University’s key strategies for growing and diversifying their workforce.

Eager to replicate their success, Murdoch plans to expand this approach to other areas of the University.

A review of their Recruitment Policy and Procedure is underway. So far, updates include the use of gender-decoding tools to ensure that advertisements are written in inclusive language.

They are also developing improved internal and external recruitment resources. These consist of training and resources for panel members as well as tailored candidate packs, such as an Indigenous Recruitment pack, which has already been launched.