How The PSC cut candidate shortlisting time by 80% (and greatly improved diversity)

The PSC, formerly 2020 Delivery, is a team of public service consultants united by a shared desire to improve public services that benefit society. A consultancy with a difference, our people really are our biggest asset.
The Challenge

As one of Applied’s earliest adopters, our team’s deep commitment to diversity and inclusion is as true in practice as it is in theory. We were attracted to Applied as a way to combine online applicant assessment (leaving the spreadsheets behind) with taking a step forward in removing bias from our process. As I’m sure others will feel, there was an initial ‘leap of faith’ in letting go of CVs as the first step in a shortlisting process. Initially some interviewers were reluctant to meet a candidate without seeing their CV. But we didn’t let this hold us back - we knew the potential gains were worth a small step outside our comfort zone!

When it came to writing sift questions, we thought about the things we asked ourselves when assessing covering letters. Before we were reading “between the lines” but now we could ask candidates directly what we wanted to know.

A major ‘a-ha’ moment came when we started assessing applications. Being able to focus on each candidate’s motivation and skills, without the accompanying ‘noise’ that pads out a CV, was so refreshing. Not only does the process lead to a shortlist that is confidently free from bias, it saves so much time and is fun to do!

Now in our 5th year of working with Applied, the team at The PSC are more convinced than ever that relying on CVs to identify the next generation of talent is deeply flawed. I honestly couldn't figure out what I would ask the team to look for [in CVs] that wasn't just a basis for bias!

Improving interviews and diversity

We're extremely comfortable assessing prospective consultants on demonstrable skills now, rather than trying to interpret the marketing spin of CVs. This commitment has to extend through the entire candidate journey to remain true to our values of inclusion and rigour.

Our interviews are clearly structured to ensure each candidate is asked the same questions and scored on the same criteria. We’ve also consciously separated the pre-interview ‘small talk’ from the interview itself. This ensures we don’t fall back on ‘conversational crutch’ questions that can reveal information we really don’t need to know (but can’t ‘un-know’) – ‘have you travelled far?’ (‘where do you live?’), ‘Did you come from work?’ (‘are you currently in full time employment?’).

We know it can be comforting to chat before an interview, so our HR team do that before a candidate walks (or dials) into an interview. Since HR isn’t sitting in on the interview or scoring, it helps us to keep that informal, impressionistic part of the experience out of the core of the skills assessment. It still lets us put candidates at ease and share our culture and personality.

We make it clear to candidates why we do this and, far from making the process feel robotic, our candidates really appreciate our commitment to doing what we say with regards to diversity and inclusion. We see them getting even more excited about joining our team!

Comparing 2018/19 to the past 12 months we’ve seen some really heartening improvements in the diversity of our talent pool which naturally filters into who we hire and our team structure as we grow. We went from hiring 50% to 71% female candidates. We also saw a rise from a fairly negligible number to almost 40% of our hired candidates coming from minority ethnic backgrounds. We’ve hired candidates who required work visas, others who don’t have English as a first language, and one employee that was supported by upReach, the charity supporting student social mobility.

The Coronavirus pandemic has been something of a catalyst to move us even farther and faster in our quest for a truly inclusive hiring process. Like others, we’ve struggled with the challenge of trying to be a ‘visible’ graduate recruiter up and down the country as a relatively small team. This meant historically we did ‘over-represent’ at Oxbridge and that naturally trickles through our entire talent pipeline. With the move to more remote practices, we’re able to reach much farther, in every sense of the word.

We’re proud of everything we have achieved so far but for us, this is just the beginning!

If you’re interested in working with The PSC, you can read more about the entire hiring process and open roles here.  

The results speak for themselves

50% to 71% female candidates
40% hired candidates from ethnic backgrounds
80% reduction in shortlisting time
No more CVs!

What our customers think

"We’re so happy about the enormous amount of labour we’ve taken out of the process. Before we’d have to build in 2 weeks to read all of the applications before we could invite anyone to interview. Now that’s 2 days."

Catherine Mulcahy

Chief Operating Officer


Read our customers’ stories below