How to attract diverse applicants

Encouraging and promoting diverse new entrants not only benefits our industry as a whole but gives your production or company access to fresh insight and perspectives. ScreenSkills provides advice on how to use your apprenticeship application process to attract under-represented groups of talent. For more information about recording and processing diversity data, please see the ScreenSkills guide to diversity and inclusivity monitoring.

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Screen employers are increasingly looking for new ways to attract fresh talent to address skill shortages facing the sector, but there are still groups that remain significantly underrepresented. Employers who help attract talent from these groups will benefit not just those they are hiring but also the industry at large.

ScreenSkills is providing support for companies who want to increase the diversity of their workforce including advice on barriers that might be stopping young people and practical tips to overcome them.

What are the barriers for under-represented groups?

There are a variety of different barriers that can deter people from under-represented groups from applying for screen roles and apprenticeships. These may include:

  • lack of knowledge and understanding about what is involved in working in screen roles or apprenticeships
  • perceptions of what those roles involve and whether or not it would be right for them 
  • lack of knowledge of entry routes into screen careers
  • job advertisements and marketing materials being off-putting to would-be applicants
  • confusion, given the wide range of job titles used for similar roles
  • a belief that an application from them would not be welcomed or a feeling that there is "no-one like me" at the workplace
  • recruitment and selection techniques that disadvantage certain groups
  • entry requirements e.g. five GCSEs at grades A*-C
  • personal circumstances which make flexible working difficult, such as family care responsibilities , family expectations or housing difficulties
  • social and cultural barriers, including the expectations of family, peers and community groups
  • practical considerations such as affordable travel and access to technology and finance
  • lack of confidence where people think screen jobs are for "other people".

Seven tips for attracting people from under-represented groups to your screen apprenticeship

1. Review your current processes and performance
Looking at your past recruitment strategies can help you establish a baseline. Which groups applied by gender and ethnic background? Who progressed, who dropped out, and at what stage? If you don’t have this historical data, start collecting it.

2. Review your literature and marketing materials
Illustrate the range and breath of job roles. Many do not understand the range of different screen roles or the variety of entry routes available. Ensure your material excites, enthuses and educates young people about their options. ScreenSkills' directory of job roles and career paths can help you with this. 

Use appropriate and accessible language in your materials. Consider asking young people to review the language in job ads found that the most attractive words were flexible, develop, skills, opportunity, exciting, work, challenging, training. Two of the most unattractive phrases encountered were ‘you will be expected’ and ‘you will be capable of’. 

Use gender-neutral language and be aware of gender-themed words and phrases, a recent study of 4,000 job descriptions and potential applicants found that only using words or ideas often regarded as masculine (eg active, competitive, decisive) made job descriptions less appealing to women compared with descriptions that also used words or qualities considered feminine (eg community, responsible, committed).  

3. Use appropriate channels
Reach out to your audience through the media they use (social media, magazines aimed at non-male and BAME communities, local radio, online forums etc.) Advertise through local communities and faith groups and deliver community engagement activities such as open days or informal events hosted by your apprentices to encourage young people to come and find out more. Your existing apprentices can act as ambassadors and role model by promoting real-life experience and showing other young people that there are people like them working in the industry. 

You can get more help with this by partnering with organisations who are actively helping disadvantaged young people improve their employability skills and find employment, such as the Prince’s Trust, City Gateway, Catch 22, Resurgo, 2nd Chance, Street League and Think Forward.

4. Review your entry requirements
Research has shown that 96% of employers prefer mindset to skillset when recruiting. Do your employers really want five A* GCSEs or is it more important that applicants have the right aptitude and attitude? 

5. Use strength-based approaches to assessing and selecting candidates
A report from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, 'What Do Employers Want,' showed that the attributes employers most look for in recruits is not qualifications but good personality and attitude.

Relying on qualifications, CVs and traditional application forms and tests may not identify what employers really want, and may also be inadvertently disadvantaging some young people.

Consider using strengths based assessment processes which focus on whether the applicant has the essential strengths needed for the job. Strengths based interviews seek to discover whether the candidate would be naturally good at the role, love doing it and be energised by it. Good questions for doing this include “what do you enjoy doing?”, “what is it you enjoy about x?”, “what do you like doing most”, “what would you do even if you did not get paid”, “what gives you the biggest buzz?”  and “what excites you?”

6. Help applicants do their best at interviews
Provide as much information in advance about the practicalities of an interview, whether that's who to ask for at the reception or what form the interview will take. Be open about your recruitment process and selection criteria, and ensure that the interview takes place in a atmosphere, culture and venue that makes your applicant feel as though they could belong. This could include existing young employees and apprentices to act as ushers during the interview process to encourage young people to ask questions they may not feel confident enough to ask the interviewer or giving a tour of the office and introducing potential future colleagues.

Begin your interviews with an informal chat and take time to provide honest and constructive feedback. 

7. Provide support
While overall retention rates for apprenticeships are good, retention rates of young people from under-represented groups could be improved by a number of practical options such as

  • providing new apprentices with a mentor or buddy that they feel they can ask advice from freely
  • ensuring you can bring in or signpost specialist support agencies eg benefits, housing, personal counselling
  • offer one-to-one coaching and peer mentoring
  • build in early opportunities to succeed, perhaps with short courses or specific short projects
  • build in opportunities to review, recognise and rewards key steps
  • provide opportunities for would-be apprentices to try things out before committing eg short courses, work shadowing, talks or webinars
  • offer blended flexible delivery so that apprentices can undertake training regardless of personal circumstances
  • develop a learning community allowing apprentices to meet regularly and support each other
  • build peer networks, including creating or signposting online networks such as and look for forums in your area or sector that support a diverse membership
  • if a young person does withdraw or drop out, keep in touch with them and make it easy for them to re-engage when they are ready.