Seven Ways of Helping Candidates Understand the Essence of a Role

I was the first Wellbeing Leader, followed by Michelle, Mo, and Mary. We each led the teams at different stages of our learning and development as a provider organisation. I remember updating the Wellbeing Worker Handbook six times in my year as the Wellbeing Leader and Registered Manager, as our learning curve was so steep in that initial year.
For each of us, there were great things about the role and, as you would expect, often significant challenges. For me, the stand-out elements of the role—the highlights—were developing and being part of values-based recruitment; co-production; trying to get decision-making as close to people we supported as possible; and trying new approaches to quality—for example, introducing tactical meetings to reflect on learning. 
The biggest challenge was embracing coaching. My natural approach is to try to fix problems, and instead I had to get into a different groove of asking thoughtful questions to support people to find their own answers.
As part of helping potential candidates truly understand the essence of the role of the Wellbeing Leader, Mo, Mary, and I each did a 2-minute film describing our personal highlights from the role and our biggest challenge. This was one of seven ways through which we tried to give potential candidates an insight into the role beyond the role description.
The processes we use for this include:
  • A week in the life of someone doing this role
  • Films of people who have done the role talking about what it is like
  • Talking to someone currently doing the role
  • An example of a ‘to-do’ list in this role
  • Sharing the promises that we make to our colleagues
  • What-if cards during the recruitment workshop
  • Recruitment Visits 
Seven more ways we share the essence of roles 
Writing a role description that was both clear and aligned to our values was the first step, but we wanted to go further and test a range of other ways of helping people understand both the essence and the details of the role. 
  1. Films of people talking about their role
When we recruited the Wellbeing Leader for the teams in Camden Council, we included three films as part of the recruitment campaign. Here are the three films: – Mary – Helen – Mo
  1. To-do list and typical day or week
Our Community Circles Connector role is unique to our partnership with the charity Community Circles. To help convey the essence of the role, in addition to the role description we developed an example of a ‘to-do’ list and what a typical day/week task list could look like.


  1. An animation that summarises how we work.
At the end of the role description and ‘Could this be you’ section, we invite people to watch a short animation:
Time for a short animation? Here are the eight ways that a self-managed team works:
This is eight minutes long. I know that by animation standards, this is much too long to grab and keep people’s attention; however, for people seriously interested in the role, we hope it is eight minutes well spent. The animation explains how self-management works, since this is the area people have the least experience in, and we hope they are curious about it.
  1. Our promises to you
After the animation, we share a link to a visual graphic of our ten promises to our colleagues. To live our values as an organisation, we make promises to our colleagues. This is part of living our value of responsibility: being clear about what people can count on us for. The same image is sent as a postcard to successful applicants before they start their role, with information about how we check that we are keeping our promises. I also ask colleagues to contact me and let me know when or how we do not live up to our promises. This is what we want people to know about us from the outset—what we commit to our colleagues.


  1. What-if cards
We use What-if cards in the recruitment workshop, and these reflect typical challenges that Wellbeing Workers (or another role that we are recruiting for) could face. Therefore, they are useful for both understanding our values and for giving candidates an idea of the challenges that can be part of the role. I describe these in detail in future blogs.

  1. Talking to someone who is doing the role now
There are two opportunities to talk to a Wellbeing Worker: The Wellbeing Worker who has the recruitment role within the team will usually be one of two or three people who has the first conversation with potential applicants. This is primarily an opportunity to ask someone who is currently performing the role questions about it.
The second opportunity is in the recruitment workshop when we do reverse interviewing, and candidates have an opportunity to ask questions of the recruitment team, which includes a Wellbeing Worker.

  1. Recruitment Visits 
We used to call these ‘Shadow Shifts’, but this raised lots of issues about whether people could do a shift of any sort without completing criminal background checks as well as issues of risk assessments. Now we call them Recruitment Visits: an opportunity to see the work we do first-hand and for people we support to be part of the recruitment process. We invite candidates who have been successful up to this point to accompany an experienced team member and someone we support. Obviously, the person we support is happy to be part of our recruitment process this way. Both the team member and the person we support give feedback on candidates after the shift.
Although we work hard to make the role description as clear and specific as possible about what people actually do in the role, we don’t think this is sufficient. We want to keep creating and experimenting with ways to powerfully and succinctly convey the essence of the role. Our next step is to build better ways of testing which ones resonate with people beyond just asking people at the recruitment workshop. We want to see if we can target different groups of people that we are seeking to attract using different approaches. 
A clear role description is an important start, and I think we are just at the beginning of finding creative ways of conveying our message about the heart of the role and living our values.


Edel Harris OBE
CEO, Mencap
What are my reflections?
The role of support worker or carer is difficult to translate into a typical job description. Personalised support by its very nature requires a person centred approach to recruiting a great team.  So I love the approach taken by Wellbeing Teams in particular the videos which really bring the role to life.  And I love ‘our promises to you’. We often forget that recruitment is a two way process and as the employer we need to be clear about our end of the bargain. Values based promises that extend beyond terms and conditions are key.
What does this mean for my organisation/the sector?
Recruitment is a real challenge at the moment. Social care as a profession is often negatively described in the media and alongside the constant narrative of low pay and low skill it leaves the sector struggling and competing for talent. This fresh, positive, human-centric approach provides an opportunity to market these wonderful jobs to a whole new audience.  The people with a learning disability whom Mencap supports are currently involved in recruiting their teams and when I share the learning from the Wellbeing Team’s approach with them I can imagine that they will have a lot of fun co-producing new recruitment videos!
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