How inclusion helps us to nurture a diverse team

At FreeAgent, we think that a great team must be inclusive and diverse - and we’ve worked hard to ensure that people from different backgrounds and groups have the same opportunities to thrive here. 

To do this, we need to make sure that FreeAgent is built on inclusion from the very start of the hiring process through to our day-to-day work. Here’s how we do it.

“When I first started at FreeAgent, it all seemed a bit too good to be true, but five years later, I still feel the same way. It’s a friendly, inclusive place to work that makes you feel like you're really making a difference,” said Kirsten Zammit, Senior Product Analyst. 

What can you expect from the hiring process at FreeAgent?

The application

Inclusion has to start from the very first stage - the job ad. We check the wording we use in our job descriptions to ensure candidates aren’t feeling implicitly excluded by words coded to a particular gender, age, culture or ability. We also add a note to our job adverts saying that research suggests underrepresented groups hesitate more than others to apply if they don’t meet all the criteria - we actively encourage them to submit an application if that feels relatable. 

Switching the requirement for a cover letter to answering a few short questions helps to open up our jobs further, removing the uncertainty around what a cover letter should include and hopefully helping people who are short on time too.

There’s also lots of information available to candidates around each stage linked to each job advert. They can find details about FreeAgent as an employer, who the hiring manager is, and what competencies we’re looking to see at each stage of the process. They’ll also get a call from someone in our Talent team before any interviews, which is a great opportunity for any initial questions.  

Interviews and more

Job interviews can often feel really intimidating, but at FreeAgent we’ve worked really hard to make the interview feel fair and unpressured. “The hiring process was sincere and FreeAgent gave such clarity throughout it. The job market and job hunt process can be brutal, so it was incredible to have a really standout experience,” said Meg Booth, Content Editor. 

A key focus over recent years has been to develop a practical test, designed to measure a key skill for each job role. These tests are usually done separately from any interview environment, so the applicant can complete them in their own time, without any artificial pressures. This helps people show their best even if they find it hard to ‘sell themselves’ in an interview context. 

The test results are anonymised where possible, and are reviewed by more than one person, ensuring we are selecting purely based on merit. “FreeAgent is constantly working to make the engineering hiring process as unbiased as possible, with standardisation of code reviews, application steps and interview questions, as well as using third-party and custom software tools to keep evaluation criteria the same,” said Sara O’Connor, Engineering Manager. 

This has meant that we can approach interviews differently, as we’re not asking people to describe their skills, but to demonstrate their soft skills, thinking process and, importantly, values. “When we prioritise discussions around skills and values, it helps us to create teams that are diverse and able to collaborate really well,” said Senior Talent Consultant, Ailsa Cairney. 

What’s happening behind the scenes at FreeAgent to encourage diversity?

“To encourage diversity, we’re always looking to remove unnecessary barriers to candidates,” said Katie Shaikh, Senior Talent Team Manager. “There are lots of small parts of the hiring process that we realised have the potential to exclude certain candidates for no good reason.” In 2023 we updated our hiring software, choosing one with an excellent anonymisation feature, so we can review applications without seeing names, location or other personal information that might introduce bias.

We’ve also done lots of work to help managers with hiring. We review criteria for roles, which occasionally involves challenging their ‘must-haves’ if they’re based on what’s usually done in the industry rather than what we actually need. For example, it’s very rare now that we ask for specific qualifications unless it’s essential for compliance reasons.

We also offer interview prep for managers, coming up with structured question lists that offer equality of experience while still being flexible enough to allow the managers to encourage genuine conversations. “Interview training has a big emphasis on helping the candidate show the best of themselves during the sessions,” said Sara O’Connor. 

But there’s also work that happens much earlier to get our jobs and opportunities in front of people who wouldn’t normally see them. That’s where our inclusive networks come in handy - we can advertise our jobs outside the usual places for tech jobs. Even before that, we get involved in early careers outreach like work experience with local schools, STEM Ambassadors or hosting and attending tech meetups to plant the seed that a job in FreeAgent could be for anyone. 

Inclusive benefits

Benefits are a significant factor in attracting people to a job - or putting someone off, but this can be a tricky subject to bring up. Candidates might not want to ask about a particular benefit as they’re worried about giving away information which might trigger a bias (for example, some people may want to know about our policies around family leave, but feel worried that asking about it might harm their application). 

Our solution to this is to advertise our benefits clearly throughout the hiring process so they don’t have to ask. You can find information about some benefits on our vacancies page, and even more in our Life at FreeAgent blogs and in resources shared by the Talent team before their call.

“Most companies would showcase their benefit package but when you get inside the company, you find the actual package and culture does not look as nice as they told you. But in FreeAgent, I feel it is far more than they told me before joining the company,” said John Tsang, Salesforce Administrator.

Meet a few of our inclusive benefits

We have a wide variety of benefits and policies to support our diverse team including:

  • Private medical insurance, which can also be extended to partners and children and includes mental health support
  • Family policies including enhanced maternity, adoption and partners on shared leave pay, all of which apply equally to LGBTQIA+ employees regardless of gender
  • Summer Fridays lets us work a four-day week for eight weeks each summer, which coincides with some of the school summer holidays
  • LGBTQIA+ policies including recently introduced guidance on transitioning at work to make the process as smooth as possible
  • Internal networks including Pride, Women in Engineering, Menopause and Neurodiversity channels

Could FreeAgent be your next opportunity?

If you’re looking for an inclusive opportunity with a welcoming company, please keep an eye on our vacancies.

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