Creative industries toolkit

For employers

Creative industries


Ensure practices are accessible and equitable to all applicants.

Many common hiring practices create artificial barriers for people from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Do candidates really need traditional academic qualifications in order to do the job? You can watch the video to find out more or read our guidance below.


Recommendations for developing a socio-economic strategy. Activities at each level are related, but distinguished by scale, detail or commitment.

Apply the same approaches outlined below to recruitment of freelancers and artists or when commissioning work.

Ensure messages in marketing materials have wide appeal – e.g. ‘we’re looking for potential rather than experience’.

Advertise for skills and capabilities and not qualifications, where possible, as this can create unnecessary barriers. Focus on essential criteria only.

Be clear about the application process and what is assessed at each stage.

Publish salary in listings, e.g. avoid ‘fee commensurate with skills’.

Include role models from a variety of backgrounds in your promotional and induction materials

Offer applicants the opportunity to create content to demonstrate their interest in the role (e.g. video, art work). Or link to their portfolio.

Recruit from non-fee paying schools, Further Education colleges, post-1992 universities and newer universities that have more diversity in their student bodies.

Be transparent about eligibility criteria and the broad achievements of successful applicants for similar roles (e.g. typical A level or technical qualification grades or degrees). Consider what qualifications are actually essential to do the job, if any.

Ensure hiring decisions give due consideration to diversity, even when time sensitive. For example:

  • put in place a minimum time-frame for recruitment (when hiring becomes “Who is available now? Who can we hire easily and quickly?“ it is not a favourable environment for an underrepresented candidate, and you end up with a team built of those who were easiest for you to hire)
  • include your HR team for every large-scale recruitment project (or redundancy role mapping exercise) so that the process has a D&I lens across it.
  • connect with trade associations and representative bodies to access diverse talent pools
  • ensure shortlist is diverse before going to interview

Make interviews open and transparent by giving candidates as much advance information as possible.

Be open to offer additional support to those from low-income backgrounds. Consider options to pay in advance for: travel costs, caring costs, expenses.


Recommendations for optimising your approach. Activities at each level are related, but distinguished by scale, detail or commitment.

Partner with fellow organisations to understand how applicants from different demographics respond to marketing materials.

Work with external organisations, careers services, further education colleges, university faculties and other experts to design events, programmes and digital activities that engage under-represented groups.

Offer applicants the opportunities to see an activity relating to the role (ie. a show or exhibition) prior to their interview.

Run open days and webinars for applicants to learn more about the available roles

Ensure everyone who has responsibility to recruit within your business is aware of how to hire from the maximum pool of talent and use recruitment platforms that target diverse staff.

Have diverse interview panels, with representation across the differing levels of the organisation.


Review your policies and approaches to flexible working, and ensure your offer to staff meets CIPD best practice.

The COVID-19 pandemic may now allow certain roles to be reconsidered for remote working.

Find local communities where you are not currently recruiting, particularly social mobility ‘coldspots’ and investigate options for improving recruitment in these areas.

Consider if all jobs need to take place in your office or if you can enable remote working.

Ensure senior leaders communicate the effectiveness of remote working and that inclusion efforts are apparent, at all levels of management.

If expectation is for remote working, ensure participant’s home environment is conducive to working remotely; ensure they have the correct equipment, access to high-speed internet, appropriate working conditions. If not, provide a budget to purchase kit. Organisations should not assume that everyone will have a laptop that they can use from home.

Reimburse applicants who incur travel and/or childcare costs, and consider offering upfront (e.g. to attend an interview).

Consider offering virtual alternatives for in-face interviewing.

Budget to support relocation costs for the right candidate at the start of the process


Assess social mobility ‘coldspots’ as locations for new roles if your business is expanding.

Identify opportunities for supporting local economies, by providing new employment, as well as attracting new talent to your organisation.

Evaluate the impact of flexible working arrangements on your team’s ability to attract, recruit and develop staff from different parts of the country.

Create policies that enable employees to progress through the organisation, without having to move to major city centres.

Place ‘headcount’ limits on hiring in expensive urban centres.


Compare applicant data with external benchmarks (e.g. see benchmarks), to assess how well they reflect the eligible talent pool.

Consider how introducing a range of entry routes into the organisation could support diversity.

Offer quality apprenticeships with:

  • progression routes into the organisation or wider industry once completed
  • pastoral support from line managers (with training) and buddying arrangements


Offer a range of non-graduate routes, with external and internal communications on how these vary in terms of:

  • the activities involved
  • who they may suit better
  • the skills required for each
  • the prospects for progression

Offer apprenticeships at different levels and provide training in ‘soft skills’ as well as technical ones.

Ensure higher level apprenticeships are targeted at less advantaged individuals.

Consider mentoring or ‘buddy’ schemes for new entrants with established colleagues from different social backgrounds.


Ensure candidate assessment processes are transparent, with easy access to the details and make adjustments for those with individual requirements

Apply selection processes consistently to all candidates – e.g. avoid preferential treatment for those who apply earlier.

Clarify to all assessors that applicants from lower socio-economic backgrounds may not have had access to some premium experience, such as extra-curricular activities, internships and studying abroad.

Examine whether aspects of the selection process might disadvantage certain groups, and redesign as needed.


Ensure that the assessment process includes a range of activities and exercises that are independent of each other and led by different assessors with a range of backgrounds.

Monitor data during the application process, to identify where diversity is low, and take immediate action to increase it if that’s the case.

Use assessment techniques that reduce your reliance on grades, previous internships, study abroad or other networks, e.g. contextualised recruitment.


Brief recruitment agencies on your organisation’s commitment to advancing socio-economic diversity amongst hires.

Ensure there is enough time in the recruitment process to focus on advancing diversity.

Implement a robust induction process for lateral hires that shows how talent is identified, valued and rewarded.

Ensure processes for lateral hiring are followed by default, with any exceptions registered and fully explained.


Require recruitment agencies to deliver diverse shortlists, with respect to socio-economic background.

Ask employees to support attraction activities and act as role models for under-represented groups.

Set managers targets regarding socio-economic diversity in lateral hiring.

Review their performance when it comes to decisions about their pay and promotion – to provide a real incentive.

Analyse data on lateral hires to assess the impact on diversity.

“Latent raw talent is everywhere; we need to ensure that it has the opportunity to develop from all socio-economic circumstances. This toolkit provides the framework to increase those opportunities for people in less privileged circumstances. It’s not just the right thing to do, at a time of skills shortages, it’s the smart thing to do and I recommend that employers embrace its recommendations and implement it.”
Neil Hatton, Chief Executive, UK Screen Alliance

“When you strip away all the paraphernalia that we’ve put in place that largely supports white, middle class, comfortable backgrounds, and look at people’s opinions and passions and what they’re like as a person you start to realise there are far more people out there that can do the job than you thought.”
Nancy Lengthorn, Global Chief Inclusion and Culture Officer, Mediacom