Financial and professional services toolkit

For employers

Financial and professional services


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.

Use inclusive language and test with students in your outreach programmes to ensure job descriptions have wide appeal (e.g. “We’re looking for potential rather than experience”).

Remove unnecessary qualifications, which can create barriers for applicants. Advertise for skills and provide examples where appropriate.1

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

Ensure interview assessors are from a diverse pool.

Review the diversity of the educational establishments you target, ensuring they have a diverse intake, and make sure you are working with traditional and non-traditional institutions such as non-fee paying schools, FE colleges and non‑Russell Group universities.

Design engagement activities that connect directly with a school, college or university’s curriculum so that opt-in does not depend wholly on students’ existing interests.

Target sponsorship at student societies and/or community groups which represent minority groups that are under-represented in your organisation.

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 skills other applicants have exhibited).

Ensure that when hiring from lower socio-economic backgrounds, should an applicant be unsuccessful, detailed feedback is given on specific areas of improvement.

Offer additional guidance to applicants such as dress codes for interviews.

Train hiring managers to disregard loud environments, poor WiFi connectivity or other features during virtual interviews.

1 For more help and ideas, visit the Financial Services Skills Commission


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

Use simple language when defining your desired competences and report the characteristics of those who progress in the organisation.

Undertake market research internally and externally to understand how applicants from different demographics respond to marketing materials, to inform future development.

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

Create inclusive online environments that give applicants detail on application processes and hiring approaches to support diversity and inclusion.

Provide interactive access to your diverse role models for individuals from diverse backgrounds.

If you use an assessment tool, offer a practice test with feedback so applicants have the opportunity to practise for free.

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


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

Target social mobility coldspots near you and investigate options for improving your levels of attraction and recruitment from these areas.1

Reimburse applicants who incur travel costs (e.g. to attend an assessment centre or to go to headquarters).

If a role requires relocation, ensure there is a budget available to support this.

Ensure IT systems enable any applicable job in the organisation is deliverable remotely; and subsequently aim to reduce required travel to headquarters.

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. Firms should not assume that everyone will have a laptop that they can use from home.

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

Ensure informal check-ins are encouraged for virtual workers to avoid isolation (e.g. virtual ‘coffee roulettes’).

1 For more on social mobility coldspots, view the Social Mobility Commission’s report: State of the Nation, 2017


Assess social mobility coldspots as locations for new roles if your business is expanding – identify opportunities for supporting local economic renewal by providing new employment, as well as attracting new talent to your organisation.

Where appropriate, place ‘headcount’ limits on hiring in London and other expensive urban centres.

Set targets for offering and take up of training opportunities in regional hubs.

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

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


Compare applicant data with external benchmarks to assess how well they reflect the eligible talent pool.

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

If applicable, offer quality apprenticeships with:

  • entry at Traineeships or Level 2 and a clear sequence of apprenticeships above that, enabling an individual to go from Level 2 (GCSE equivalent) up to Level 6 (degree equivalent)
  • progression routes through the organisation or wider industry once completed
  • pastoral support from line managers (with training) and buddying arrangements
  • additional support to complete English and maths requirements at Level 3, if needed
  • higher pay than the Apprenticeship minimum wage (Legal sector please see Appendix A)


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 best
  • the competences required for each
  • the prospects of progression

Ensure higher level apprenticeships and other apprenticeships offered to existing employees are targeted at less advantaged individuals, as those from lower socio-economic backgrounds are routinely overlooked for training in this sector.


Ensure candidate assessment processes are transparent, with easy access to details.

Apply selection processes consistently to all candidates (e.g. avoid preferential treatment for those who apply earlier or decisions made by discretion).

Clarify to all assessors that applicants from lower socio‑economic backgrounds may not have access to some premium experiences (e.g. extra-curricular activities, internships and studying abroad).

Support recruiting managers by providing interview training that includes the importance of diversity and individuals’ differences. Recruiters need to practise a consistent open‑minded look for potential and not judge on first impressions.

Conduct an annual evaluation of your selection processes’ impacts on disadvantaged applicants, and redesign as needed.

Where panel interviews take place, ensure the panel has diverse representation, and that final decisions are made with transparency, against guidelines with a consciously objective approach to assessing the evidence.


Ensure that assessment centres include a range of activities and exercises that are independent of each other and led by different assessors.

Balance competency‑based approaches with strengths‑based assessment and situational judgement testing, as they have fewer negative effects on under‑represented groups and are linked to job performance.

Monitor data during the application process to identify where diversity is low and take immediate action to increase diversity in the pipeline.


Implement a robust induction process for lateral hires that demonstrates how talent is identified, valued and rewarded, and how they can bring diversity of thought into the organisation.

Avoid recruiting from the ‘magic’ or ‘silver’ circle or prioritising those who have trained at top firms.

Brief recruitment agencies on your organisation’s commitment to advancing socio-economic diversity among hires, mentioning your desire for potential over polish.

Ensure there is time in the recruitment processes to give sufficient attention to advancing diversity.

Provide training and support for managers (see ‘Evaluation’ section).

Monitor or remove the use of referral bonuses to avoid encouraging employees to recruit in their own image.

Encourage applicants to anonymously self-report their socio-economic background alongside other diversity measures, explaining why it’s important they do even if they use the ‘prefer not to say’ option.

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


Engage with your recruitment agencies to share data on the diversity of their candidate base.

Require recruitment agencies to deliver diversity shortlists with respect to socio‑economic background.

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

Where managers have autonomy, set managers socio-economic diversity targets in lateral hiring.

Adopt a GDPR-compliant applicant tracking process to analyse data of individuals’ success throughout the interview process.

Use contextualised recruitment practices and analyse data as mentioned for other hiring practices to understand lateral hires’ impact on diversity.

Legal and accountancy firms please also refer to Appendix A for additional data recommendations that may be required by regulators.

“We know that a sustained focus on social mobility and inclusion will improve not just our business but the experiences and engagement of our people; my own experience has made me acutely aware of how important a consistent and joined up approach is, both to attract people from different backgrounds and to make them confident they can flourish at work. The Toolkit is designed to achieve both of those aims.”
Nicole Williams, Counsel and Chair of the Ashurst Social Mobility Network, Ashurst