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Values-based recruitment

This is the case for integrating values into the recruitment process in care. We worked closely with one provider to test out values exercises and develop a pre-interview questionnaire. We discuss why a values-based approach to recruitment may be more helpful than hiring based on experience and skill.


Throughout the course of the Fit for the Future project, we noticed the very specific language that providers used to describe their struggles with recruitment and retention. Managers didn’t talk about the challenge in finding ‘staff’, but in finding ‘good staff,’ ‘the right staff’ and ‘good quality staff.’ When we probed, almost all of the providers we worked with closely made the distinction: ‘good staff’ have good values.

What many providers have noticed (anecdotally) is that good staff don’t always have a background in care or training in the field. Staff across all Fit for the Future projects came from very diverse backgrounds including:

  • Banking
  • Building and construction
  • Hospitality
  • Administration

Despite the recognition that good staff come from a variety of places, many recruitment systems use a competency based approach built around finding staff with experience in care and support and these may not always include the attributes and values necessary to carry out the role.

The interview process of the provider with whom we worked was largely focused around competencies, despite the management acknowledging that whilst experience doesn’t necessarily make a good candidate the right values base will shine through; ‘you can just tell’.

So how can the recruitment process be redesigned to focus on applicants’ values rather than their past experience?

Values-based recruitment

Values-based recruitment is an approach to the recruitment and selection process that focuses on the values of applicants. It can be a systematic approach which begins in the first recruitment advert and continues through interview, selection, training and staff management.

What are values?

Values are a set of guiding principles which influence our judgement, behaviour and the decisions we make. An important distinction that this provider learned is that the values people ascribe to themselves are often very different from the values they practise. Simply put: anyone can talk the talk, but a person’s true values are expressed through their actions.

All organisations will have values that are intrinsic to their function, but often these will not have been made explicit.

What can values contribute to an organisation?

A shared values base provides commonality, direction and ownership, helping staff members to feel part of a team with common goals.

In the context of Self Directed Support, people who access support have choice and control over who delivers their care, and may choose a provider whose values align with their own. Being open about what makes you different as a provider of care can help support people to make an informed choice about why you might be the best option for meeting their outcomes.

What are the challenges in developing values-based recruitment?

  • Being precise with the language of values and understanding what values really mean in practice.
  • Finding time to explore values and address any conflicting or unclear values.
  • Communicating values in an articulate and practical way and linking this to practice.
  • Balancing the importance of values with that of competency in recruitment processes.
  • Bringing values into appraisal and management systems.
  • Engaging people who use support in the recruitment process. Not involving people means the recruitment process doesn’t take into account their values and first-hand experiences of care.

How has values-based recruitment been used in other ways?

  • A values-based approach has been trialled by the NHS
  • A parallel project was run by the National Skills Academy
  • The North East Dementia Alliance worked with people with dementia to implement a programme of values-based recruitment in this project

These projects show that values can be integrated into the process of recruitment from the development of a job description and person specification right through to the selection process.

Other resources you may find useful

In addition to developing your value statements to inform the selection of staff, you may wish to consider some other ways to create and judge the values you wish staff to have:

1.As you will know, staff registered with the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) have to abide by a Code of Practice. This Code contains value statements which might assist you. The Code of Practice is available here.

2.The SSSC ‘A question of Care: A career for YOU?’ is an interactive video challenge for people who think they may wish to work in the care sector. It helps them to see what a career in care is like. At the end of the exercise the person receives a detailed personal profile that tells them if they may have what it takes. If a candidate undertakes this at the selection stage (30 minutes) and prints their profile out – this could give you good information for a conversation about the attitudes and values of the person, which can contribute to you making your judgement. The resource can be found here.

Progressing a values-based approach with this provider

We had hoped to use this project as an opportunity to develop values-based recruitment tools and test them in practice, but unfortunately the provider we partnered with was obliged to withdraw. The organisation had ongoing issues with recruitment and retention of staff that resulted in them being so understaffed that they had to leave the project. This is in itself a demonstration that a new approach to recruitment is needed.

In the process of the project, we developed two values exercises and one pre-interview questionnaire. Unfortunately, these were never tested in practice so we are unaware of their impact. However, we still think it will be useful to share the processes and tools that we developed so that other providers may take the opportunity to take the process one step further.

Sample exercises to elicit values

This is a sample of the exercises that can be used to articulate values in practice, as well as an example of a pre-selection values questionnaire. This questionnaire should be accompanied by an open discussion at interview about the responses. The interview should focus on this discussion rather than questions based on experience.