Blackpool Zoo

Blog: Inclusive Interviews - "I like beer. Do you?"

Posted: 12th December, 2023

Rebecca Reynolds, Head of Education, Conservation, and Research at Blackpool Zoo, writes about how they've made their interviewing experience more inclusive:  

“I like beer. Do you?”

Not the most conventional of interview questions but this was the question Kyle wanted to ask. Kyle is a member of Ali’s Gang. Led by the amazing Alison, they describe themselves as a group of young people with learning difficulties who need constant support. Ali’s Gang volunteers at Blackpool Zoo assisting with many tasks from tidying the grounds to helping with visitor experiences. They are valued members of our team and when we decided to evaluate and adjust our interviews to be more inclusive it seemed appropriate that Ali’s Gang should be involved. 

Our intention was for the interview candidates to feel welcome irrespective of their disability or whether they had a disability at all. We wanted candidates to feel part of a culture that values diversity and inclusion. We also recognised the importance of recruiting team members that demonstrate acceptance, respect and empathy for visitors and colleagues regardless of their characteristics and have the ability and willingness to be able to communicate with different people in a way they understand. 

The interviews were structured but lacked the formality and predictability of the standard recruitment process. ‘Getting to know us tours’ allowed a more relaxed, open environment to learn more about the candidates and for the individuals to learn more about us.  An inclusive language guide, promoting acceptance and excluding stereotypes, allowed the interview team to feel confident using language that promotes an inclusive environment and allowed the candidates to feel psychologically safe. We swapped questions that could be too abstract for some applicants such as "Where do you see yourself in 5 years" to "Can you tell me two things you would like to achieve in this role." In a move away from too much narrative and to include visual learners we used tasks focused on objects and relics enhancing tactile hand-eye-mind connections. However, the real success of our inclusive selection process was the addition of Ali’s Gang. A ‘Welcome’ using Makaton and gentle questions ranging from favourite songs and food to ‘’I like beer. Do you?’’ encouraged the candidates to relax, be themselves and feel comfortable in a place of work welcoming and valuing diversity.

Alongside offering kind but honest feedback to every candidate we also asked for feedback on our selection process. It was a success. All candidates enjoyed the process, some of the candidates commented that they had previously had a fear of communicating with someone who appeared “different”; something we recognise as being very real for someone who has had little or no interaction with neurodiverse people or individuals who have disabilities. This experience changed their understanding, perception and hesitance giving them confidence to have a conversation with someone regardless of their characteristics.  

We have now made the move away from traditional interviews and will continue to offer an inclusive style interview to anyone who wishes to apply for a role in Blackpool Zoo Education. We recognise inclusion is a learning process so we will continue to progress our ethos to be a ‘Zoo for All’ in every way we can. 

- Rebecca Reynolds (she/her), Head of Education, Conservation, and Research at Blackpool Zoo

All blogs reflect the views of their author and are not necessarily a reflection of BIAZA's positions. 

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