Founded in 1992, StepChange Debt Charity is the UK’s leading debt charity. It raises awareness of the issues debt causes in Britain, offering free advice and solutions to clients.

With over 20 years’ experience and helping over 500,000 people a year in the UK, the introduction of debt management plans and the use of cognitive behavioural therapy have set the standards for quality client care.

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Owning and transforming processes in a charity

“All our processes were very time-consuming and paper-based.” explains Carol Barker, Recruitment Coordinator at StepChange Debt Charity, when asked about the organisation’s recruitment processes before Hireserve ATS.

Carol joined the charity with the directive to implement an Applicant Tracking System. At that point, the recruitment team consisted of only two members.

Candidates were asked to post their CVs and covering letters, shared email folders were created for each vacancy, and all data was tracked within spreadsheets.

With an average of 150 candidates applying for each individual call centre role alone, it was vital to put a system in place to automate processes.

Choosing Hireserve ATS

StepChange Debt Charity is a national charity. It helps people struggling with debt by providing free impartial advice, support and solutions. Of the 1800-strong team, the majority work in ‘front-line’ roles, so are on the phone helping clients.

Carol reviewed five different systems as part of the charity’s selection process.

Hireserve ATS offered the greatest level of configurability:

“Working with Hireserve, we knew we would be able to put our own stamp on our hiring processes. Longevity was also important to consider; we have been able to develop our recruitment offering greatly over the last few years and we still have big and exciting plans! We needed a system that could support us and grow with us – and we saw that potential in Hireserve ATS.”
– Carol Barker

Implementing Hireserve ATS – what happened next?

Perhaps the most significant success can be seen in the charity’s interview processes. Previously Carol and her colleague had to phone each candidate in order to arrange interview slots.

“I can pinpoint one particular day where I received and made 137 calls!” Carol remembers.

Using the Hireserve ATS ‘Interview Scheduler’ feature, StepChange Debt Charity has been able to significantly reduce interview administration.

Carol continued:

“We use the ‘Self-select Interview’ tool, which allows candidates to pick their own interview slots through their candidate portal. Encouraging candidates to pick a time that suits them has helped with no-show rates, and has also really decreased our administration, as we no longer have to go back and forth with candidates over email and the phone.”

Carol estimates that using Interview Scheduler has saved the charity 30 minutes/application, translating as approx. £20,000 per annum.

Recruiting candidates the StepChange Debt Charity way

The charity’s recruitment team has grown tri-fold since Carol joined a few years ago and Hireserve ATS was implemented. With such a significant reduction in administration, the team have been able to dedicate more time and resources to enhancing their staff recruitment and retention activities.

Hiring people with a ‘charity mind-set’ is important – people with the dedication and commitment to deliver what the charity’s clients need. Carol and her colleagues now operate a three-stage screening process, which includes a telephone interview with shortlisted candidates. This enables the recruitment team to assess core skills and characteristics before assessment days. Carol’s next focus is to develop bespoke psychometric tests in-house to further enhance the charity’s screening process.

Internal career progression is encouraged at StepChange Debt Charity. Internal vacancies are promoted for two weeks to all staff, using tailored application forms configured in Hireserve ATS. If internal applicants aren’t successful, they are given constructive feedback and put on a PDP (Personal Development Plan) to help them gather the skills they need for the role in question, and be better prepared should an opportunity arise again.


Third sector recruitment: Looking forward

Enhancing the charity’s employer brand is next on Carol’s list to focus on. StepChange Debt Charity is one of the biggest employers in Leeds, yet its brand awareness is limited.  The team are therefore dedicating time to review advertising and job board processes, promote roles at local recruitment fairs and use relevant social media channels to reach and engage with the local talent pool.

Carol explained where the challenge lies:

“When people think of us, they automatically think of our front-line call centre staff.  There are so many opportunities for talented people in all areas of the business, from IT to Relationship Management, and we really need those people! We’re working hard to change perceptions of the organisation, promote the fantastic career progression people can have with us and encourage ambitious and talented candidates to apply for a role with us.”

StepChange Debt Charity is an organisation continually evolving its recruitment offering. Carol and her colleagues are always looking for ways to enhance engagement and attraction, whether through industry networking events, exploring new advertising platforms or talking to the Hireserve team about new ways to get more out of Hireserve ATS.

Carol concluded:

“It’s such an exciting time at the charity. Budget may be limited but we’re making the best of the resources we have by being creative, investing in our people, using technology inventively and simply learning as much as we can to improve processes and results.”


“Working with Hireserve, we knew we would be able to put our own stamp on our hiring processes.”

Where to next?

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