The Kickstart Scheme

Back in July the Government announced their plan for helping young people aged 16-24 overcome significant unemployment challenges by subsiding employers who want to hire new roles to grow their firms. They’ve called it the Kickstart Scheme and September saw the details announced, letting employers know how they can benefit from the subsidies while giving much needed employment and training to one of the worst affected sections of the UK’s workforce

Many of the technology start-ups and scaleups we partner with are comfortable hiring experienced tech talent, but the nature of the Kickstart scheme means it’s a different audience you’re looking to bring on board, and this might need a different perspective and set of tactics.

Recently ISL’s Director, Alan Furley, has helped some Kickstart consortiums with their plans for finding great talent through the Kickstart scheme. Here we share some of his top tips for start-ups and scaleup tech leaders on how to tailor the hiring process for young people:

When hiring onto the Kickstart scheme, the considerations are the same as for any hiring campaign. What’s different is the way you need to go about it – adjusting to your audience, their likely reduced levels of commercial experience, and the way you can judge their suitability.

You’ll need to be realistic about the role you’ll be hiring those on the Kickstart scheme into, but also confident that it could be a great way to find talent to make a real impact to your business.

The advice I’ll give you is framed around 4 key areas:

  1. Deciding what you need
  2. How to attract the right people
  3. How to assess the best talent
  4. How to maximise their potential

Deciding what you need

Purpose of the role

Firstly, you’ll want to ask yourself “what is the purpose of the role?” To get the answer of this, think about; what the job title will be? Which tasks do you need to be completed and in 6 months’ time? What will this person have achieved / what value will they bring to the company?

Job specification

Consider; what do you actually need to get the job done? It’s important when writing a job spec for the Kickstart Scheme not to reuse an old one but to start it from scratch. When writing your new job spec, think about 3 main things; the soft skills important to your business, the hard skills you need and the values they hold. Above all, be clear, concise and honest about what you need rather than put a list of 10+ skills that sounds great but aren’t really needed to be successful in the role, or likely to be found through those on the Kickstart scheme.

Performance measures

Do you know how you’re going to work out whether they are doing a good job or need additional support in certain areas? Put together a document that measures their performance so you can reference back to this at any point. It should be driven by the purpose of the role and the skills you need – all these things like together!

How will you attract the right people?

Job advert

The main misconception I often come across is that a job advert and a job spec are the same. They are not.

In the job description, you should be talking about the skills, capabilities, day to day tasks and the purpose of the role. Useful but often not enticing

The job advert should be focused on attracting and exciting people. This is the key to getting people applying.

TOP TIP: think about what’s in it for them? What will they achieve by being hired by you and what will they learn? Put that front and centre in the advert.

Routes to market

It’s still unclear which routes we can take with the Kickstart Scheme, but what we do know is that they are most likely to be coming through job centres. You might have the opportunity to add in people you know to this process, although they will need to be claiming Universal Credit to be eligible.

Employer brand

Just because people are being sent to you by the job centre, doesn’t mean that your employer brand doesn’t matter. If you aren’t clear about what you can offer employees, you won’t even get a chance to meet the best people as they will gravitate towards those employers that are clear about the value they can give.

Your candidates will most likely be doing research about your company on social media channels, so make sure that the story you’re telling is consistent here and on your website.

What to show them

You might have a great employer brand for your experienced hires but those on the Kickstart scheme will be looking for different things.

In the past, have you taken on those who are inexperienced? Can you demonstrate times where you’ve supported and helped these people learn, grow, and develop their careers? Do you host training courses or workshops internally?

You may have plans to discuss these with your candidate during the interview process, but, if they aren’t present on your social channels or website, you may not get to the interview stage.

How will you assess them?


Filtering your candidates is going to be a different process to what you’re used to. Previously, you may have filtered your candidates based on their experience, heading straight for a read of their CV, but how do you do this with candidates who have little to no experience?

ISL’s experience of hiring entry level talent

At ISL, we decided to bring on our first trainee recruitment consultants around 5 years ago and faced the same challenges. We wanted people who were eager to learn and progress, irrespective of their past experiences.

We weren’t confident we could assess this via a CV, and conscious that we wanted a system that would work at scale.

We sent out a questionnaire to all applicants and asked them a few questions including: “what is your biggest achievement to date?” and “What are your ambitions for the future?”.

75% of applicants didn’t fill out the questionnaire. This might seem a bad thing, but we were happy to be able to focus on those who were prepared to spend only a few minutes articulating some key points to us, allowing us to judge what really mattered.


You need to think about your interview process before you meet your first candidate. Otherwise you may well have a very pleasant chat and feel they could be a good “fit” without thinking about what is it that you want to assess and how you will best do that.

Agree with your team what you are looking to assess (hint: it should be in the job description!) and what good looks like. Make sure that you have an objective process that allows diverse experience to be recognised.

Think about the best way to assess this – 1 on 1 interviews, assessment centres, situational judgement test? All valid but most useful when you’ve thought about what you’re looking for.

A key thing to remember here – the interview is a two-way process. Those on the Kickstart scheme won’t have had lots of interview experience – how can you put them at ease and make sure you’ve covered what’s important to them not just to you.


No matter the outcome, feedback to everyone who has taken the time to interview with you. This feedback will be crucial to their development and strengthen their chances of getting an offer at their next interview. That way you can contribute to the broader aims of the Kickstart scheme, helping more people with employment opportunities.

With the person you’ve chosen to offer, give them positive reasons why you want them onboard. This will increase your chances of them accepting your offer.

It’s also important to give them a chance to think about it. Just because they don’t say yes straight away doesn’t make them ungrateful or uninterested in your offer. As this is likely to be their first role, they may be nervous, so before they accept why not take them for a coffee to talk through any reservations they may have.

How will you help them to succeed? 


I see so many companies that have a great recruitment process but when it comes to onboarding, it doesn’t hit the same heights and causes a lot of good effort to go to waste. All the great things you’ve promised during the interview process and all the important information the candidate gave you has been left in a cupboard somewhere.  

To avoid this, have a system to make sure you capture all the valuable information you’ve gathered and are able to use this to support your Kickstart hire where they need help.

Maximise their start by mapping out the tasks for their first week so that they can hit the ground running. Going into more detail than you usually would, will give certainty – especially within a partially or fully remote environment this is even more important.   

Performance management 

So often what seems a performance issues is actually one of unclear or misaligned expectations. There’s a difference between not knowing what to do, and not doing it. So make sure everyone is on the same page about what good looks like. That’s you, your team, and your new starter. Reviews and 121’s are the easiest way to make sure they are achieving this. Put these meetings into their diaries for the whole of their 6-month placement, so that you don’t end up forgetting about them.  

Learning and development  

Make sure you’re  clear on how you’re planning on supporting them, as for the Kickstart scheme this will be a crucial part of their success, both for the 6 months with you and their longer term career.

As part of your application to the scheme, you must demonstrate you will support them in 3 ways:  

  • to look for long-term work, including career advice and setting goals
  • with CV and interview preparations
  • with basic skills, such as attendance, timekeeping, and teamwork

Our advice is to think about these key areas:

Long term development 

How are you going to support their career in the long term? This includes giving them advice such as career tips, learning and development, interview preparation and basic skills such as time keeping, attendance and teamwork. You’ll need to create a plan for these, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s a part of the Kickstart Scheme.  


If you’re leading a team or are often busy, making sure you’re not a blocker to your Kickstart hire’s development is essential. Put yourself in their shoes and think about what would have made a difference to your development if you were inexperienced. For me, it would have been having a simple model in place that I could have used as a reflection tool. If I had someone who could have helped me understand what was working well, what wasn’t working so well and what I could have done differently, I think it would have massively accelerated my learning.  


Both in terms of the scheme and from an ethical point of view, you have the duty of care to aid their longer-term career development. From a career development point of view, what legacy can you leave them with? If you were to bump into them 3 years after they had finished the scheme with you, what would you want them to be thanking you for?

Can you use your network to help them find future jobs? Can you use your social media to praise them and recommend them? Could you invite them to meetings to give exposure to your network? If not, could you give a mentorship opportunity to a member of the team who is keen to develop their own skills?  

What next?

Hopefully, this has helped you see that hiring someone on the Kickstart scheme can be a great opportunity, for and them. But it’s not something to jump into without some thought and planning.

And if you want some more specific advice on how to find great tech talent, then we’re happy to help.

ISL is part of a consortium made up from tech leaders of scaleups and start-ups in order to hit the 30-hire requirement. If you’re interested in the Kickstart Scheme and would like to join a consortium made up of other tech professionals, let us know and we can connect you with our network.

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