Youth Interview Panel – Director of Transformation and Improvement


In March 2023 Buckinghamshire Council was on the look-out for a new Children’s Services Director of Transformation and Improvement. This role is about transforming the way social workers and other professionals work to improve things for children and young people across the county.

Managers in the Council recognised that young people could help them choose the best person for the role. The hiring manager for this role was John Macilwraith, Corporate Director of Children’s Services for Buckinghamshire Council.

The hiring manager asked the young people on the youth interview panel to assess the following:
• if the candidates’ ambitions for the role align with young people’s priorities
• how the candidates might deal with a situation that would impact young people
• how the new director would seek to listen to young people’s voices within the role and whether the young interviewers feel that would be effective

The Participation Team thought this opportunity would be a great match for members of We Do Care. We Do Care is a forum of young people with care experience that share their voices to improve services. Three young people who are members of We Do Care chose to take part in this opportunity.

Preparing for the interview panel

The week before the interview panel, the three young people met with Carol and Krissie in the Participation Team to come up with the questions for the interview. The session was held in hybrid format so that one of the young people could join online. Armed with the job description, the bullet points above, and their own experiences of services from the Council, the young people brainstormed what they would most like to find out from the people that had applied for the role – the candidates. They were also given top tips on conducting an interview well, from body-language to sculpting the most effective questions.

The young people came up with the following 6 questions to ask:

  1. What made you interested in applying for this position?
  2. Tell me about any personal experience that will benefit you in this role.
  3. How will children and young people benefit from your support and knowledge?
  4. If there is one thing you could change for children and young people in care, what would it be? And why?
  5. What are you hoping and expecting to achieve in this role?
  6. How would you ensure the voices of children and young people in different age groups, and with different abilities, are listened to, acted on, and responded to, from frontline workers to senior managers?

They chose these questions to get to know the candidates, to enable the candidates to showcase their skills and attributes, and to ensure the successful candidate would champion inclusion and the voices of children and young people.

At the end of the session, they decided who would ask each question, and which of them would take on the role of chair for the interview panel. The chair acts as a leader for the interview panel, welcoming the candidate to the interview, and feeding back to the hiring manager after the interviews take place.

The Interview Panels

The interview panels were held in hybrid format, with the young people and Carol and Krissie based in a room and the candidates appearing on a big screen via MS Teams. Carol and Krissie sat behind the young interviewers and were not part of the interview panel, but were there to support the young interviewers if needed.

The interviews went smoothly and afterwards the young people discussed the candidates’ answers to their questions and gave them a score for each question. Carol and Krissie took notes and helped the young people think through their comments to generate a score for each candidate and a summary of their interview performance.

Feeding back

The next day, the young person who was chair of the youth interview panel met with the hiring manager, John, and colleagues, in person. The chair fed back the youth interview panel’s findings to the hiring manager, by reading out the summary that the young people had written together the day before. The chair was asked some questions which they responded to with support from Carol.

The hiring manager and colleagues thanked the chair for their support with the recruitment process.

How did we listen, act and respond?


The hiring manager listened by ensuring young people fed into the recruitment process for this important role. The Participation Team helped to make this happen by facilitating a youth interview panel.

The young people were provided with the information, training, and resources that they needed to take part in this opportunity effectively, as well as the freedom to decide the questions and lead the interviews themselves.

The young people were supported by the Participation Team to process and articulate their opinions on the candidates and the responses that the candidates gave, so that their voices could be effectively heard by the hiring manager.


The chair of the youth interview panel was invited to present the young people’s findings to the hiring manager the day after the interview panel.

The feedback given by the chair to the hiring manager was used to help decide which of the candidates were offered the role. Their feedback was treated with as much respect and importance as the feedback from other interview panels that fed into the recruitment process.


The young people were kept up to date with the progress of the recruitment process via WhatsApp messages with Carol.

The hiring manager wrote a thank you message to the young people, which Carol passed on.

On the day of the interviews, the young people were also provided with a café lunch and a £25 voucher to thank them for their time, effort, and valuable contribution.

Thank you from the hiring manager

The hiring manager sent a message to the young people that took part in the youth interview panels via Carol. (The message has been anonymised for this case study.) The message says:


Dear [young interviewers],

Thank you for your involvement in last weeks’ interview for the post of Children’s Services Service Director, Transformation and Improvement.  Following feedback from all the panels, and the final presentation and interview, I am delighted to be able to inform you that Errol Albert was offered the role and accepted. We are hoping that Errol will begin his new job on 1 June 2023.

Please can I thank you again for your contribution to the selection process.

Best wishes,


John Macilwraith
Corporate Director Children’s Services

A screenshot of an email from the hiring manager. The text in the message is included in the page.

John Macilwraith, Corporate Director of Children’s Services, and hiring manager for the role, said this about the experience:

“Youth interview panels are an enjoyable and effective way of getting young people’s input into an important decision: who we hire. I was really impressed by the young people that took part on this occasion. They gave useful insights to me as the hiring manager, for which I am very grateful.”

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If you are interested in taking part in an opportunity like this one, please contact the Participation Team.

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