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Attracting Disabled Applicants

By JANE HATTON Published 28th May 2013
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Many companies are now enlightened enough to recognise the value of the largely untapped talent pool that is full of disabled applicants. They recognise all of the business benefits of employing disabled people. But what next? How do we attract and retain disabled people? This is a complex issue, of course, but here are a few tips to think about:

Recruitment process

How accessible is your recruitment process? Is your application form available in a number of different formats? Is the job board you use accessible to people with visual impairments, or who can't use a mouse? Is the building where you hold interviews accessible? Do the people who are short listing and interviewing have a good understanding of disability issues?

Attracting disabled applicants

Even if you have the most accessible recruitment process ever known, disabled candidates will only apply if they know that. They will have vast experience of being rejected by recruiters as soon as their disability is mentioned. They need confidence that your company is different. Advertising on a specialist disability job board will demonstrate your genuine commitment to attracting disabled applicants. Not all specialist job boards are the same – some are identical to other job boards but just tack the word “diversity” on to make them look like specialist providers – however, are all of the employers on that site genuinely seeking to employ disabled people? If not, we are setting those candidates up to fail. Of course I am going to recommend Evenbreak, my own not-for-profit specialist job board, as we only work with inclusive employers who are trying to make a difference, but there are other good ones out there too.

Using internal resources

Do you have disabled people within your organisation that you could develop into new roles? Traditionally, disabled employees tend to end up in lower paid, lower status jobs (I’m not sure why – 10% of our candidates have degrees and many more have senior management experience or technical skills) and these existing employees are often overlooked when it comes to promotion. We can be quick to assume that disabled people aren’t capable of certain roles, without checking out that assumption and looking for potential.

Having role models

Related to the point above, if most of your disabled employees are in “entry level” positions, then if they, or external potential applicants look in your organisation at other roles – IT, admin, buyers, marketing, HR etc and see no visibly or open disabled people there, they may assume (probably wrongly) that you don’t want disabled people at that level. Whilst you are developing your existing disabled staff (see above) you could also be taking positive action to attract disabled people to more senior positions. This can include stating in adverts that you would particularly welcome disabled applicants, or thinking about where you advertise those positions, or making it clear to Jobcentre Plus that you would like to encourage disabled applicants, or using specialist job boards as stated above.

Using a range of strategies

Some companies will find one strategy around employing disabled people and think they’ve “ticked that box”, but to succeed in genuinely engaging disabled people in your organisation at all levels you need a range of strategies. For example, having a partnership relationship with companies such as Remploy is a great way to recruit disabled employees with the added bonus of support after appointment. But you can also build on that by looking at some of the other methods described above. Organisations such as Remploy (and Shaw Trust and many others) do a fantastic job with disabled candidates who require help to become employable and then support to settle in to a new job – a vital service indeed. But these, in general, tend to be concentrated around the entry level positions. There are also many disabled people out there who may have degrees and experience in senior positions who don’t require help with writing CVs and just need employers to look past their disability to see the skills and talents behind. They may (although often not) require reasonable adjustments – almost certain to be provided by Access to Work – but may have a lifetime of experience in the workplace, and attracting these applicants means you have a more balanced workforce, without all disabled employees being concentrated at the lower status end.

Don’t forget other groups

Disabled people aren’t the only “group” to be disadvantaged when it comes to finding jobs. The same applies to other groups, such as people who are Black or from ethnic minorities, or gay, or older. For some jobs it’s hard to attract men or women (e.g. men into nursing or primary school teaching, and women into engineering and science-based jobs). And as human beings are diverse creatures, many will have a number of different characteristics.

If you are a recruitment agency, it may be that your clients are asking you to produce a diverse candidate base - there are many ways to achieve this. If you would like to discuss them, please contact me (details on profile)

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