Inclusive Recruiting

October is Disability Awareness Month, and it’s a good time for a refresher on inclusive recruiting and hiring practices. In a labor market that’s becoming more and more challenging, recruiters can’t afford to overlook any part of the talent pool. But the large number of candidates with disabilities has historically been underemployed, even in a booming economy.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that in 2020, just 17.9 percent of persons with a disability were employed, down from 19.3 percent in 2019. For comparison, more than 60 percent (61.8) of people without a reported disability were employed, down from 66.3 percent in the prior year. Both groups were affected by the economic impact of the pandemic.  

But there’s also good news. The rise of remote work during the pandemic provides an opportunity for workers whose barrier to employment was mobility or transportation; it’s now routine to conduct interviews and meetings via videoconference and work with a team that may rarely convene in person.

Here are some tips to help you make your recruiting and hiring practices more inclusive.

First, ensure that your job descriptions include only certifications, experience, qualities, and skills that are absolutely necessary for success. Studies have shown that men apply for jobs when they feel they have 60 percent of the qualifications, but women tend to apply only if they have 100 percent. When a candidate’s career has been impacted by a disability, they are even less likely to apply for jobs unless they’re sure they’ll be a perfect fit.

When you’re writing a job posting, avoid words that have coded meanings for many candidates. Not only are terms like “rock star,” “competitive,” and “dominant” gender-charged, but they may also make candidates with physical disabilities shy away from what they perceive as a company culture that won’t be open to accommodations.

One way to make job postings more inclusive is to emphasize that you’re looking for candidates with skills and the ability to learn. Using a phrase like “a learner who’s ready to take on challenges” helps someone with a disability see themselves in the role. They know plenty about taking on challenges and overcoming them.

Be sure to mention that your workplace is diverse and inclusive, and add information about inclusive benefits you offer, such as flexible work schedules and remote work opportunities. Knowing that you already offer these benefits to your workforce means that the person with a disability won’t have to ask for exceptional treatment to join your team.

Include information on your career web page that describes your interview process. Knowing in advance that candidates will do a video interview, take a skills assessment, or meet with several members of an interviewing panel will allow them to ask for or make arrangement for accommodations in advance. It also helps candidates (even those who don’t have a disability) feel prepared and confident coming into the interview. Candidates who are more relaxed can do a better job of showing you how qualified they are for your job.

While you’re at it, check to make sure your website, application forms, employment offices and interviewing locations are accessible and offer alternatives for people with different abilities.

Finally, help your interviewers stay focused on skills and potential rather than personality. Candidates with neurological differences such as autism will not always connect with interviewers in the ways they traditionally expect. It’s important that they understand how to comply with ADA guidelines, but it’s also important that they know how to spot and work past their own unconscious biases.

The Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) is a free resource that helps employers tap the benefits of disability diversity by educating organizations on ways to build inclusive workplace cultures. EARN offers information and resources to empower individuals and organizations to become leaders in the employment and advancement of people with disabilities. Find more information on inclusive hiring here.


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