Removing Disabling Barriers

This is the third in a series of short blogs sharing an overview of content explored on the Empowered Employers learning programme.

As part of the Empowered Employers campaign, we have been delivering a learning program for a range of employers across Gloucestershire. The learning program is unique in that it has been codesigned by Jane Hatton (CEO of Evenbreak), Experts by Lived Experience, and commercial employers from across the county.

In the third of our miniseries, Jane Hatton looks at how we remove disabling barriers during recruitment.


How do we remove disabling barriers from our recruitment process?

We could have the most inclusive and disability-friendly organisation on the planet, but if barriers in our recruitment process exclude them, then it will be difficult to change the demographic of our workforce. And the traditional recruitment process, used for generations, which relies on CVs and interviews, just doesn’t work for most disabled candidates (or, for that matter, most non-disabled candidates).

Here are some common barriers in recruitment processes, and how to avoid them:

Unrealistic requirements – many job descriptions have a long laundry list of requirements for every role, including great at teamwork and also at working on own, great at creative thinking and also attention to detail, great interpersonal skills. And so on. Most jobs don’t need all of these. Just focus on the three to five ‘must haves’ for each individual role. Those are the qualities you will be benchmarking the candidates against.

Rigid working practices – despite the learnings from successive lock-downs, many organisations are going back to insisting that every role be carried out on site, full time, Monday – Friday. This won’t suit everyone, and now that flexible working practices (hybrid, remote, part-time, flexible hours etc) are more common, those who insist on rigid working practices will lose out on talent, including disabled talent. Instead of flexible working being offered as a rare exception, consider it as standard for every role, unless there is a good reason not to. Even those jobs which have to be carried out on site can still be done part-time, or job-shared.

Lack of reputation (or bad reputation) for inclusion – disabled candidates are used to being routinely discriminated against, so tend to only apply for jobs with organisations they know to be genuinely inclusive. So, share success stories of disabled employees who are thriving, sign up to the Disability Confident Scheme, shout about any awards or accreditations you have. Make it explicit that you welcome disabled candidates in your adverts and on your career site.

Advertising in the same places – if you advertise in the same places you always have, you will attract the same kinds of candidates you always have. Advertising your vacancies on specialist disability job boards like Evenbreak, or disability journals like PosAbility, is a powerful demonstration of your commitment to disability inclusion.

Not being explicit about inclusion – if you don’t explicitly mention inclusion, candidates will assume this is not important to you. Stating why you want to attract diverse candidates, and what support you offer is crucial.

Not offering adjustments – some disabled candidates may need adjustments for the recruitment process (different formats, extra time, sign language interpreter, etc). Be clear that these are on offer and how to request them. For example, “We want all of our candidates to shine in our recruitment process. If there is anything we can do to ensure the process works for you, please contact [name] on [telephone number] or [email address] for an informal chat”. This needs to be repeated at every stage in the process.

Relying on CVs for shortlisting – people who may have faced barriers and discrimination throughout their education and employment history are less likely to have impressive CVs; not because of lack of ability, but because of lack of opportunity. CVs really only reflect past privilege, not future potential. Instead, or as well, ask questions about the three to five ‘must haves’ that you identified when creating the job description (above).

Relying on interviews to assess ability – some people are brilliant at selling themselves at interview. Others, for example, people with autism, social anxiety, hearing loss or speech impediments, may well not come across well at interview. This doesn’t mean they aren’t the right person for the role. Consider candidates showing you how they perform (by carrying out tasks relevant to the role), rather than telling you. For example, the best candidate at programming may not be the best candidate at talking about how good they are at programming.

Onboarding – once you have taken on the best candidate, make sure their onboarding process is as inclusive and accessible as possible, and that a conversation abut any workplace adjustments they might need is discussed in plenty of time to make sure they are in place by the time the candidate starts.

Jane Hatton

Photo of Jane Hatton, CEO of Evenbreak