Welcoming Candidates with Disabilities with Thoughtful Intention #thecandidate

Talent management is a participative art, not a passive one. It requires the finest we have to offer, and is not for the faint of heart. Increasing retirements and decreasing high school and college graduation rates are real concerns that are impacting the discipline. New pools of talent who are both technologically savvy (from necessity) and college educated (from civil rights laws and true grit) must be found. That source is degreed and experienced professionals with disabilities, including our STEM grads and our Wounded Warriors.

Welcoming Candidates with Disabilities with Thoughtful Intention #thecandidate


Disability is both a global emerging market and a universal condition: the one group anyone can join at any time due to birth, accident, injury, or diagnosis of illness. One can be a misunderstood minority member within their own family or culture. Over 1.3 billion individuals in the world have a disability.  That is a market the size of China, about 20% of the global population.  When you consider their stakeholders, another 40% of the global population (family, friends, associates, and colleagues), this adds nearly 2.5 billion individuals who together control an annual income of about $8 trillion.  This 60% of the global population is reached with interest by only 25% of S&P 500 companies. As of 2013, only 6% of them support that interest with truly measurable data.

From US Department of Labor, Office of Disability Policy data, for September 2013, the Labor Force Participation rate of people with disabilities is 20.9%, and the Labor Force Participation rate of people without disabilities is 68.8%. From the September 2012 Rutgers University Study “Disability and Work Research Report”, by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, the employment rate for college graduates without disabilities is 90% and for college graduates with disabilities, the employment rate is 50% (for Bachelors, Masters, even Ph.D, J.D., or M.D. levels).

Clients with disabilities are present. For ages 15-25, 10.5% have a visible or non-visible disability. For ages 25-44, 11% have one. For ages 45-54 (prime earning life), 19% have one, and it climbs to 28% for ages 55-64, and 39% for ages 65-69, most with sensory or mobility concerns that come with maturity. When reaching out to candidates with disabilities, is your company all about compliance checklists and CYA processes or about innovation, profitability, and increased shareholder value?  Including disability in business initiatives will impact your messaging/branding, your social media use, the way clients are wooed and pursued, the business case for new products and service offerings, such as customized work spaces. Is your company prepared to welcome the professional with a disability in the candidate experience?

For Visibility, do your corporate career site pages include a photo or video of a successful colleague with a disability on the job?  Can they be navigated with a screen reader, and can more time be requested before the screen times out? Is video and audio captioned?

For Accommodations, does your collateral and social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) offer information describing available ones for hiring when applying for a job?  (Uncommon, helpful examples would be explaining you are located on the bus/rail line, and that interviews will be one hour or one day in length, so time and stamina can be measured by the candidate.) Are inquiries about the need for accommodation responded to within 24-48 hours?

For Outreach, do your recruiters approach the Office of Disability Services and the Office of Veterans Affairs on 2 year and 4 year college campuses nationwide?  Do they reach out to professional, high caliber, disability specific student/graduate organizations such as LIME, COSD, NBDC, the National Organization on Disability, and colleges such as The National Technological Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology?

For Social Responsibility, do you participate in Wounded Warrior and similar national and local community initiatives?

For Sourcing, do your recruiters have training about approaching candidates with different types of disabilities and how to handle hiring managers’ concerns and their training needs to ensure career success?

For disability concerned Employee Resource Groups in the Inclusion and Diversity space, does your company utilize them for attraction, mentoring, leadership, process innovation, and increased understanding about candidate and colleague issues?

When a recruiter or hiring manager looks beyond disability to ability, what does is seen before him or her?  A gold star high potential with an MBA from an Ivy League University, experience as a global portfolio/hedge fund manager at one of the world’s leading financial management companies, one who is recognized world-wide as an SME on disability related to corporate profitability, founder of the leading third party recruiter in disability, with great press in The Economist, Business Week, and The BBC?  A husband, father, colleague, and friend? Or merely a well-dressed man who moves and talks differently due to cerebral palsy, and wrongly assume his intellect is affected also, relegating him to citizen, second  class, or persona non grata, and thus miss out on hiring this exceptional talent ?

Data from The Candidate Experience Survey 2012 by the Talent Board states 75% of companies use phone screens on their desired candidates for consideration.

Will the talented candidate who has communication issues due an auditory difference or a speech difference shine to their best ability in a phone screen? Are your recruiters and hiring managers prepared to use other interviewing methods in their interactions, such as instant messaging, texting, or video?

Are present clients and future colleagues with disabilities included in every area of the candidate experience, from attraction to selection and development? Are they considered high potential based upon their education and experience – as anyone else would be – and honored for significant contributions and achievements – as anyone else would be? Think of the economic potential that could be unlocked by employing and engaging fearlessly with 1 in 5 of the world’s citizens!

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Jennifer Woodside

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