Thur, 17 May 2012 | Susan Scott Parker, chief executive, Employers' Forum on Disability
Online recruitment is an increasingly important channel for most employers; it cuts costs and seems attractive because it simplifies the process for human resources, recruitment and line managers. However the processes which many companies use can often exclude potential disabled candidates by creating unintended barriers which in turn puts employers increasingly at legal and reputation risk.
Disability is estimated by the UN to affect 15% of every country’s population. A barrier free, accessible, online recruitment system costs little to implement and will enable any business to access a much wider talent pool, while reducing legal and reputational risk.
Barriers are often created at different stages of the online process. Here are some examples and tips to help you ensure your online recruitment service is barrier free to everyone.
Remember that processes which enable you to recruit people with disabilities will work better for everyone, for example processes which enable people with dyslexia to apply will often make it easier for candidates for whom English is a second language.
1 - Unwelcoming messages
Communicate your commitment to employing disabled people, make it clear you welcome their applications and are prepared to adapt so that they can demonstrate their potential.
Employers’ Forum on Disability created the Recruitment Protocol in 2011 so organisations can make sure that the Recruitment agencies they use are 'disability smart'. If a recruitment agency has signed up to the protocol then they are able to display the logo on their website. This will inform candidate of their accessible recruitment process.
Graduates are one of the groups most likely to seek jobs online and the internet is now the dominant means of communicating with students. 95% of students go online at least 2 to 3 times a week – 8 times out of 10 to learn more about possible employers.
Recent research on disabled graduates by My Plus Consultingrevealed that 57% or respondents said that they were either more likely or much more likely to apply to employers which explicitly talk about disability or have disabled staff profiles.
2 - Forms
Application forms which refuse to allow the candidate to use simple adjustments, such as spell check disadvantage talented people with dyslexia and communicate that the company is not disability competent. A blind graduate recently went on the internet telling the story of a major company that flatly refused to send her a job application in Word. She can’t access their PDF form; but she can access social media.
Many organisations have application forms in different formats to try and get around the accessibility factor. Another recent popular direction to go in, is to run recruitment through Linkedin and have candidates send a cover letter via their online mail system.
3 - Inaccessible websites
Recent EU research found 75% of FTSE 100 websites to be inaccessible. In effect they deny good candidates the chance to even apply. Small additions such as alternative text for images, good colour contrast and screen reader compatibility can give disabled candidates full access to your website’s contents/functionality.
Whether developing internet or intranet websites, an organisation's designers and developers should be aware of recognised industry standards for web accessibility. Information such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.0 should be applied.
Also, if the organisation is outsourcing the development of websites and related applications like content management systems, then it is recommend that they use the guidance document Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 78 to help procure an accessible website.
4 - Discriminatory evaluations
Online testing and automated CV scanners are becoming an increasingly popular way to screen applicants prior to face-to-face interviews All too often these tests prevent good candidates from getting through this process. Other processes that cause discriminatory evaluation are:
- Timed online tests: Online tests can be structured in such a way that the candidate is timed to complete a task, however a disabled candidate may need more time due to their disability- not accounting for this creates a barrier for that candidate and is in fact unlawful in the UK.
- Inflexibility around extenuating circumstances: Some candidates will have extenuating circumstances with explain gaps in their career history: these candidates will simply be ‘knocked out’ if the online process refuses to allow them to explain.
Once recruitment agencies and organisations move forwards to create accessible websites, it is hoped that all areas of their online recruitment will be addressed.
One way to circumvent some of the issues would be to allow for telephone, textphone and Skype interviews.
5 - Poor communication at every stage
Potential applicants continue to be disadvantaged because employers use inaccessible HTML e-mail; refuse to provide alternatives to telephones for deaf or speech-impaired candidates; use standardised automatic ‘messages’ which prevent the applicant from requesting the adjustments which would enable them to compete successfully, and so on.
The Employers’ Forum on Disability’s Business Taskforce on Accessible Technology (BTAT) launched an Accessible Technology Charter that many of our leading members have committed to, ensuring their IT/online systems enable them to access the talent and the spending power of the one billion people worldwide, who have a disability. BTAT members will be asking every supplier of e-recruitment software to ensure that their processes and systems work to a high standard of accessibility and usability for every candidate.