Skilled workers overlooked for jobs

According to the Independent (27/9/17), ‘disabled people have to apply for 60% more jobs than non-disabled people before finding one’.

Although this is stupidly high, the figure is much lower than I would have expected. Unfortunately, my gut reaction would’ve guessed 250%.

The truth is that by the time employers get around to advertising for new staff they are under pressure to hire so ‘new’, ‘different’ or ‘unusual’ are not words employers generally want to read.

I’ve heard many stories of people with disability applying for hundreds of jobs without success. Indeed, the case study in the Independent, Lauren Pitt, applied for 250 jobs over nine months, which led to just four telephone interviews and three face-to-face interviews.

These knockbacks occurred despite her clear drive and intelligence. The 24-year-old achieved nine GCSEs (General Certificate of Secondary Education), three A-levels and a BA Honours degree in applied biology. She was a confident public speaker and had done a lot of volunteering.

It was fair to say that she didn’t think it would be too difficult to get a job.

So, why was it?

Without knowing Lauren’s specific case, a few general ideas spring to mind:

1.     She seems to have been applying mostly to advertised positions. This is always an uphill struggle for people with disability, because employers that only recruit in the traditional manner aren’t thinking outside the square for staff.

2.     She may have referred to her ‘impairment’ with uncertainty or as an imposition. Many people with disability write this into their resumes or applications as a simple ‘note’ or even sometimes a ‘red flag’, not highlighting, ‘These are my skills because of my experience with disability’.

3.     It seems as though she didn’t have the support of a disability employment service (DES).

Generally, we know that people with disability are starting the race to employment well behind able-bodied people. But that’s where the ‘handicap’ should finish.

Disability employment services exist to level the playing field. A good DES would have presented Lauren’s disability in a way that indicated her strengths, such as ‘The first thing you’ll see about me is Barko, my assistance dog, but after just a few minutes’ chatting you’ll realise I offer much more than the average applicant.’

In application and at interview, honesty is always the best policy. But people with disability gain more interviews by stating those attributes borne through disability rather than hoping the employer won’t notice.

- Martin Wren