The Need for Disability Positive Recruiting


The other day, I found out that an event on disability and employment aimed at employers and recruiters, at which I was supposed to provide the keynote address, was cancelled due to lack of employer and recruiter interest. Now I will say right off the top that there could be a multitude of reasons for these low numbers, from other commitments already in people's calendars to a limited budget for advertising. But we cannot ignore the possibility that some of the recruiters or employers, subconsciously in all likelihood, do not see the value in attending a disability recruitment event.

Now it is important to recognize in saying this that there are many recruiters who do recognize that value and will actively seek out candidates with disabilities for their roles. But far too many, in my view, remain hesitant around the concept of disability and what extra steps would be involved in onboarding a potential recruit who is physically, mentally or socially 'different'. And I do not blame them for this. Its only in the last thirty-ish years that disabled job seekers have been out there at all, and recruiting (full disclosure here, going on what I've heard rather than personal experience) is often a game of numbers...focusing on quick wins and tangible results. Disability has yet to gain a foothold for a lot of recruiters and employers.

But here's the good news. We have an opportunity to change that. With diversity becoming a less scary concept, and more employers starting to recognize the assets of disability, recruiters - especially those who remain hesitant around disability - are eventually going to start to take notice of the opportunity that is presented here. And to help them get there, here are a few things those of us with an interest in this stuff can do...

  1. Talk to Recruiters: I know I started off this blog by saying an event was cancelled, but the more we can just talk to recruiters and put ourselves forward as examples, the less problems we'll have with low turnout. Spread the message far and fast and make it sound good.

  2. Provide Fresh Resources: The problem with a lot of the content and training tools that are out there is that its repetitive and seems outdated in some cases - and I say that knowing that creating engaging content is not an easy task. But if we think about what grabs people's attention these days, it's dynamic, fresh and exciting content that uses evolving technology to its advantage. Those of us interested in the disability employment movement need to 'brand' the problem in a way that recruiters want to look at.

  3. Educate, Don't Isolate: The biggest mistake we can make here is admonishing or otherwise isolating recruiters or employers who are hesitant around disability and difference. As I said, I don't blame them for their perceptions and I think that we need to acknowledge some of the challenges they face. Provide them tools and training, but do it in a way that appreciates their expertise as well. The more adversarial, they less likely they are to want to help.

To me, my recently cancelled keynote address is as clear a sign as I've had in ages that we still have a long way to go. Disability positive recruiting is not just about recognizing the assets inherent in disability but equally about supporting those who recruit and hire. They have, in some ways, the best chance to close the employment gap and so we need to whatever we can to empower them to succeed.

Tim Rose