With increasingly intense competition for graduate jobs and placements, the chances of attainment can appear remote. This is particularly true for the 14% of disabled students in the UK.
When you have a disability, it’s easy to think about all the things you cannot do, or that you can no longer do. There is a tendency to compare yourself unfavourably to able -bodied counterparts and to think that employers would prefer not to deal with the ‘hassle’ of making adjustments and to instead reject the disabled candidate from the process. It is therefore no surprise that these individuals take themselves out of the recruitment process altogether and in doing so remove the potential for rejection and disappointment. This creates a sizeable talent vacuum for organisations who are then unable to access the value that disabled individuals can bring to a business in terms of strengths and skills they possess as a result of having/managing their disability.
So, what can employers do to make themselves more accessible to disabled students, assure them that their talents are valued, and encourage them to apply?
With a focus on graduate recruitment, MyPlus Recruiters’ Club provides organisations with in-house consulting sessions and expert forums on how best to open up their recruitment practices to enable more disabled people to apply for and get jobs. Helen Cooke, Founder and Director at MyPlus has this advice:
1) Recognise the strengths of disabled individuals and the contribution to your organisation
To engage with disabled students, you have to genuinely recognise and value the unique strengths and talents that will make a positive difference to your organisation. Only if the whole organisation is committed to attracting, recruiting and supporting disabled individuals will you be able to achieve real, sustainable progress in this area.
2) Understand your target market
In order to successfully engage with disabled students it is important to understand their concerns. MyPlus has carried out research into issues facing disabled students as they search for jobs and some of the main findings are summarised as follows:
Fear of disclosing a disability to an employer and the consequences of doing so such as discrimination, being seen as a hassle
Lower confidence levels
Differences in the CV due to lack of work experience or gaps in their education
To access the research on ‘Openness’ and ‘Understanding How Graduates Search for Jobs’ please click here and to view Helen Cooke discussing the challenges facing disabled students going into employment please click here.
3) Tailor your marketing messages
14% of students have a disability – does your comms strategy reflect this? How do you engage with them and encourage them to apply? How do you promote your culture?
Disabled students will have questions such as your approach to disability, your culture of inclusion and the support you offer. Only by addressing these questions explicitly will they be assured that you are an employer of choice for disabled individuals and will feel comfortable to start engaging with you. MyPlus Students’ Club connects disability confident employers with talented disabled students.
In order to provide support and / or adjustments during the recruitment process, you have to encourage students to be open with you. Rather than asking them about their disability, as them about what they need. Make it easy for them to communicate with you and reassure them of confidentiality.
5) Be confident in your communications
For some, disability is an uncomfortable subject and we aren’t confident to engage with disabled people. If you are going to market yourself as a disability confident employer, who values the talents and skills of disabled individuals, every single stakeholder in your recruitment process must be comfortable and confident to engage, including your third-party suppliers. Face to face training is the best way to build confidence however other training techniques can also be effective.
To access details of our training events please access the MyPlus Recruiters’ Club Event Calendar here.
6) Bring it to life
All employers will say that they are disability confident; so how do you prove it?
The single most effective way to engage with disabled students is to bring it all to life by enabling them to hear from those who are already within your organisation. Employees who share their own experiences of managing their disability in the workplace and talk about the support they benefit from is the most powerful tool you have.
Being a disability confident employer isn’t hard. However, it will require you to be proactive and to put the required resources in place. The key is to be clear about what you want to achieve and why, and to create an action plan of how to get there. The 6 steps outlined above will help set you on your journey.
In 2010, MyPlus launched MyPlus Recruiter’s Club which provides member organisations with in-house consulting sessions and access to expert forums on how best to open up their recruitment to enable more disabled people to apply and be successful. The club supports organisations as they seek to understand and address issues surrounding disability. The MyPlus Students’ Club was created in 2013 to connect progressive graduate employers with the growing pool of disabled talent. The club has become a leader in providing advice and support to students with disabilities on university life and the recruitment process.