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How to: Be confident in recruiting disabled workers

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See these top tips from the experts on the rationale behind recruiting disabled workers, the issues and solutions and how to overcome problems.


The Rationale
The ability to attract and appoint the best person for the job has to be the ultimate goal of any recruitment strategy, and with 6.8 million disabled people in the UK representing one in five of the UK working population, the ability to spot talent amongst disabled candidates must be seen as a key ingredient of modern day resourcing success.

It is still the case, however, that, whilst many employers have worked hard to get their policies and procedures right, many still report real difficulties in attracting and recruiting talented disabled people.

Issues and Solutions
Recognise the challenges and build your confidence
Most non-disabled people have a natural anxiety when faced with impairment, and it is important that recruiting managers recognise this as part of their role in ensuring a professional approach to the search and selection of disabled candidates. Good quality disability awareness training, tailored to the organisation’s recruitment procedures, can build confidence, enhance awareness and ensure professionalism in approach.

Good process leads to best practice
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 requires employers to make reasonable adjustments at any stage of the recruitment process, where these are required by a disabled candidate. Having a carefully planned and clearly defined recruitment process makes it much easier to accurately assess ‘what, when and how’ to make reasonable adjustments whilst retaining the process’ integrity and focus on merit based recruiting.

It is important, for example, to ensure that the recruiting timeline is flexible enough to accommodate changes to interview dates if requested by a candidate due to a disability related need. It may also be necessary to adjust psychometric and other pre-employment tests, whilst ensuring that such adjustments do not prevent the test results from being accurately assessed.

Know what you want
Effective job analysis should be used to generate a clear list of essential and desirable criteria for each post, and these can then be used to develop the good quality job descriptions (or role profiles) that are essential in ensuring recruitment processes are compliant with the DDA and follow best practice in the attraction and recruitment of disabled people.

If operating a guaranteed interview scheme (such as the JobCentre Plus’ two-ticks ‘Positive about Disability’ symbol), the essential requirements will represent the minimum criteria for interview selection. Ideally, each criterion should be linked to a competency, in order to ensure that whatever is asked for can be justified.

It is critical that a disabled candidate really be offered the opportunity to demonstrate his or her skills and abilities. It is often the case that, due to their life circumstances, disabled people will have gained their skills and competencies through a wider (and sometimes more ambiguous) range of opportunities and experiences than their non-disabled counterparts.

Recruiting managers need to have the confidence to be able to judge the relevance and strength of a disabled candidate’s abilities without necessarily relying upon conventional indicators such as formal qualifications or length of service. In doing so it is important to:

  • Assess what a candidate knows – not how they learnt it.
  • Focus on what a candidate can do – not how they can do it.
  • Be receptive to all examples of ability, from all aspects of life.
  • Explore carefully any gaps – are they relevant or important? Can you justify screening out as a result of any omissions?

Prepare for now, plan for the future
The design of any recruitment campaign should anticipate some of the adjustments that may be required by disabled candidates. This, for example, should include:

  • Making application forms and other documentation available in alternative formats.
  • Assessing interview venues, and test and assessment centres for accessibility.
  • Ensuring recruiting managers are aware of the relevant issues and confident about interviewing disabled candidates.

Recruiting managers should also be able to distinguish between disability related and non-disability related issues.

As well as anticipating the type of adjustments that might be required by disabled candidates, it is also advisable to produce individualised Reasonable Adjustment Action Plans (RAAPs) for all candidates disclosing a disability who are not screened out during the initial sift. RAAPs should be ‘living’ documents and be developed in stages.

The initial RAAP should identify the reasonable adjustments required for interview, and the recruiting manager can then develop it to cover other parts of the recruitment process as necessary. Finally, if the candidate is successful, the RAAP should be extended to incorporate induction, retention and career development.
The following guidelines are important to the appropriate development and use of RAAPs during recruitment:

  • Information relating to a candidate’s disability, and disability related needs, should only be disclosed to those appointing on a ‘need to know’ basis.
  • RAAPs should be produced in partnership with the candidate.
  • RAAPs should state what is required, who is responsible for implementation, and when the adjustment is expected to be made.

Know your partners
Achieving confidence in recruiting disabled people involves reviewing the whole recruitment process, and it is essential that this include the way your vacancies are advertised, and how your recruitment agencies attract and screen disabled candidates. All suppliers should be tested on their disability awareness and asked to provide detailed evidence demonstrating how they intend to help you to attract disabled candidates.

Ask the expert
Not all disabled people are experts in disability, but each disabled candidate is in the best position to assess their own needs. The more a disabled person knows about the recruitment process the greater their ability to advise and support you in making the necessary reasonable adjustments. Therefore, it is important to:

  • Provide candidates with the opportunity to disclose a disability and request an adjustment at any stage of the recruitment process.
  • Be clear about the timing and format of all activities within the process, and keep to this schedule.
  • If you have a question – Ask and listen to the response.

Five top tips for disability confident recruiting

  • Keep disability related information on candidates separately, and only disclose such details to those selecting and appointing on a need to know basis.
  • Provide candidates with the opportunity to disclose a disability and request an adjustment at any stage of the recruitment process.
  • Review recruitment processes for accessibility and flexibility.
  • Work in partnership with the disabled candidate and, if you have a question, feel comfortable in asking it.
  • Develop and revise individualised Reasonable Adjustment Action Plans that identify need, allocate responsibility and set timescales.

Nick Goss is Managing Director of Goss Consultancy Ltd(GCL). GCL provide employers with training and consultancy in all aspect of disability confidence. See: www.gossconsultancy.com for more details. He is also co-owner of TalentMatch, a specialist recruitment agency supporting employers to attract and recruit talented disabled people. See www.talentmatchrecruiting.co.uk for more details.

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