How to ensure inclusivity when recruiting students with disabilities

Dec 6, 2023 | Diversity, Home Featured, How-to

It is becoming more important to ensure processes are inclusive, particularly when recruiting students with disabilities, explains Lise Austen from MyPlus.

Understanding how to proactively engage with disabled candidates and support them as they progress through the recruitment process and into the workplace is a key challenge for employers who value this talent pool.

Progress in the disability employment space has always been slow. However, with the number of students with disabilities increasing, including those who are neurodivergent, have mental ill health and/or long-term health conditions, it is more important than ever to ensure processes are inclusive.

We covered this theme at this year’s ISE EDI Conference. Here are just some of the key areas to consider to ensure inclusivity when it comes to recruiting disabled students.

1. Challenges faced by disabled students
Applying for that first job after school or university is stressful for any student but even more so for students with a disability.

They will have further considerations as a result of their disability or health condition such as worry about disclosing their disability, requesting support and positioning mitigating circumstances.

2. The importance of providing support and adjustments
16% of university students disclosed last year they have a disability, a number which increases every year. However, this is likely to be still higher with some students choosing not to disclose and with many disabilities not being visible.

Providing an adjustment to a disabled candidate allows employers to assess them on an equal basis to their peers. It should neither advantage nor disadvantage the candidate, but should instead level the playing field, enabling them to demonstrate their full potential. Providing adjustments is about providing equity in your recruitment process.

3. How to encourage students to disclose a disability
Many of these students will feel disadvantaged by sharing their disability with potential employers. It is therefore vital that employers ensure disabled candidates feel comfortable sharing this information so that, in turn, they can receive the appropriate support to enable them to reach their full potential.

Making it easy for candidates to disclose a disability and reassuring them of your commitment to diversity and inclusion will encourage students to be open.

Some of the things to consider include:
• Make candidates aware at all stages of your recruitment process that adjustments can be requested and provide one named contact who remains the same.
• Advise how information provided will be used and provide reassurance of confidentiality.
• Educate on the benefits of being open and the disadvantages of not.
• Include company EDI information and share role models on your website.

4. Ensuring your recruitment process is inclusive
Objectively review your recruitment process through a disability lens to ensure there are no unintended barriers that are preventing students with disabilities from demonstrating their potential.

Establish guidelines for screening and processing all candidates including those who have stated mitigating circumstances and have a straightforward process for providing support.

Disabled candidates should participate in the same process as those without a disability, with support provided as agreed.

Once support is in place disabled candidates should be assessed consistently with their peers, so they have the same opportunity. Involving their line manager in discussions about support is crucial.

5. Providing support to ensure a barrier-free process
If a candidate notifies you of a disability, don’t make assumptions about their disability and what support they may require.

Disability impacts everyone differently and people manage it differently. You don’t need to know what their disability is, just what adjustments you can make to ensure they can complete your process to their full potential.

Have a conversation with the candidate to explain the different steps of your recruitment process and let them tell you what support they may require. Ask the candidate if they would like the assessors to know about their disability, particularly if it is an invisible disability. Confirm all of this in an email and ensure they are able to continue to contact you should they need to.

6. Building the confidence of your team to support
Ensure all stakeholders involved in the early years recruitment process are confident and comfortable to engage with disabled applicants.

• Provide disability confidence training for all stakeholders, including campus reps and brand ambassadors, to ensure they are confident and comfortable to engage with students with disabilities on campus.
• Educate recruitment teams on all aspects of recruiting students with disabilities from attraction and interviews, to adjustments and onboarding.
• Train interviewing managers to ensure they are confident and comfortable to interview students with disabilities and are also aware of the legal framework around interviewing those with a disability.

Disability confidence is not about becoming an expert in all the different types of disabilities not least that there are far too many for this to be possible, it is about feeling confident and comfortable to engage in relevant conversations.

You may also be interested in…

See beyond the disability to the ability

Attracting diverse talent requires an equally diverse range of approaches

Disability representation and inclusion at the Civil Service

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