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Disability Confidence: How to Feel Confident in Your Job Search as a Disabled Candidate

Written by: Evie Courtier
Published on: 22 Jun 2023

For disabled people in the workplace, the fight to combat challenges and barriers to equal employment feeds into the persistent disability employment gap. As candidates, disabled people bring a plethora of premium skills, a distinct perspective, and different ways of thinking to the forefront. In collaboration with Evenbreak, the UK’s most accessible job board, we enter the discussion of the challenges faced by disabled candidates, how to identify an inclusive employer, and ways in which you should feel confident as a candidate of disability.

Disabled people bring with them ‘different ways of thinking, different experiences, and a new way of looking at things’. Often exceptional ‘problem-solvers’, as noted by Evenbreak, disabled candidates ‘get around all the obstacles that society puts in [their] way…[they] bring additional empathy, determination, creative thinking, and resilience’. Evidence dictates that teams and organisations that champion diversity and ‘supported employment’, make better decisions and ultimately experience a higher level of success.

How can we identify truly inclusive employers?

A company’s ethos and diversity & inclusion (D&I) initiatives, will often shed a light on whether an employer is truly inclusive. Yet, the real picture is painted by the action businesses take to actively help disabled people in the workplace, championing jobs for disabled people, adjustments, and demonstrating support in aiding disabled candidates from interview to offer and beyond. D&I across a business works to combat disability discrimination, and is arguably successful when the concepts are integrated into every facet of the company, from recruitment and hiring practices to development opportunities, policies and procedures, use of language and marketing.

The way in which a company integrates their D&I initiatives will naturally depend on size, industry and location. Each organisation will display a different set of priorities, one may place focus on improving representation, others on pay equity and transparency. A key identifier is to check whether the company has opted in to the Disability Confidence scheme. Employers that opt in, must adhere to practical steps such as hiring a disabled person, or complete an assessment conducted by a third-party company to achieve higher levels. Lastly, check the present DNA of the company, to assess the workforce in place. Are there people there with other impairments?

What do employers and recruiters need to know about disabled candidates?

The barriers within disability at work are trifold. The real barriers to employment faced by disabled people starts with the issue of identifying employers that they feel confident to apply to. As noted by Evenbreak within their discussion of disability barriers, 82% of respondents to a survey conducted by over 700 disabled participants, noted that their most prevalent problem was locating truly disability-friendly employers. While various employers describe themselves as ‘equal’ online, it’s rarely borne in practice. 71% of respondents rated their employers poorly when it came to understanding and empathy around disability.

The second hurdle identified was a lack of confidence within the recruitment process, comprising a fear of the process being biased or discriminatory. Candidates divulged that their opportunities to demonstrate their skills and qualities were being limited. This includes a lack of offering adjustments, the reliance on a CV and prior work experience wherein their opportunities may have been restricted, and the nature of the interviews themselves. Face-to-face interviews were noted by 50% of respondents as their largest barrier, with 75% regularly experiencing a lack of interest from the interviewer.

With the rise of hybrid working, we’re led to question whether social mobility issues are being challenged. The chance to hire those outside of the usual parameters of the office should result in an increased talent pool, and an employee map that diversifies beyond the usual hiring zones. For D&I, having a structured and supported hybrid system can aid those with disabilities, allowing employers to manage their working lives in accordance with their own needs. By removing dependency on working time and location, it effectively opens new types of roles that were previously less viable for certain employees. Removing these geographical barriers makes global roles, truly global.

The third concrete barrier is the lack of confidence in your own abilities. Concerns of how employers may perceive you is a consistent challenge for disabled carriers. So, how can we help the cause?

The help on offer to disabled candidates:

There are many ways for employers to remove barriers for disabled people. To start simply, there is a clear rhyme and reason in ensuring that disabled candidates know that as an employer, you’re serious about their talent, and that it’s a clear need for the recruitment process to be an inclusive and accessible one. Evenbreak promotes a mantra that translates throughout the world of disability, ‘nothing about us, without us’. A crucial and sensical message delivered in a matter of words, that reiterates that non-disabled people can’t simply second guess what works best for disabled people.

Disabled candidates face additional barriers when looking for work and can be seen by some recruiters as challenging to place. Evenbreak provide free, accessible careers and employment support for disabled candidates looking for new opportunities through their Career Hive - designed and delivered by people with lived experience of disability.