Prospectus is a Disability Confident Employer, and as I had worked for Leonard Cheshire Disability earlier in my career, I felt sure I would be able to deliver an accessible process for Disability Rights UK as we searched for candidates with lived experience of disability to appoint as their next CEO. However, even with my experience it quickly became clear that there were still significant barriers to delivering a truly inclusive process.
We will continue to learn and improve what we do, but we wanted to share our learning about recruiting from this talented and diverse group of people, and to demonstrate how making small changes to the accessibility of your process can add significant value.
A few days into our campaign going live I took a call from a potential candidate who told me her screen reader couldn’t cope with our online, highly designed candidate packs and she was therefore struggling to prepare her application. As a result we produced a plain text version – something we had never considered before – and we now make sure that these are always available for all our roles.
We decided to create a video as part of our advertising to make it easier for people with a sight impairment to learn more about the role. We also included closed caption subtitles with the video and embedded it within our advertising and social media content. Video can be an incredibly powerful (and accessible) medium to generate excitement for a particular position, and the video we produced received in excess of 400 views.
It was not just the advertising and marketing process that needed adjusting – I also needed to rethink how I approached candidate engagement. One thing I learned early on in the process was that I needed to be extra quick to respond to enquiries as candidates that were calling in weren’t always able to wait for me to call back, as their support workers were only there for a limited time that day.
I was delighted that we ultimately received 65 applications from candidates with a lived experience of disability. As I then prepared for the interview process, I realised that in some cases I wasn’t giving candidates enough time to arrange and plan their travel to our offices and negotiate parking restrictions, as well as arrange support workers, and so again I needed to be a lot more flexible with our timetable. I’ll never forget that the candidate who we ultimately appointed to the role couldn’t even get into our offices – which are accessible – because road works outside our building that morning prevented him from even getting to our front door!
When I’m usually interviewing candidates, it’s their responsibility to make sure they communicate their experience effectively, with me creating the space and framework to make that possible whilst constructively challenging where appropriate. What was interesting in this process, and I must admit quite challenging for me, was the degree to which I had to adapt to the candidate’s requirements. I had to give myself time to make lots of mental adjustments to my interview technique to ensure I could enable the candidate to give their best possible interview.
I also needed to ensure that the interview was in a room with sufficient light for anyone with a sight impairment, and that I used words to encourage, acknowledge and show agreement throughout, rather than relying on visual clues from my facial expressions. I also needed to remember to speak slowly and clearly for anyone with a hearing impairment.
I’m so pleased that through this process we have all had chance to learn a lot and that we now all have a greater shared understanding of how to best accommodate applicants with a wide range of disabilities. We’re not perfect and there is still a long way to go, but we’re working on it!
By Linda Griffiths
Principal Consultant on the Executive Search Team