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Is Your Job Application Process Accessible and Inclusive?
July 5, 2018
Source: Forbes Coaches Council
Because of limitations in the hiring process, many candidates with disabilities are getting left behind. We are focusing our efforts on the candidate experience yet a growing percentage of job seekers can’t even apply for a job let alone receive a follow-up email or an automated response thanking them for their application.
Job candidate and application accessibility matters. For my podcast, I recently interviewed Director Sassy Outwater of the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (MABVI). I was interested in her experience as a visually impaired person as well as in her work with MABVI. She walked me through the application, interview and hiring processes that all disabled job candidates face, and along the way, there were many points in which disabled candidates were very likely to have difficulty.
Accessibility improvements can be as simple as extending the length of time for timed assessments, alt-tagging images, captioning videos, labeling elements such as buttons and other minor adjustments. The problem is: Many employers don’t take accessibility into consideration when building career sites.
Many organizations send surveys to candidates to help HR professionals and recruiters identify things that could be improved, like the candidate experience. This is helpful information, as it allows HR to modify the application process based on data from the candidates themselves. Some organizations even offer awards to companies that are innovating and setting benchmarks in the industry.
But the problem with these types of awards is that, while they bring us together as an industry, highlight the innovators among us, and set examples of benchmarks we should strive for and new processes to implement, the most important piece of the candidate data puzzle is missing when it comes to inclusion and accessibility. Because these online candidate surveys are not designed with accessibility in mind, persons with disabilities are excluded from the results and are therefore unable to contribute this crucial feedback that organizations need. Of this segment, when surveyed by PEAT [Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology], an organization I partner with that focuses on accessibility, "46% rated their last experience applying for a job online as ’difficult to impossible’; of those, 9% were unable to complete the application and 24% required assistance."
Despite the U.S. Department of Labor recently reporting there are 621,000 people with disabilities in this country who are ready and willing to work, the unemployment rate for persons with a disability was 10.5% in 2016. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for those without a disability declined to 4.6%.
For the first time ever since the recession, we now have more open jobs available than active job seekers. Now that companies are struggling to find qualified workers within the current hiring processes and models, this limitation in the candidate experience (specifically on career sites and job boards) means that accessibility is no longer a “nice-to-have” feature. It’s a must-do.
If nothing else, consider the statistics from the last census: Nearly one in five Americans has a disability. This is why it’s so disconcerting that organizations are ignoring the importance of the inclusive candidate experience.
Where We Can Go From Here
Every employer with a career site should consider all of these factors and work with someone who can actually test their job application process while keeping candidates with disabilities in mind.
The conversations I’ve been having over the last few months have really opened the eyes of conference and session attendees in HR and recruitment who aren’t aware of things like alt-tagging, video captions and ensuring the job boards they use as well as their own site are accessible for all candidates. As a coach and consultant for many companies that request site assessments along with talent brand audits, it’s the first area I encourage organizations to consider. It is important to be available and inclusive of the widest net of qualified candidates in your recruiting and candidate funnel activities online.
Small things like alt-tag labels provide alternative information to screen readers who aren’t able to view images. Candidates should also be able to access a website using directional keys and tabbing, not simply with a mouse. Audit your existing technology to ensure it conforms to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Changes and updates can be gradual and progressive, but you should still prioritize these improvements to ensure you and your team are identifying and tackling tweaks, updates and changes that will make the largest impact to your prospective candidate and employee audience.
While I applaud those who are working toward a better candidate experience, in its current state, there is so much more to be done. We are forgetting and ignoring candidates with disabilities. Many career sites are simply inaccessible to all job seekers. If we are to truly create an inclusive candidate experience, it’s imperative that we, as leaders in the recruiting industry, hold ourselves and other organizations accountable when it comes to inclusion.
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