October is National Disability Employment Awareness month. According to the Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is 7.6% versus 3.5% for people without disabilities. Creating a diverse workplace can help foster creative solutions. Apprenti is an organization that seeks to fill the tech talent skill and diversity gap through apprenticeship. Over 90% of Apprenti’s apprentices come from underrepresented groups including women, people of color, veterans, and individuals with disabilities.
Apprenti redesigned its apprenticeship process to support the 15% of apprentices with a disability and ensure an equitable experience for all participants. The hiring process was one component of the apprentice lifecycle that required significant modifications. Employers who are interested in supporting employees with disabilities must first ensure that applicants with disabilities have an equitable experience. The article will outline common barriers to access as well as best practices for establishing an inclusive hiring process for employers and apprenticeship intermediaries.
Recruit Individuals with Disabilities
Successful organizations understand that a diverse workforce offers a competitive advantage. But many organizations are unsure where to begin when recruiting individuals with disabilities. One way to get started is to partner with disability-focused community organizations. These organizations may have newsletters or job boards where you could post about your upcoming opportunities.
Alternatively, Inclusively is a job board where employers can highlight “success enablers” like remote work, extended time, or captioning when posting available roles. State vocational rehabilitation centers can also be a great recruitment source (and they might be able to help with job accommodations as well). The Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship (PIA) collaborates with employers and apprenticeship intermediaries, like Apprenti, to expand inclusive apprenticeship programs, benefiting both employers and people with disabilities. Additionally, PIA offers resources to employers, apprenticeship intermediary organizations, and current/prospective apprentices. The first phase of their guide for designing inclusive apprenticeships focuses on recruitment and also includes some additional helpful resources.
Post Accurate Job Descriptions
It’s standard practice to review job descriptions when searching for a new role. Many companies add requirements like, “must be able to lift 30 lbs” or “must own a car.” However, most of the time, the requirements listed in a job description are not essential to completing the core function of the role.
It’s also important to consider the frequency of an item listed in the required section. For example, does an administrative assistant need a driver’s license or do they just need a reliable source of transportation? It is important for the HR team to think critically about the language used and requirements listed in a job description to ensure the company isn’t limiting its candidate pool.
Make it Easy to Request an Accommodation
Clearly post the steps for requesting an accommodation on your website and job application platform. A highly visible accommodation statement communicates that your company values accessibility. It’s best practice to create multiple ways for applicants to request an accommodation and ensure they are available throughout the hiring process. For example, Apprenti provides a phone number (to call and/or text) as well as an email. Apprenti also includes information about requesting an accommodation in its interview invitation emails and in its FAQ.
Employers may also consider developing and posting an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) statement to demonstrate that they are committed to fostering a culture of inclusivity. Apprenti’s EEO statement reads:
Apprenti is committed to the principles of diversity and inclusion in the workforce, and is proud to be an equal employment opportunity employer.
We celebrate and consider every applicant without regard to race, color, national origin, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, mental or physical disability, marital status, socio-economic status, veteran status, religion, genetic information, and any other characteristic protected by law.
Apprenti encourages and embraces diverse perspectives and knowledge to attract, grow, and retain talent — strengthening the tech ecosystem nationwide.
Please review PIA’s EEO Toolkit for additional information about regulations and implementation of EEO policies.
Share Interview Prep Materials
Recognize that individuals applying to your company likely have a range of work and life experience. Value your candidates by providing them with information about the hiring process – timeline, type of interview, and specifics of the interview location.. These details help applicants determine if they will need an accommodation for the interview or assessment. For example, an individual who uses a wheelchair might need information about accessible parking for an in-person interview. Or, an individual with Auditory Processing Disorder may benefit from reading and hearing the interview questions. Additionally, some employers send candidates soft-skill tips and interview questions in advance.
Whether or not a candidate discloses a disability, all interviews should utilize inclusive language and be accessible. At the start of an interview, conduct a quick “access check.” For a digital interview, ensure that your video and audio are clear to everyone; for an in-person interview make sure the lighting, sound, and furniture layout work for everyone.
When assessing candidates, employers should focus on assessing job-related skills and not solely on evaluating interview proficiency. While interviews are a great opportunity to assess verbal communication, storytelling, and quick thinking, these skills may not be essential to the role itself. Creating a rubric with the attributes and skills required to perform the job can establish an equitable evaluation process and reduce unconscious bias around disability.
Apprenti can help employers determine essential job skills and craft corresponding interview questions. For example, to evaluate a candidates ability to engage in system-level thinking and communication, consider asking questions like:
- Describe a time when you had to think about the broad scope when solving a problem.
- How do you set long-term goals?
- What are the key factors you consider when starting on a new project or plan?
- Describe a time when you were misunderstood by a colleague or peer; how did you solve the misunderstanding?
- What would you do if there was a communication breakdown on your team?
Start small and continue to expand your inclusive hiring practices
By implementing the steps and strategies outlined above, employers can help make the interview and hiring process more inclusive for individuals with disabilities. Even small accessible changes can make a big impact for candidates. The best way to learn is through doing. There are always opportunities to refine and improve the accessibility of your program, but the first step is to start!
To learn more about how to work with Apprenti click here
- Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship’s EEO Toolkit
- Listen to Apprenti’s CEO Jennifer Carlson on PIA’s Apprenticeship for All podcast Episode 3: How Apprenticeships Support Diversity & Inclusion in the Tech Workplace
- Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology’s Guide for Accessible Virtual Interviews