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Is digital recruitment preventing disabled people from getting jobs?
By David Cameron, CEO at SUSE

SUSE has been getting consistent feedback from our members that digital recruitment practices are now a significant barrier to supporting disabled people into work. It can be a time consuming and challenging new process, which makes life easier for employers but not applicants.

Recent research suggest that 91% of employers are now using digital sources to hire workers, often to the exclusion of other routes. Even the platforms used can be influential – 87% of recruiters use LinkedIn but only 55% use Facebook (where disabled people are more likely to have an account).

The Fair Chance Project

Earlier this year SUSE ran a short project that assessed the digital recruitment platforms of 6 employers to discover how well these are working for jobseekers who have a disability.  We worked with employers from a range of sectors including a large high street retailer, a call centre, an international hotel chain and a professional cleaning contractor.

We carried out a range of activities including user testing sessions where disabled jobseekers made real applications on the employers’ sites and we met with employability workers and jobseekers to learn about their experiences.

Most of what we discovered was disappointing….

  • In 100% of cases the jobseekers who tested the sites were not able to complete the online application process without assistance, therefore they could not apply for the job. Many recruitment sites are confusing, there was often too much jargon and online tests can be a particular barrier. Some sites ‘time out’ – creating stress and frustration for the job seeker.
  • Many employers still offer some alternatives to digital platforms options – but these may need to be negotiated on a case by case basis, which can be difficult for many jobseekers.
  • The local managers we spoke to did not have much knowledge of particular CSR policies their employer had committed to and seemed unsure of their own role in achieving the ambitions the business had set.
  • Local managers tracked and monitored diversity and inclusion in their recruitment processes but they did not have accurate data on the number of people with disabilities currently in their workforce.
  • There was some good local practices that produced a range of positive results – but there wasn’t much evidence of these being disseminated across the wider business.
  • All processes tended to rely on an expectation the applicant is digitally confident and has access to appropriate hardware. In reality many clients do not have access to digital equipment at home.
  • HR staff often don’t know much about their online recruitment processes – they had not tested their own websites. Third party sites are a particular problem and HR professionals had limited influence over the digital recruitment platforms that were used, input on their design or future development.
  • The process of sifting applications and progressing only those who meet specific requirements (or match an algorithm such as key words) is cost effective for employers. However, this does not take into account the impact on the applicant. Many disabled jobseekers lack confidence, have experienced multiple rejections, or have had episodes of mental ill health. In many cases the job seeker does not receive any notification when their application has been unsuccessful or an explanation why. The online application process may be detrimental to the health and well-being of jobseekers and actually push people back instead of moving them forward.
  • Some employers do not allow jobseekers to apply again until a specific timescale has elapsed e.g. 6 or 12 months. There’s no explanation provided as to why this should be the case.

……If you’ve read this far – hopefully this will give you some food for thought on how your business is recruiting.

In the new year I’ll be posting some recommendations on how you can ensure your digital recruitment is accessible for everyone – and allowing disabled jobseekers to compete fairly for vacancies.