Up to 85% of disabled people find that their condition has an impact when job-hunting, according to new research from the Recruitment Industry Disability Initiative (RIDI).

More than half (56%) of respondents said that they first faced barriers as early as the application stage of the recruitment process - and only 3% of those surveyed said that their disability did not impact their job hunt at all.

RIDI, in conjunction with Diversityjobs.co.uk and Evenbreak, surveyed over 300 disabled jobseekers with a variety of physical and non-visible disabilities and long-term conditions.

Irrespective of disability, over half of respondents (56%) found the first hurdle — the application stage - challenging.

One commented; “Many jobs I have been to seem to require a full driving licence. Due to the nature of my health condition and poor joints I am unable to drive so do not hold one. I have been refused interviews because of this despite my husband being able to drive and we have a blue disabled parking badge.”

Similarly, another said; “When an agency contacts me asking for my phone number after reading my CV, I explain to them that I cannot use the telephone and suggest corresponding via emails. Silence. No more response.”

Face-to-face interviews hurdle to employment

The face-to-face interview stage is also deemed to be a challenging time, with 57% of respondents saying that meeting a potential employer in person has impacted their chances of finding a job.

“I have a hearing dog.” One respondent said. “When they [interviewers] see her, they don’t want to know.”

Another revealed: “Interview with a major employer and the first comment was ‘you know you only got an interview because you ticked a disability box’.”

A third added: “Once I go into interview the first thing they notice is my age and then my Bell’s palsy then the rest of the interview is pointless.”

In addition to these key hurdles, the survey found that challenges are scattered throughout the recruitment process, with a proportion of respondents citing telephone interviews (23%), online assessments (32%), travel to an interview (29%), presentations (15%), psychometric testing (11%), role-play (15%), and group exercises (18%) as impacting their job hunt.

RIDI promotes the idea that small changes in recruitment processes can have a huge impact on inclusion and advises companies in ways in which they can drive change.

Kate Headley, Director of Consulting at diversity consultancy The Clear Company and spokesperson for RIDI said: “Sadly, it’s unsurprising that many disabled candidates find the recruitment processes challenging. Many recruiters and employers — most often unintentionally - are still using outdated processes, which are a disadvantage to those with both physical and non-visible impairments.

In order to tap into disabled talent pools, employers and recruiters must get back to basics and review each stage of the recruitment process - from application stage to on-boarding - to ensure that they are accessible and equitable for all. If they fail to do so, the best person for the job may never even apply for the role — let alone make it to interview.”

Morgan Lobb CEO and Founder at DiversityJobs.co.uk, said: “The findings of this survey are reflective of what our candidates have long been telling us — that there are a myriad of obstacles throughout the recruitment process that they must navigate in order to secure a role.

The application stage in particular can be a barrier for jobseekers who do not fit all the criteria deemed ‘essential’ — such as holding a full UK driving licence. The employers that we work with understand that small changes in the way they communicate with disabled candidates can make a big difference to accessibility”.

Jane Hatton, Director at specialist job board Evenbreak, said: “As the only not-for-profit job board run by disabled people for disabled people in the UK, we understand that interviews in particular can be a daunting prospect for candidates who consider themselves to have a disability. As this research has highlighted, some interviewers can make jobseekers feel less than confident when meeting. This is largely due to a lack of awareness and experience of dealing with disability, but the tide is beginning to change. It’s encouraging to see that many employers, such as those that we work with, are taking steps to become more confident in engaging with disabled talent. And I have no doubt that those that do will reap the benefits.”

By Daniel Hunter