Is your hiring process inclusive of people with disabilities?

An interviewer explains the company's commitment to DEI.

Inclusive hiring is a great goal. Research shows that the majority of job seekers want to work for a company that values diversity and inclusion. And more than a third of HR leaders say DEI is in their top five priorities this year.

But as recently as 2019, only 13% of companies had hit the Department of Labor’s target of 7% disability representation, according to the National Organization on Disability. Building a workforce that includes people with disabilities requires looking at how you hire.

“The hiring process is one of the most critical stages of your company’s commitment to disability inclusion,” says Kimberley Tyler-Smith of online resume site Resume Worded. “This is where you bring in candidates who will make up the core of your team, and it’s also where you can start to build a culture of inclusivity.”

Here’s how to get started:

Widen Your Pool

Look outside your usual sources for job candidates, and try some spaces that focus on inclusion, like Inclusion Inc., Ability Jobs, Getting Hired and We Connect the Dots. Consider an organization like NSITE, a nonprofit that works to place blind and low-vision candidates in high-paying roles.

“Partner with schools and organizations that serve people with disabilities or neurodiverse conditions, such as the Autism Society of America, National Down Syndrome Society, and United Cerebral Palsy,” says Linda Shaffer, chief people and operations officer at Checkr.

Revamp Your Resume Process

Studies show that unconscious bias affects the way people make hiring decisions, with markers as basic as names leading to different outcomes. The music industry realized this decades ago and now often has musicians audition from behind a screen.

“I make sure to blind screen all resumes using a recruitment software that removes names and other personal information,” says Anthony Quint, CEO and founder of media company Get On Stream.

One thing that’s crucial to removing bias is to decide what qualities you’re seeking for a role before you look at candidates. Understanding what you want — technical skills, a certain number of years of experience, etc. — can help you make goal-based decisions.

Make Your Company Accessible

There are a variety of ways to make your company (online and in person) an accessible workplace, which both makes it possible for people with disabilities to work there and signals that you take accessibility seriously. For example, if you’re using video chat to conduct interviews with deaf or hard-of-hearing candidates, consider hiring someone who can help facilitate better two-way communication between the interviewer and the candidate.

“Ensure that your website is accessible to people with disabilities by using alt text for images, closed captioning for videos, and clear and concise language,” Shaffer says. Make online applications accessible and provide a hotline or page where candidates can seek assistance if they need it.

Showcasing workplace accessibility is also important. “This includes privacy chambers, installing ramps, removing floor bumps, removing any triggers (loud noises or strobe lighting), and making other changes to have all types of people comfortable to work in the office,” says Simon Brisk, CEO of digital marketing firm Click Intelligence.

Review Your Job Requirements

The language you use in your job advertisements can include or exclude various groups of people.

“People living with disabilities are commonly excluded from job descriptions,” says Adrienne Couch, human resources analyst with business site LLC.services. “Go through your job descriptions and add special accommodations that will be appealing and attractive to neurodiverse candidates or people living with disabilities.”

Inclusive recruitment language is an art form — you may not realize that some phrases you’re using exclude certain groups of people. And it can be helpful to note in the job posting that your company strives to create a diverse workplace.

Consider Flexible Interview Options

The traditional hiring process can be hard for candidates with disabilities who might prefer a different interview format. “Consider switching interview options and letting candidates who qualify choose an interview mode they are comfortable with,” Couch says.

Consider, too, providing candidates a chance to highlight their skills by performing tasks or otherwise showing you how they’d work on the job, versus a traditional interview format. “Judging them based on how they perform during interviews could give a false impression,” Couch says.

Walk the Walk

If you’re committed to inclusive hiring, it helps to show job seekers that you’re serious about your goals.

“One way to do this is by hiring people with disabilities or neurodiverse job seekers into leadership roles within your organization,” Tyler-Smith says. “This gives potential applicants an idea of what it’s like working at your company, while also allowing them to get a sense of what they could accomplish in their own careers if they joined your organization.”

A Win for Everyone

Research proves that a diverse workforce reduces turnover, boosts morale, and improves your company’s bottom line. In the end, hiring people with disabilities is a win for everyone.