By Kelsey Ferrill
As someone with a visible, audible disability, I know how difficult the job search can be. Of course, finding a job can be difficult for anyone, especially with the global health crisis that we are facing currently. However, when you have added hurdles to overcome, it can seem like an insurmountable challenge. Over the years, I have personally experienced flaws in the hiring process, not just for one specific company, but for many. The hiring process is in dire need of revamping in order to make getting (and keeping) a job more fair for all.
As I am currently on the hunt for a job, I am using one of the most popular job seeker websites to aid in my search. For a couple of the jobs that I applied for, I received a response back immediately, asking me to complete the next step in the hiring process. I was more than happy to do so until I saw what the next step was. It was a phone screen. Basically, it was asking me to call a number and I would be asked a series of questions and then judged based on my answers to those questions.
I don’t think the issue of accessibility was ever taken into account for this method of pre-screening and I am not only thinking of myself when I talk about accessibility. There are two primary ways that this kind of screening is inaccessible.
- Those with vision impairments may have had trouble with this screening because they may not be able to see their phone to dial the number or they may be using a screen reader which doesn’t translate over to their phone.
- For people like me who have speech impairments, speaking on the phone is already tough enough. An employer with an unconscious (or conscious) bias may disregard the recording solely based on how someone talks and not hearing what they actually have to say.
Accessibility is not something that everyone thinks about because it doesn’t always apply to them personally. As someone who knows how important accessibility is to not only me personally but the disability community as a whole, this is something that needs to change and I would like to be a part of that change. It is important to speak up when something isn’t right, and that is what I did.
I reached out to the two companies that were using this method of pre-screening through this job search website. Their responses really confirmed that I was doing the right thing by speaking up. They both thanked me for bringing this to their attention and said that they were going to change their practices based on me shining a light on how inaccessible this was. One of them even said that they were going to contact the job search website to bring this to their attention as well.
There are many ways that employers can make the hiring process more accessible. Some of those include giving the option of written responses instead of phone interviews, face-to-face interviews instead of phone or even providing the opportunity to do a video interview.
Equal opportunity must start with the hiring process and accessibility must be front of mind when creating hiring practices. Companies and organizations have an innate responsibility to ensure that their workforce is diversified. That diversification begins, but doesn’t end, at the hiring process.