Key Strategies For Boosting Disability Recruiting

Mar 6, 2020

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September 09, 2019 | BEST PRACTICES: Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals

When it comes to college recruiting, there are several common missteps or “missed steps” that employers commonly make in terms of recruiting students with disabilities. Felicia Nurmsen, managing director of employer services for the National Organization on Disability (NOD), says the thing she hears most from employers is that they want to understand how to find this talent.

“However,” Nurmsen says, “results from our 2019 Disability Employment Tracker show that while there was some growth in university recruitment, through NOD’s Campus to Careers program, we know that often there is a disconnect on campus with disability services and careers services.”

As a result, she adds, students with disabilities—particularly those who require accommodations—are not fully participating in the services offered through the career services offices and are not informed of the employment opportunities with companies interested in them as a large untapped talent pool.

“The common mistake is for companies to assume that they have access to students with disabilities through their existing contacts on campus,” Nurmsen says.

“Companies need to inform career services they are interested in hiring students with disabilities and expect to interview them while they are on campus.”

She says that having a recruiter with a disability on the campus recruitment team is also a clear indication the company hires people with disabilities. Furthermore, it allows students with disabilities to feel comfortable disclosing their disability and asking for an accommodation, if needed.

Nurmsen recommends that employers also provide training to their recruiters and staff on interview skills, disability awareness, and accommodations to empower them to feel confident in all interview situations.

“Recruiters must understand there are some guidelines on how to handle certain situations,” Nurmsen says. “Clearly establishing fit for a position must be their top priority with all candidates—including students with disabilities.”

She explains that if companies are not working with career services to distinguish students with disabilities as an important diversity segment for their business, they will miss out on this talent pool entirely.

“Research shows that the number of students with disabilities attending college has doubled in the last 10 years, with more than 40 percent of young adults with disabilities attending a college or university within four years of leaving high school,” she says.

However, Nurmsen continues, this statistic, paired with data from the 2016 American Community Survey showing adults with a disability and a college degree have an employment rate that is 10 percentage points lower than all adults with a high school diploma or less, and 27 percentage points lower than all adults with a college degree.

“Clearly, this indicates that a strong campus recruitment program will allow employers to take advantage of this large untapped talent pool,” she points out.

“The benefits of this targeted recruitment strategy continue to be highlighted as a best/emerging business practice.”

It makes good sense. Nurmsen points to a NOD/Kessler Foundation survey and recent Accenture research that indicate companies realized several benefits when hiring people with disabilities. These include:

  • A larger labor pool;
  • Lower turnover;
  • Reduced recruiting costs;
  • Positive diversity impact; and
  • Better retention rates.

NOD’s 2019 Disability Employment Tracker data show that the two most effective channels for disability recruiting are community partners and existing channels, such as recruitment agencies, websites, and others.

“On the other hand, use of job boards has gone up 5 percent, but the success rate stayed pretty flat at 48 percent reporting they hired through this source,” Nurmsen explains.

“University hiring is also interesting. There was some growth in use—up 4 percent to 54 percent—with 57 percent reporting they hired through this source.”

Still, even with college recruiting for students with disabilities growing, many employers struggle with outreach and recruitment, and require support from organizations like NOD to help identify the best local recruitment resources, with plan design and employee education, and provide overall support.

“This challenge may be mitigated by colleges and universities understanding the value of this sought-after population for employers,” Nurmsen says.

It is also important to understand what students with disabilities want from the employers they are considering for employment. This includes:

  • Mentors;
  • A clear understanding of the specific requirements their roles;
  • Support and accommodations that are easily requested and provided;
  • The ability to see themselves in the existing employee population; and
  • Opportunities for growth.

“Salary is important,” Nurmsen says, “but the overall experience, values, and culture need to align with their own values.”

Read on the NACE website

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