HOW DO I KNOW YOU ASK?
Because I am one of you and I am one of them...
As a hiring manager, I have been in your shoes, many times in my career. I have interviewed and hired jobseekers for nearly every possible job type. I always looked for two things; someone who would get the job done and make my life as the boss a little bit easier.
As a jobseeker with a disability, I have been in the closet for most of my career. My disability is hidden. Some have even questioned its legitimacy, but I know, living in this body, that sometimes it is all consuming and very scary. It is has never kept me from success and I won’t allow it to.
JOIN ME IN THE TRUST TREE
Here in the “Trust Tree” (a.k.a. The Judgment Free Zone), it is okay to openly acknowledge that we all carry around our own notions of who a person with a disability is or is not. Those notions, consciously or unconsciously, bleed over into our hiring decisions. I have been there with you and experienced many of the same feelings you are now.
When thinking about a person with a disability, answer the following questions by choosing the first word or thought comes into your mind.
#1 – PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES ARE ALL _______.
Do not worry, nothing you say here is going to upset me or surprise me. I recently realized that even people with disabilities have stereotypes about other people with disabilities. Unlike other minority groups, disability is not at all homogenous. We are Male, Female, Gay, Straight, White, Black, Veteran, etc. and our disabilities are just as varied. Example: Did you know diabetes is a disability? It is, it can and does significantly affect the lives for those that have it.
#2 – WHEN I INTERACT WITH PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES I GET ___________ .
A colleague of mine gives a training called Disability: Fear and Stigma. It is probably one of the most powerful activities I have ever been through. In that time, a group of us openly acknowledged what about disability made us uncomfortable. Once we began to voice our concerns, fears, stereotypes, it was like everyone in the room finally exhaled. There is something powerful about learning we are not alone and that many of those common fears are easily erased.
#3 – A PERSON WITH A DISABILITY COULD NEVER BE SUCCESSFUL AT MY EMPLOYER BECAUSE ____________.
One of the most powerful social constructs that work to derail the success of people with disabilities in ALL areas of life, including employment, is the underlying feeling that we are less than fully human. In fact, we are seen as “other” someone who is incapable of experiencing a full life, as able bodied people are. In this social construct, all areas of life become limited for us...love, success, adventure, and employment.
#4 – IF I HIRE A PERSON WITH A DISABILITY THEY WILL____________.
Many of you are starting to get pressure to hire more jobseekers with disabilities because of updated federal affirmative action regulations that are being implemented in 2014 and 2015. Fortunately, these stereotypes have been disproven, qualitatively and quantitatively. I believe these regulatory changes will prove to be the tipping point in removing them from our vocabulary entirely.
#5 – I NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT IT.
In the end, this is really the reason that I didn’t hire a person with a disability. We, I perhaps at the top of that list, are all self-interested beings. So what did I do? I hired the person who fit within the constructs of what I thought was the best. Worse even, where the times I chose a jobseeker simply because they fit within the construct of the interview guide in front of me.
1 REASON YOU DID HIRE A JOBSEEKER WITH A DISABILITY? YOU DIDN’T THINK OF THEIR DISABILITY AS THEIR INABILITY TO BE SUCCESSFUL.
Honest story, I hired a teenager in a restaurant I managed in college. He was deaf. It honestly, never occurred to me that he was a person with a disability. WHY? No clue. I just didn’t. We communicated through his PDA. He was funny, a hard worker, and came as a referral from another great employee. I just hired the guy that fit the need and the team dynamic in my store. He worked for me for over a year, left on great terms, and went off to college. Our team, as we did with all teammates, worked to identify each other’s strengths and opportunities related to our overall success.
Morale of the Story: We found someone who fit with us and made the adjustments that needed to happen for the team and individuals to succeed.
Challenge for Hiring Managers: The next time you interview a person with a disability work proactively to identify areas where this candidate can make a positive impact on your organization. The first step to integrating diversity in to our workplace is to actively change our way of thinking.