Is your business missing out on hiring the right person?

While the rise of digital recruiting has undoubtedly made hiring easier for companies across the country, businesses could be missing out on the perfect candidate. How is this possible?

Many businesses, both big and small, have made the switch to online applications. But not all platforms are accessible to all candidates. Sassy Outwater recently wrote about her experience and making online job applications accessible on the U.S. Department of Labor blog.

I was torn between disclosing my disability in my cover letter or waiting until I showed up for the interview to tell the employer I was blind. Finally, decisively, I put my blindness and the talents it had helped me cultivate into the “skills” column. After all, being blind means I have to be resourceful, innovative, diplomatic, adaptable, organized … and that’s just to get through filling out an online job application.

I went to hit the SUBMIT button. There was no SUBMIT button.

My screen reader found a button with no label other than “button,” and a string of alphanumeric characters. My future rent and groceries depended on what happened when I pushed that button, because for all I knew, it could have been the CLEAR ALL button or the CANCEL button or the SUBMIT button. I pushed it with a feeling of doom.

A CAPTCHA screen popped up with no audio alternative: “Enter the text you see in the image,” it said As if hunting for a job when blind wasn’t hard enough, the application process was taking me out of the running before I even got a chance to compete. And I needed a job; the recession was in full swing.

I pounded my fist on the table in fury, inadvertently knocking my cup over and spilling tea onto my laptop. I began feeling around on the table for the napkin holder to clean up the mess.

“May I help?” The man at the table behind me took in the situation at a glance and handed me a stack of napkins. I cleaned up the tea and mentally resurrected that bold blind college kid. Maybe this time the risk would pay off. “Can you help me with a computer issue?”

“I’ll try.”

I pointed at my screen. “My text-to-speech screen reader can’t read that image. Could you read it for me?”

“Oh, you just need my eyeballs, not my brain. That’s easy,” he said.

He read the text; I entered it and hit SUBMIT. Then he asked me out to dinner.

Sassy Outwater
Sassy Outwater

I got the job offer but told the company I couldn’t accept in good conscience unless they modified their application process to be inclusive. I wanted accessibility as part of my hiring package, not just because of my personal need for a reasonable accommodation, but because I wanted to work for a company anyone could access.

They agreed, fixed the problems and I came on board. In this instance, my disability was the catalyst that led to several excellent outcomes: The company not only successfully recruited the top candidate for the position, but also became more accessible and useable for both their employees and clientele. And for the record, “napkin guy” now works in digital accessibility.

As businesses compete to attract talented, skilled employees, it’s important to make sure that artificial barriers aren’t blocking their path. Not everyone has a napkin guy at the next table when the CAPTCHA pops up, and employers may be missing out on top candidates when he isn’t there.

Read her entire post here.

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