By Steve Jones, Pricing Co-ordinator Motability Operations and Graduate, Oxford Brookes University
During my second year at university studying Business Management with Film Studies, I was keen to complete an industrial / sandwich placement year to enhance my knowledge and understanding of the corporate world, at the same time as increasing my employability after graduating.
Having limited experience in completing job applications, I spoke to another disabled student who had recently returned from a placement year. One of my biggest concerns was whether and when to disclose my disability. The student I spoke to advised me to apply like anyone else and to disclose during the application stage. There are many arguments and opinions regarding disclosure, however the key message I received from our conversation was that if a company was going to discriminate against me, why would I want to work for them?
I applied for a number of placement opportunities, disclosing when there was an option to do so on the application form. A number of positions did not ask whether I had a disability, or only requested a CV and cover letter. I was invited to assessment centres and interviews for Chessington World of Adventures, Symantec, Hays, Xerox, GSK, and GE Healthcare – disclosing my disability to four out of the six employers at the application stage.
Before attending the assessment centres and interviews, if the recruiter had not already asked, I made them aware of the reasonable adjustments I required, including wheelchair access and disabled parking. All employers were accommodating and confident in dealing with my requirements.
I was delighted to be offered one of the positions I interviewed for which was with Motability Operations in the Vehicle Remarketing Department. Even though I did not disclose my disability during the application stage for this position, I did inform the employer about my disability during the telephone interview which was the second stage in a four-stage recruitment process.
Benefits To Openness
Overall, I cannot be sure whether disclosing my disability impacted upon my success in obtaining an industrial placement. It is possible that some smaller companies I applied to and disclosed to during the application stage may have been concerned about not being able to afford to make reasonable adjustments and turned me down on this basis. However, I was also turned down by a number of small companies to whom I did not disclose. Moreover, other companies may have been attracted to hiring disabled employees to increase their workplace diversity. When applying for industrial placements, I was invited to more assessment centres and interviews by companies to whom I disclosed my disability than to those I did not.
My overall experience of the recruitment process was certainly very positive. After finishing my degree I returned to Motability Operations to complete a second placement, during which time I applied for an internal position with the Pricing Team and was delighted to be offered a permanent position. I would encourage you to be open about your disability in the recruitment process because this will mean that when you are offered a placement or permanent job, it will be with a company that is disability confident.