The recruitment process, at the best of times, is daunting for many people. Nevertheless, there remains a part of society that is often overlooked in this process – those of us with disabilities. Within my area of interest, banking and finance, this affair starts very early on. The beginning can be highlighted as early as a GCSE work placement, but for most people, it starts with GCSE exams and continues right through to signing the contract for a prestigious graduate job. If you don’t meet the minimum criteria for exams, more often than not, it’s an immediate rejection.
I have been diagnosed with dyspraxia and dysgraphia. Perhaps a slightly late diagnosis in the grand scheme of things (just before I sat my GCSE exams), but it certainly provided answers to a lot of my questions. I am always forgetting my pen for lectures or classes, never remember to do my homework and struggle to organise my time. However at least I know that it’s got nothing to do with me being ‘dim’; instead, there is a justifiable reason.
The combination of having dyspraxia and dysgraphia means that my short-term memory is poor and I am unable to write coherently at speed. This impacts my exams to a greater extent than many might expect. Thankfully all of this is counteracted to some extent by having 25% extra exam time, in addition to having timed rest breaks (as concentration for long periods without this can be tricky). Ultimately, these adjustments allow me to perform on par with my peers and I can achieve my true potential. Therefore, whilst my GCSEs are perhaps not the best standard for the notoriously competitive legal industry, my A-Level and University grades certainly make up for any downfall.
Ticking The Box
The struggle for disabled candidates isn’t just limited to academia. Once the minimum requirements have been met and the application form written, we then have to decide whether to tick the ‘do you consider yourself to have a disability?’ box. This is a quandary for many disabled applicants as there is a general fear that we will be discriminated against. Almost every firm has a policy of ‘equal opportunities recruitment’ or similar, but when faced with two identical candidates – one with a disability and another without – I think we all know, instinctively, which one they would pick.
That said, I can now say I always tick the box. We are no longer in the dark ages where a disability is automatically viewed as a disadvantage. Rather, having a disability means that you will have a higher tenure than other colleagues at the firm where you are employed, will work hard and will be able to relate well to clients. These advantages can create a great platform for conversation during an interview or employer-related event.
In summary, I guess it is very difficult to persuade a whole community of people that have long known they are capable but fear how others see them, to be open about their disability with a future employer. Being open requires effort from both the employer in terms of encouraging openness and from the applicant to be honest and open. When both sides do their part, both sides benefit – the individual finds their dream job and the employer gains the skills and talents that they bring to the job.