In the months since COVID-19 began, organizations have had to rapidly adapt their recruiting processes to the virtual environment. But moving to an online recruiting process has to be more intentional than just finding digital equivalents to your in-person process. You must ensure accessibility across your virtual application and hiring process.
With social distancing measures still in place in many states, an online recruiting process could be our primary option for reaching candidates for months to come. This increases the pressure to make it accessible and equitable for all candidates.
“Disability is incredibly diverse,” says Jonathan Avila, chief accessibility officer at Level Access. “An accessible online hiring process should be adaptable, flexible and provide multiple ways to engage.” Here’s how to build accessibility into your organization’s virtual recruiting process.
Follow Accessibility Guidelines
The overall hiring process should be essentially the same for all candidates, regardless of ability. Under the ADA, candidates are not obliged to reveal any disabilities they may have. Many candidates prefer not to disclose a disability upfront. But you can support candidates by providing an accessible application and hiring process. “All digital assets and processes should be accessible,” Avila says. “If a candidate has to call the office to schedule an interview because the scheduling software is inaccessible, then they are inadvertently disclosing a disability.”
Employers should also create accessible digital content for applicants. “The most important item is an accessible website and job posting on the company career page,” says Nancy Geenen, founder and CEO of Flexability. “Include a plain language version of the posting.”
In addition to using plain language job posts, include text explaining images or visuals and write accessible HTML that can easily be integrated with assistive technology, like screen readers. An accessible web page can be perceived, operated and understood by a wide range of individuals with differing abilities. Online tools like WAVE allow you to check your web pages’ accessibility scores. Check out the full web content accessibility guidelines here.
Make Accommodations Easy to Access
While your overall virtual recruiting process should be accessible, candidates should still be able to access accommodations quickly and easily. “Add a statement that asks if an applicant requires an accommodation,” Geenen says. This allows candidates to self-select any accommodations they may require.
Video interview processes in particular tend to be inaccessible without accommodations, leaving many candidates averse to the idea. “Some applicants may be reluctant to conduct a video interview early in the process based on prior negative experiences with ableism,” Geenen points out. When accommodations are necessary, make sure that candidates don’t feel like they’re being differentiated from other candidates because of them.
When selecting video interview software, make sure that it can be modified to include common accommodations, like captions or sign language interpreters. “Sometimes the image is too small, or the software doesn’t spotlight the speaker,” Avila points out. This makes it difficult for candidates to lip read or see facial expressions.
The more accommodation options you can provide candidates, the more seamless the virtual recruiting and hiring process will be.
Review Assessments for Accessibility
Digital accessibility has to go beyond your organization’s direct career website or landing page. Even if your overall user interface is accessible, software integrations for skills assessments, video interviews or signing documents may not be. All aspects of your technology stack across each step of the hiring process must be checked for accessibility.
Assessments can be very useful in narrowing down a large number of applications, but be cautious when selecting assessment software. Vendors should be vetted for potential discrimination against candidates with disabilities. “A lot of assessments don’t generate an accessible output,” Avila says. “Assessments should measure skills against a job post, not disability.” Make sure that assessments are validated and proven to measure what they claim to measure.
AI programs, while designed to remove bias, can inadvertently add systemic bias to your online recruiting process. “Some AI models will unintentionally screen out applicants with disabilities,” Avila says. “Whatever assessment tools you use, be careful that they’re not discriminatory.” Before integrating AI-driven assessments into your recruiting process, make sure that they treat all candidates with equity.