Unconscious Bias, Recruitment and Disability

In my last blog post I wrote about what I understand unconscious bias to be. It’s about how we are all prone to deeply held views that can lead to unwitting, unconscious bias. We are hard-wired to prefer people who look like us, sound like us and who we share common ground with.

Unconscious bias goes some way to explain why organisations credibly commit to increasing the number of disabled people in their workforce but the actual numbers of disabled employees remain disproportionately low. Almost no one would admit to having a prejudice against disabled people, yet many very employable disabled people continue to remain unemployed.

The disabled job seekers I work with tell me they often feel discrimination. Some of them describe a sort of discreet discrimination that is underlying. This seems very likely to be discrimination as a result of unconscious bias.

In a recruitment situation unconscious bias is more likely to lead to a discriminatory outcome.  Your role as an interviewer is to be judgemental as you are required to judge one person over another. While decisions should be based on a fair criteria, and often every effort is taken to ensure this is the case, we are all humans and all have unconscious biases.

Trouble is that this can lead to discrimination for disabled people. Not necessarily blatant, direct discrimination but discrimination that is harder to prove and is happening without intention. Unfortunately the outcome for the disabled individual remains the same wherever the discrimination hails from.

The stigma associated with being part of a minority can prevent an individual achieving their potential. Knowing people likely think ‘X’ about you, increases the chances you will not achieve ‘X’. As your self-confidence reduces so do your aspirations.

I find it so frustrating when talented and employable disabled people start to reduce their aspirations and start to accept what they think others think about them to be true. It is very hard not to lose your confidence in these situations but maintaining your confidence is what will see you through. Be clear to differentiate what people THINK they know about you and what you KNOW about you.

I started by saying that people’s preferences  tend to be towards people who look like them, sound like them and who they share common ground with. In a recruitment situation you are looking to be the preferred candidate. Do your homework so as to appear as though you fit in, sound like you fit in and seek to identify some common interests or values. This is all good stuff for when it comes to creating rapport and influencing. IN addition, it will likely help with any unconscious bias others may have.

Disabled job seekers often tell me it feels like they don’t have to be as good as everyone else, they have to be better than everyone else. Maybe this is unfair and results from unconscious biases recruiters may hold about disabled people. In theory, the person better than everyone else should be the successful candidate. In practice this may not always be the case, but as a candidate you should be aiming to be better than the other candidates not as good as.

If you are currently looking for work I wish you all the best and I hope you continue striving until you are successful. I wish this primarily for your personal fulfilment, but also as I believe that as the number of disabled people in work increase so the unconscious biases will likely decrease.

If you are seeking work and your confidence is getting battered by unconsciously biased decision makers then get in touch to talk about how coaching can benefit you.

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