Creating a Better Hiring Experience in Supported Employment

Creating a better hiring experience represented by hiring manager extending handshake, welcoming a new hire

A positive trend is becoming increasingly evident in the labour market. Employers are focusing on making their workplaces more diverse and inclusive. This has created more opportunities for the clients I support. But in spite of advancements, hiring practices continue to present challenges and the experience is often not a good one for my clients. Many employers I partner with have asked what they can do to improve the process. In this article, I would like to offer my suggestions for creating a better hiring experience, many of which will benefit not only my client base, but other job applicants, too.

I support clients with intellectual and developmental disabilities as an Employment Services Coach at a not-for-profit agency in Calgary, Alberta. I provide supported employment services, working with clients and employers to facilitate successful placements, from the application process through to the job offer — and beyond.

Application Process

One of the first experiences candidates and supporting coaches encounter with employers is the online application process. It can be a challenge to support candidates as they try to complete multiple steps in the process: selecting answers to lengthy behavioural/aptitude assessments, copying the résumé into text boxes, dealing with chatbots, accounting for specific dates, figuring out the relevance of items on drop-down menus, worrying about being timed out, anguishing over not being able to go back to change information, etc. The online application process becomes a frustrating experience, apparently designed to screen out potential candidates.

And before even starting the process, the keywords and key phrases in the job posting must be determined and, where applicable and appropriate, included in the résumé so the candidate has a chance of being “screened-in” by the applicant tracking system (ATS) .

Many online application webpages have a “contact us” link if assistance and accommodation is required by someone with a disability. However, many times the request for help goes unanswered.

 Suggestions for a Better Hiring Experience

  • Allow candidates access to a simplified application process with minimal steps; approach it from the perspective of “less is best.”
  • Consider alternative formats like video résumés and portfolios where candidates can present their experiences and skillsets.
  • Find ways to connect with candidates by bringing more human elements into the hiring process, rather than exclusively using ATS.
  • Allow candidates, wherever possible, to have the opportunity to apply in person instead of through online portals.
  • Respond, in a timely manner, to requests regarding accommodations in the application process.

Interview/Selection Process

The interview process presents anxiety for anyone applying for a position. The preferred interview format for many employers seems to involve sitting in the manager’s office or at a large boardroom table in a conference room. The formality and authoritative vibe of the traditional interview setting can be intimidating.

Many employers have utilized Behavioral Descriptive Interviews (BDI) for their preferred interview format. It has been my experience with clients that the BDI approach usually does not produce effective results. The BDI requires time to think about the questions in order to give an appropriate response. When candidates do not give a response that meets expectations, it can be misinterpreted by the employer as a lack of interest and/or not a “good fit” for the job.

Even post-interview, candidates experience stress because it can take weeks or months to find out whether they were successful. Sometimes, applicants end up not getting a response at all.

Suggestions for a Better Hiring Experience

  • Present interview questions in plain language and allow for “processing time” before the candidate responds.
  • Develop a “meet and greet” interview format where the interview is informal and conversational rather than structured and highly formal.
  • Use job sampling where candidates can take a hands-on approach to try elements of the job (when health and safety conditions allow).
  • Take advantage of job shadows to allow candidates to observe someone doing the actual work. This minimizes anxiety and takes away the mystery about what the job involves.
  • Conduct mock interviews with potential candidates as a form of outreach. This would make the actual job interview a much more comfortable experience.
  • Follow-up with candidates as soon as possible after the interview to let them know the outcome (or even just the status if it’s going to take longer to make a decision).

Work Schedules

Some organizations have policies in place for minimum hours of work. This discourages candidates from applying or accepting positions where they would be expected to work a number of hours that might adversely impact their well-being.

Some employers have an expectation of “on-call” availability and that employees accept ever-changing schedules. This creates uncertainty and anxiety for the candidate who assumes they would not be hired if they advocated for themselves and their limited availability.

  Suggestions for a Better Hiring Experience

  • Open up the candidate’s work schedule to take into consideration availability of coaching supports, access to reliable transportation, ability to travel to/from work in safety, etc.
  • Consider the well-being of candidates by designing work schedules where they can take advantage of time outside work hours to take part in activities building and maintaining social connections in the community.
  • Promote job sharing to address minimum required work hours. Work time could be divided between two or more candidates, giving multiple opportunities for employment where individual workers would otherwise be unavailable.

Talent/Skill Matching

It can be disappointing for candidates to learn at some point in the hiring process that they are being offered janitorial-related work despite having applied and interviewed for a different position. Presenting a job offer unrelated to what the candidate applied for can turn an otherwise positive hiring experience into one that is negative.

Candidates bring diverse experiences and skill sets that can be valuable to employers. They have so much to offer. Many of the hidden talents that add value to a position are only revealed when candidates perform the actual work. Over time, the new employee invariably become more comfortable and confident.

Suggestions for a Better Hiring Experience

  • Utilize job carving to create opportunities that go beyond rigid job descriptions and that work to the candidate’s strengths.
  • Invest in assistive technology supports in the workplace. This will open up more opportunities for candidates of all abilities to demonstrate their skills and talents.
  • Develop an attitude of openness and flexibility to make the placement a success.

Final Thoughts

Advocating for better hiring experiences calls for team work by our career development community. It will take a methodical and constructive approach to work toward making changes, including reinforcing with employers that there is value in making better hiring practices an essential part of inclusion and diversity strategies.

Let’s have conversations with each other on career-related discussion boards and social media. Let’s share articles on the topic of employers who have focused on creating better hiring experiences. At professional development events, let’s discuss positive trends and where improvements need to be made. We can also advocate on behalf of our clients at job fairs and at industry and community events.

When we advocate on behalf of our clients for better hiring experiences, it empowers them to take advantage of more work opportunities. We all benefit in the end.

Brent Warman is a proud member of Career Professionals of Canada. He has extensive experience providing career coaching and employment services in the not-for-profit sector, at a post-secondary institution, and in private practice, serving clients from diverse backgrounds and all walks of life. Brent is a Certified Career Strategist (CCS) and a Certified Résumé Strategist (CRS) through Career Professionals of Canada.

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Brent Warman, this article is exceptional. Very informative and well written. Thank you for taking the time to share your wisdom with us. Gayle

Hello Gayle,

Thank you for your comments.

Hi, Brent. Great article until I came to this: “It can be disappointing for candidates to learn at some point in the hiring process that they are being offered janitorial-related work despite having applied and interviewed for a different position.” I know that what you are saying is that it is disappointing when someone applies for one thing but is offered another thing, a lesser thing. So how about saying it just like that? You see, by using the example of janitorial work, you are putting janitorial work down (you categorize it as “lesser” job) and there is no need to do that.

Hello Bonnie,
Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment regarding the article. I meant no offence to anyone working in janitorial/maintenance-related work where they perform essential and valuable work to make sure the facilities we use are safe and clean.
As a frontline worker with many years of experience, I have had clients offered cleaning positions by employers despite not having applied for them. I actively work with clients to ensure they get into positions where they can utilize their skills, talents, and abilities.

Brent, thank you for sharing this thoughtful article with an appreciation of the challenges that your clients experience. Job searching is challenging for everyone, however, I can see the additional challenges that folks with disabilities may experience.

Hello Sharon,

Thank you for your comments.