Hiring Individuals Who Have Diagnosed Disabilities: Educating the Employer

By Jamie Leboe

There’s been a buzz lately on the value of hiring individuals with special needs. What does that mean? In doing some research to help me to explain the value of hiring individuals with diagnosed disabilities I came across this story The growing acceptance of autism in the workplace. At Microsoft, an interview is not the traditional question/answer session that we think of when we think of the word interview. An interview meets the candidate where he/she is. It focuses on the way the individual works, on problem solving skills, on creativity, on the individual’s ability to do the job. We’ve all had to answer, what are you good at, what are you bad at, etc., and wondered why do we have to answer these questions?!? Well for individuals who have social and communication issues, it can be nearly impossible to answer those questions effectively. The interview method that Microsoft utilizes is much more effective, not just effective but fair. If you relied on just one method of determining who is best for a job, companies would be missing out on many great employees. Once a candidate is hired, Microsoft looks at their current employees and asks for volunteers to become natural supports within the worksite. These natural supports are employees who are at the workplace every day and are available to help new employees’ transition into a position and maintain that position. Many times, it is not the actual work task that can be an issue, but components of workplace culture that require social skills, like knowing where to eat lunch and who to sit with. We can think of a natural support as a helping hand. Microsoft is putting their money where their mouth is. They’re not only saying they hire individuals with disabilities, they really do it and they have changed their interview style to accommodate the process. What can you do? If you are thinking about hiring individuals who have diagnosed disabilities here are some tips for you to become more inclusive:

  • Assess your workplace. What are the jobs that need to be done?
  • Do your homework. Seek out opportunities to learn. Call a local Community Rehab Agency (CRP) and find out if they can provide disability awareness training
  • Learn about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities. One of which is financial (tax deductions)
  • Offer a job trial or working interview
  • Be open to job coaches coming onsite to support your new employee
  • Call the job coach if you have questions. They are there to support you and the employee.
  • Be open to interviewing in non-traditional ways. Look at a visual portfolio. Ask the candidate to perform some of the job tasks that would be assigned.

It’s easy to talk about being inclusive.  It’s another thing to actually do it. We’re here to educate our employer partners and the rest of the community on the ways to do it.

Questions about how to start? The US Office of Disability Employment Policy can help.

Jamie Leboe is a Career Coach in the Ignite Career Center of JCS.

Whether you are new to the job market or a seasoned professional, the Ignite Career Center, a program of Jewish Community Services, can help you go farther and get there faster.  Our highly experienced Career Coaches provide individuals of all backgrounds and abilities with the customized services and tools they need to stand out from the competition.  For information, call 410-466-9200 or contact us through our website.

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