How can we make hiring more inclusive for people with disabilities?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed in 1990. This year, Australia’s Disability Discrimination Act turned 30. Even after all that time, bias and discrimination against candidates and employees with disabilities continues to be an important topic.

The unemployment rate for those with a disability (10.1%) in 2021 was about twice as high as the rate for those without a disability (5.1%) (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022). Coupled with increased laws and regulations regarding the protection of disabled job applicants and employees (e.g., U.S. EEOC, 2022), it is no surprise that academics, employers, and selection vendors are keen to understand where potential disability bias exists so it can be reduced or, ideally, eliminated.

Traditional face-to-face interviews are a large entry barrier for people with disabilities

Traditional face-to-face or video interviews in particular create potential barriers for individuals with disabilities, due to the well-documented stigma and prejudice against those with disabilities (Scior, 2011; Thompson et al., 2011). One study found that fake accountant job applicants that had disclosed a disability were 26% less likely to receive employment interest from the employer than those with no disability. Worse, experienced candidates with disabilities were 34% less likely to receive interest, despite presenting equally high levels of qualifications (Ameri et al., 2015). In addition to the bias held by hiring managers or recruiters, another concern is that certain selection methods create a very poor candidate experience for individuals with disabilities, causing them stress or anxiety and therefore stopping them from putting their best foot forward. For individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in particular, in-person or video interviews can be very stressful, with less than 10% believing they are given the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and abilities in this process (Cooper & Kennady, 2021).

Stuttering is another form of disability where traditional in-person and video interviews where the candidate has to speak may lead to stress and anxiety (Manning and Beck, 2013). One study found that people who stutter find their stuttering to be a “major handicap” in their working lives and over 70% thought that they had a decreased opportunity to be hired and promoted (Klein & Hood, 2004). Other disabilities, such as dyslexia and other learning and language disabilities may cause candidates to struggle with timed online selection assessments, so it is important to identify and remove these barriers (Hyland & Rutigliano, 2013).

How do we better accommodate people with disabilities or neurodiversity in the way we interview and hire?

Cooper and Mujtaba (2022) recommend alternative approaches that allow candidates with ASD to showcase their skills without having to verbally communicate them or properly interpret nonverbal cues.

The use of an online, untimed, chat-based interview – that is, our Ai Smart Interviewer – can not only help reduce discrimination against those with disabilities but also create a more positive candidate experience for them.

This format is particularly helpful for individuals with disabilities where traditional in-person interviews, video interviews, or timed assessments may cause stress or discomfort, therefore not allowing the candidate to express themselves freely and adequately demonstrate their skills.

The power of a Smart Interviewer, supported by research

Our Sapia Labs data science team has submitted a paper on reducing bias for people with disabilities to SIOP for 2023.

In the study, the data comes directly from our Smart Interviewer, which, as we said above, is an online untimed chat-based interview platform.

Candidates can give feedback after the interview process, and some candidates include self-report disability conditions in their feedback. While a number of different disabilities were mentioned, we had sufficient sample sizes to examine candidates with autism, dyslexia, and stutter. We compared their machine learning-generated final interview scores and yes/maybe/no hiring recommendations to a randomly sampled, demographically similar group of candidates that did not disclose a disability.

Effect sizes, 4/5ths ratios, and Z-tests revealed no adverse impact against candidates with autism, stutter or dyslexia. Additionally, feedback from these groups tended to indicate the experience was positive and allowed them the opportunity to do their best.

  • “It was an unusual experience but as an autistic person, I appreciated being able to interview via text rather than phone. It gave me the chance to really consider my responses in my own time.”
  • “I must admit this is much more relieving than a face-to-face interview as I fear that I would stutter and accidentally say something stupid.”
  • “Being dyslexic, this interview gives me a fantastic opportunity to think and re-read my responses before delivery.”

True diversity and inclusion starts with the way you hire. Our Ai Smart Interviewer allows people with disabilities and neurodiversity – real people, with real ambitions – to represent themselves fairly.

Reach out to us today to find out more.


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