Looking for a new job is often equal parts stress, uncertainty, and waiting—and all of this can feel amplified when you’re a job seeker with a disability. While new technologies have broken down countless barriers for individuals with disabilities, job hunting online continues to be fraught with accessibility-related obstacles that the general population may not even realize exist.

Habits of the Modern Job Seeker

These barriers become more obvious when you consider how today’s job seekers with disabilities conduct an employment search. And that’s something we understand well at my organization, GettingHired(link is external).  You see, every year we survey job seekers with disabilities to gather insight into their job search habits and experiences, and according to 2015 data, 52% of job seekers said they go directly to a company’s website to view vacancies and apply. Depending on the size of your organization, that’s potentially several thousand visits annually from candidates with disabilities.

When asked how they applied for their most recent job, 92% of our respondents said they used either a computer or mobile device/app. So the days of mailed, hard-copy resumes are quickly becoming a thing of the past.

These are trends that PEAT confirmed through its own 2015 survey, which not only affirmed that most job seeking occurs online, but that the typical online job application process presents numerous accessibility barriers to job seekers with disabilities. In fact, 46% of PEAT’s survey respondents reported that their last experience applying for a job online was “difficult to impossible.”

Of course, the job application is just one slice of the recruiting pie. Pre-employment testing conducted online, such as personality tests and skills assessments, are also frequently partially or entirely inaccessible to individuals with certain disabilities.

Access Denied

These issues are often news to the employers behind inaccessible eRecruiting tools. Many aren’t familiar with basic accessibility best practices, and some don’t even understand what it means for a website or application to be inaccessible. But it’s actually quite simple—if your talent management tools aren’t accessible, certain qualified candidates won’t be able to view them or apply for jobs with your company in the first place. This is often due to:

  • Complex navigation
  • Videos that lack closed captioning
  • Information communicated through graphics that cannot be recognized by screen readers
  • No tech support contact provided for troubleshooting

And inaccessible eRecruiting doesn’t just affect the job seeker, but also the employer. Because when your eRecruiting applications don’t work for everyone, you may be missing out on some of the most seasoned, motivated talent in the marketplace.

What’s more, creating unnecessary frustration for job seekers can also harm your branding efforts and potentially ostracize a large percentage of consumers. Just consider the fact that, in our 2015 job seeker survey, 76% of job seekers with a disability said it was important for a potential company to have a reputation as “disability-friendly.” So it’s clear that making a positive impression online is a crucial part of a company’s brand.

Remedy Your Website’s Weaknesses

Given all this, what’s an employer to do about inaccessible eRecruiting? To create a level playing field where all applicants are able to successfully apply, companies and their human resources (HR) professionals should assess their websites and eRecruiting applications and take steps to ensure both their accessibility and usability.
The usability factor is important, because while many employers work to ensure their websites are compliant with Section 508’s minimum accessibility standards, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are intuitive and usable by people with disabilities. That’s largely due to the lag between technology innovations and the time it takes to update accessibility standards.

The good news is that the most common accessibility issues are not difficult to fix. And thanks to PEAT, there is now a free tool that can serve as your guide. TalentWorks provides background and solutions related to accessible eRecruiting, so it’s an ideal starting point for employers and HR professionals who care about making their online job applications and related tools accessible to everyone.

As more and more employers tap the talents and skills of employees with disabilities, inclusive eRecruiting applications can be a powerful tool to help them pull in the best talent. They’re the key to reaching and engaging the modern job seeker, and to actively building a stronger, more inclusive workforce.