Financial companies that face labor shortages are recruiting candidates with disabilities.
"HR people are acutely aware of the tightness of the labor market and know that it will be getting worse before it gets better," says Daniel J. Ryan, Ph.D., director of career services at the University at Buffalo and author of the Job Search Handbook for People with Disabilities. "The best avenues for many are to (a) keep more of their employees working longer, or (b) tap into a market that is not usually accessed - people with disabilities."
Joan McGovern, vice president of JPMorgan Chase, says one reason awareness of disabilities is increasing is that Baby Boomers are aging and will likely need workplace accommodations as years pass. "You see that if you still want to be the best financial company in the world, you need to think differently and be flexible," she says. "We take a look at the work environment and, based on an individual's disclosure, see what we need to enhance to ensure that they're working on an equal plain with their peers."
Clyde Jones, national director of diversity for KPMG LLP, says his company works hard on training recruiters and others who conduct interviews to focus on the job candidate rather than the disability. "Your disability shouldn't be part of the decision making, and it's not something you need to make mention of at all," he says. "The discussion should be around what's required to get the job done. (For instance), can you get on and off airplanes for travel?"
To recruit candidates with disabilities, KPMG works with the National Business and Disability Council. JPMorgan Chase recruits though ties to several associations, including Abilities, Inc.'s Emerging Leaders program.
To determine how a company treats employees with disabilities, check its corporate Web site. Does the list of diversity programs mention people with disabilities? Is there a network for employees with disabilities listed? KPMG's Jones points out you'll get a clear idea of a company's approach when you arrive for an interview. "One tell-tale sign is: Is it an accessible site? Do you see people who have your same physical disability?"
In the end, you'll have to decide how, if at all, you want to discuss your disability with an employer. "If the person's disability is evident, it's likely to become the dominant factor in the interview," says Daniel J. Ryan, Ph.D., director of career services at the University at Buffalo and author of the Job Search Handbook for People with Disabilities. "That puts added pressure on candidates to clearly demonstrate, with the use of good examples, that the disability will not impact their ability to perform the essential functions of the position. If they can effectively do that, they can increase their chances at getting a second interview where, unfortunately, they will need to do it all over again."
But be warned: Even in a tight labor market, job hunters with disabilities are often treated differently, suggests Ryan. "I have found no other group which has faced more severe discrimination in the workplace," he says.