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Inclusive Recruitment and Hiring Practices for Employers

diversity/equity/inclusion Nov 30, 2023
Inclusive Recruitment and Hiring Practices for Employers


Despite Canada experiencing the highest job vacancy rates on record, there remains a large talent pool of employees left untapped: persons with disabilities. Unemployment rates in Canada for individuals with disabilities are nearly double than rates for individuals without disabilities (3.8% vs 6.9% respectively).1 That leaves approximately 400,000 ready, willing, and capable Canadians with disabilities unemployed.2 Despite the glaring discrepancy in employment, research shows that 71% of small-to-medium sized businesses are not hiring people with disabilities.3 Addressing this exclusion requires intentional efforts from employers to remove biases and provide equal opportunities for all. 

Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace starts with recruitment. It's about more than just filling positions with capable candidates; it's about actively seeking out and welcoming individuals from various backgrounds, cultures, abilities, and experiences. Diverse teams bring fresh ideas, enhance innovation and productivity, and cater better to an increasingly diverse customer base. Research consistently shows that diverse workplaces drive higher profits and overall success. Implementing inclusive recruitment and hiring practices isn't just a social responsibility; it's a business imperative.


Barriers to Inclusive Recruitment

Inclusive recruitment refers to “the measures, processes, and practices that are involved in attracting, assessing, and appointing candidates to vacant job roles within your organization to maximize the diversity of successful appointments.4

Unconscious biases, particularly affinity bias, often seep into recruitment and hiring processes, influencing decisions based on familiarity rather than merit. Affinity bias is when people gravitate towards others who look, act, and think as they do. This can manifest when someone shows preference for a candidate because of “culture fit.” This could include preferring a candidate because of a shared alma mater, unconscious bias towards certain names, or thinking “I could see myself hanging out with that person after work.”5 It is important to check this thinking at the door.


Best Practices for Inclusive Recruitment

Demonstrate A Commitment to Accessibility and Inclusion
  • Use inclusive and respectful language. Consider marginalized groups preferred language such as “disabled” or “people with disabilities” rather than “differently abled.”6
  • Represent people with disabilities on your website.
  • Include a reference to attracting people with disabilities to the organization in a diversity statement.
  • Senior leaders should act as disability champions and publicly promote the benefits of hiring diversely.
  • Feature stories of existing employees with disabilities in external communications.
Proactively Connect with Candidates with a Disability
  • Engage with a disability employment services provider.
  • Advertise on a job search site dedicated to people with disabilities (e.g., Jobs Ability)
  • Engage with disability organizations in your community.
Job Postings & Descriptions
  • Encourage applicants to request reasonable accommodations, if required.
  • Only include the essential requirements of the role to widen the talent pool.
  • Indicate a willingness to customize the role, if required.
  • Include the details of a contact person to answer questions an applicant may have.
  • Include objective information about the work environment.
  • Include the availability of flexible work.
Minimum Qualification Standards
  • People with disabilities experience barriers to employment which can result in fewer professional opportunities. Emphasize “skills for employability” rather than “minimum experience qualifications.”
Application Requirements
  • Allow applicants to submit a portfolio or work samples rather than writing/speaking about their skills/experiences in order to objectively assess their skills.
  • Unless strong written communication skills is a requirement of the job, don’t look at their cover letter/resume as a reflection of their abilities.


Best Practices for Inclusive Hiring

Before the Interview
  • Ask all candidates if they require reasonable accommodations.
  • Confirm that the physical location for the interview is accessible.
  • Provide the names of all interview participants and how many to expect.
  • Provide an estimate of interview duration.
  • Offer to send an interview itinerary or questions ahead of time.
Greeting the Interviewee
  • Share the interview location’s accessible features (restrooms, fountains, telephones).
  • Use a normal tone of voice.
  • Introduce yourself and other interview participants.
  • Use a standardized interviewing format to avoid biases in questioning.
  • Ensure adequate lighting is provided.
  • Speak directly to the interviewee, not to a companion or interpreter.
Virtual Interviews
  • Ensure all candidates can access any online platforms being used for the interview; if not, provide an alternative, such as having a phone interview.
  • Provide video interview best practices in advance to even the playing field for those who have not had opportunities to use the technology.
  • Check your bias – be aware of how background noise and visuals may impact your perspective of a candidate’s professionalism or ability to do a job.
Reasonable Accommodations
  • Provide additional time for the interview or any tasks associated with recruitment.
  • Provide an alternative approach to completing an online assessment.
  • Provide live captioning, an interpreter, or a support person.


Handling a Candidate’s Disclosure of Disability

It's crucial to navigate discussions around disabilities sensitively and legally. Focus on understanding how the workplace can be adapted to accommodate the candidate without crossing boundaries into personal inquiries.

What can you ask:
  • How the disability relates to doing the job
  • How the workplace can be changed or improved
  • How work hours could be changed to help them perform better in the role
  • How to keep the workplace safe for the candidate and everyone else
  • Whether there is any information or awareness training the candidate would like provided to colleagues
What you cannot ask:
  • Personal questions about their lifestyle or how they manage their disability
  • General questions about their health/disability
  • Details around seeing their doctor or what their doctor says to them in appointments
  • Specific details about the amount or types of medication they take


How Can Gowan Consulting Help?

  • Our Occupational Therapists can provide accommodation assessments to assess employees’ function in the workplace and provide tools and strategies for the workplace. Make a referral here.
  • Contact us to learn how our team can provide accessibility support for your workplace and help implement effective and inclusive policies.
  • We offer a variety of inclusive leadership trainings. Check out our online store for our current public webinars and workshops or contact us to learn about our customized training options.


Works Cited

[1] Statistics Canada. (2023, August 30). Labour market characteristics of persons with and without disabilities in 2022: Results from the Labour Force Survey.

[2] Prince, Michael J. (2016, August 11). Inclusive Employment for Canadians with Disabilities. Institute for Research on Public Policy.

[3] Jobs Ability Canada. (n.d.) What to Understand About the Power of Inclusive Hiring.

[4] Inclusive Employers. (n.d.) A quick guide to inclusive recruitment.

[5] Carnahan, Becca and Christopher Moore. Actively addressing unconscious bias in recruiting. (2023, June 16). Harvard Business School.

[6] Join Handshake. (n.d.) How to inclusively recruit candidates with disabilities.


Additional References

Job Accommodation Network. (n.d.) Disability Etiquette.

Carnahan, Becca. 6 Best Practices for Creating an Inclusive and Equitable Interview Process. (2023, May 25). Harvard Business School.