There’s a real trend towards using psychometric testing as part of a recruitment process these days. Many private companies thrive on the invention and distribution of the perfect psychometric test which is supposed to inform your choice of candidate when recruiting for a position. There’s an entire field of psychology, personal and organisational that goes into these things, and they’re quite a comprehensive examination of ‘personality’ and how people perform under pressure, and in a team environment.
I can see why people feel inclined to use it.
Recruiting new staff is always an unknown of sorts, it’s difficult to predict from a 60 minute or so interview and a written application, even with referees, what a person will be like on the job and in the team you already have. With the emphasis on ‘team fit’ right up there with the right skills for the job, it’s difficult to make a decision that you feel comfortable with. So the inclination to use some sort of evaluation or test such as psychometric testing to give you some indicator of whether a person will be a good team player is quite strong.
Psychometric testing is designed to try and measure personality aspects or mental abilities, traits such as potential for leadership or calm under pressure. By unintended design, this will produce test results that favour a particular type of person. The tests are designed using the personality traits and aptitudes of an already successful ‘ideal’, and enable an employer to source ‘carbon copies’ of that ‘ideal’ candidate, which completely eliminates diversity from the employment picture.
A test might attempt to evaluate your numerical aptitude, for example. It might also ask questions about risk taking at work, or in general. And if you score low on the numerical aptitude and high on the risk taking, unlike the ideal candidate the test was based on, you may not be selected for a job in a finance section or as an accountant.
Do these tests actually work?
But, there’s more and more research coming out about the use of psychometric testing, and it’s not all good. There also appears to be an entire industry arising out of this practice to provide coaching and practice tests to improve test results – suggesting that with enough practice you can produce the results on a psychometric test that an employer is looking for – not an accurate representation of ability or aptitude.
And that’s the problem: the results can be skewed. And there is an increasing amount of research and case law showing assessments of people with a disability are discriminatory. In a recent case in the United Kingdom, an employer using a psychometric test was found to have discriminated against a person with Aspergers.
The test contained multiple choice questions which were virtually impossible for the potential employee to answer or interpret due to her difficulty with social interpretation and her reasoning in hypothetical scenarios. She had asked if she could submit short narrative form, a request which was refused.
In the US, employers using psychometric testing are now routinely warned about the use of the testing method when recruiting by the manufacturers of the tests themselves, because of the risk of discrimination defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. In a recent case in the United States, an employer was found to have discriminated by using such a test to determine the suitability of employees with a disability for promotion.
There’s increasing discussion about the pros and cons of psychometric testing, but because of the growing evidence that the tests are simply unfair and discriminatory towards people with a disability, we don’t use them.
We’ll continue to rely on the ‘old’ method – interview, references and applications - with reasonable adjustment in place for those who require it.
There is so much advice around the web on what constitutes a good resume and what elements should or should not go into one; the truth is though that there is no one size fits all formula for creating the perfect resume. It is not a case of getting everything in the right order and “bingo” the job is yours.
The Purpose of a Resume
The most important thing to remember about a resume is that it is about getting you to the interview stage. Certainly, the relevant decision makers will look at the resume after the interview to compare candidates but ultimately, it needs to grab their attention. What should go into the resume?
Qualifications: in this competitive employment marketplace, employers want to see the education-based experiences. A degree in English can say much in itself but if you are applying for a communications role, you need to give academic examples that are relevant.
Work experience: and not just from previous job though this is very important, but any experience that may be relevant to the role. This could be from voluntary work, personal interests or hobbies.
Abilities are different from experience in that you know what you can do, even if you cannot demonstrate it through on the job experience, through voluntary roles or in your qualifications.
Highlight Your Abilities
The key to a modern resume is experiences, particularly practical experiences and the identifiable abilities that you gain and have gained from those experiences. Employers want to see that you will be an asset to the business and this is how you need to market your abilities – those that are relevant and how they are relevant.
The first thing to do is look at the job description. Most will state the key skills that are required in the role. Though some will be generic “good organisational skills”, “works under own initiative” and “flexible”, some will be more specific than this: “good knowledge of MS Excel” for example. If you have a certificate of training to a higher level for that software package, or you have learnt advanced features of the software and can list an example, then make it relevant: “I designed a stock programme in Excel to keep track of petty cash” you will have demonstrated a core ability.
One element that people now include in their resumes is a list of highlights. These can be changed and tailored to each application; listing seven or eight bullet points that are relevant will present the employer with what they are looking for without having to search your resume for it and you may expand on these points later in the resume if you need to. The highlights bullet list should be a mix of experience, qualifications and achievements.
If the role is similar to one you have had before, or is a niche job that you have qualifications for, then imagine yourself already in the role. List the skills that you believe will be relevant to the job based on your previous work experience.
There’s a good vibe on the factory floor of Bottles of Australia. People are busy. They chat to each other while they work, grinning from ear to ear occasionally.
Bottles of Australia Director Anton Pemmer has always had difficulty in finding staff for the factory floor, and recognises the roles aren’t a career inspiring move. In saying that though, even the General Manager started in the production area, he says, and it has always been a starting point for people to build confidence, earn a living, and grow within the workforce.
“We used to hire a lot by word of mouth,’ he says, ‘which often worked, but as people moved on and up, we needed a more reliable way to recruit.’
“Enabled Employment has listed our roles, and we have some terrific staff who have really come into their own during their time here, and they are a great part of our team,’ he said.
Aisha and Shirley both applied to work for Anton and Bottles of Australia through the Enabled Employment website.
“I want to be famous!” says Aisha, striking a Zoolander pose for the camera, cracking up Anton, Shirley and myself.
Anton obviously enjoys the humour, and leaves me with General Manager Matt, to chat about the staff who signed up for the job through Enabled Employment, and their time at Bottles of Australia.
“Like a lot of other employees,’ says Matt “when they started they were a bit shy. Then that’s just like any other employee, now they’re part of the team, they chat at lunchtime, and interact just like anyone else. They aren’t any different to any other team member, there just isn’t an issue with their disability in the workplace,” he says.
Matt takes time to respond to my questions about those particular myths about disability in the workplace which employers sometimes hold.
“No, they don’t take more sick leave, or make more workers’ compensation claims, and they are often one of the first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave from there area,” he says.
Anton confirms Matt’s response. As a business owner, it is ultimately his responsibility to ensure the team on the factory floor is a strong one.
“We treat everybody the same,’ he said ‘you get treated as a human being. We’re running a business, and Shirley and Aisha are a great asset to the team.
‘I loved having them at our Christmas party, we all had a great time, and these ladies are a real part of our business, and our achievements this year,’ he said.
Shirley and Aisha are members of the Deaf Community. Shirley is studying a Bachelor of Commerce, uses English as a second language, and is a cheerful and happy member of the team, and Aisha loves her football and is wearing her team jersey under her hi-vis vest. And, she wants to be famous, and we are sure she will be one day soon.
For the past year, since launching on 11 September 2015, Enabled Employment has been winning awards for being a ‘start-up’. Start-up is a term used in the entrepreneur and tech world for a new company which is primarily internet based, and which has a business model which involves seeking private venture capital investment after proving their market worth. The term ‘start-up’ can be used while the company is being established. Some start-ups are only months old, while others are two or three years old.
Enabled Employment CEO Jessica May chose to follow the entrepreneurial path when she formed the business model she wanted for the company, rather than choose a not-for-profit business model.
Private venture capital investment is a whole new world for most of us. I learned about it when Jess was accepted into the GRIFFIN Accelerator. Private venture capital investment is when you are asking investors to exchange their hard earned cash for shares in the company.
An ‘accelerator’ or ‘business incubator’ such as GRIFFIN Accelerator is a group of experienced business people and entrepreneurs who exchange their cash for shares in your company to get your cash flow started, and mentor you through your first three months of business and ‘pitching’ for investment. Enabled Employment was accepted into the GRIFFIN program last year in July, and the knowledge gained from the team of mentors about doing business in the corporate world, and investment, was invaluable.
But why would someone choose a business model based on private venture capital when they could run a not-for-profit and get government subsidies, and tax concessions?
Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show there are approximately 2.2 million Australians of working age with a disability. The current social security system demands that if you receive a government payment such as Newstart, you are required to meet the job seeking criteria. If you disclose you have a disability, you will be referred to an employment service which specialises in placing people with disability into jobs, in return for government funding.
Jess made a decision on ethical grounds about how people with a disability are offered jobs. Currently, job seeking assistance to people with a disability is paid for by the government, and, depending on the level of disability, per person the government pays $890 for 13 weeks assistance from an employment services provider. Then there is a job placement fee of $770 per job placement, bringing the cost of services per individual to $1660.
Employers are subsidised by the government to provide ‘placements’ for people with a disability. Employers receive a 13 week placement fee of $2860, and a bonus of $572, and at the 26 week placement point, a further $7,700 plus a bonus of $1540. That’s $12,672 for six months provision of a placement.
All this adds up to $14,332 per person, per placement. And that’s at a minimum; the figures are higher for those with higher assistance needs.
Enabled Employment does not receive any of this government funding under the current disability employment framework. CEO Jess May considered the practice of government payments to employers for providing ‘placements’ to people with disability, and decided that another option was definitely both needed, and possible.
As people with skills, work experience, abilities and qualifications, she does not believe employers should be subsidised to employ people with a disability. The company she runs believes wholeheartedly that paying an employer to provide a job to a person with a disability encourages a misplaced belief that it is a ‘charitable favour’ to give work to a person with a disability – rather than an opportunity to diversify the workforce, and gain the demonstrable skills and capabilities of a qualified and skilled employee.
Why should I, for example, a person with post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain, be considered any less worthy of a role than someone with out those conditions? I’ve only taken one day off sick in the last 2 years, I work full-time hours, I have two degrees – and over 20 years experience as a professional communicator. Why should an employer get a windfall of some $12,000 to employ me for a short six months?
By not taking government subsidies, Enabled Employment is trying to change attitudes, in every sphere of Australia’s corporate world, towards how we regard the work capabilities and value of people with a disability. We do not believe that subsidies are the answer, for either employers or people with a disability.
So Jessica, and our Chief Information Officer and web wizard Chris Delforce, have ‘mainstreamed’ the recruitment process for our employee cohort, providing a jobs website where people with a disability can access job opportunities with inclusive employers – using flexible working options and a results oriented work environment.
Our approach ensures there is some level of self determination and choice in how people with a disability find work.
There’s a saying in ‘start-up’ world, and that is ‘Be the change you want to see.’
We are the change we want to see, and we hope our journey continues as successfully as it has for the last ten months.
As people with disability have suffered, and continue to suffer discrimination and prejudice in society, and in the workplace, it is understandable to hear the frustration. Frustration about inequality, channelled positively, can lead to activism, which can take many forms. Social media has made activism, advocacy and awareness-raising much easier, but it is not always positive. Recent campaigns for issues such as the ‘naked selfie’ for cancer demonstrates that activism can be positive and that social media can be a force for real change. What can the community of people with disabilities do to emulate a positive use of social media?
Fund and Awareness Raising
The Ice Bucket Challenge of 2014 for ALS/MND is a superb example of raising awareness of a debilitating illness. Charity information, websites and campaigns can only go so far, and people must want to find out information in the first place about a particular issue, and information may often come off as ‘marketing speak’. That’s where a novelty action such as the ice bucket challenge can be far more engaging. The action of dousing oneself in icy water has been compared to the physical effects of ALS/MND on the body.
One of the greatest additions to internet culture in recent years has allowed anybody to become a writer. Free blog sites such as wordpress, blogger, live journal and blog.com have allowed unprecedented access for people to tell their story to the world. That’s what inspired Eva Markvoort (a young lady who suffered from Cystic Fibrosis until her death in 2010) to live her life to the full and encourage others to do the same. She pursued an acting career, not letting her disability or the persistent rejections of directors expressing concern about the impact of her illness on the role for which she was applying, get in the way. Her death led to a discussion on Cystic Fibrosis in the Canadian Parliament, the first time the subject had come up in six years. Those who do not or cannot write are turning to videos to share their experience. One of the most prolific vloggers (the term for a video blogger) on YouTube is Robyn Lambird, a person living with cerebral palsy she vlogs about her experiences of CP, fashion, education, social attitudes and any other subject that takes her fancy.
In a bid to make social media more accessible, and to provide a global support network for the widest range of people with disabilities, there is now a dedicated social network. DisabledCommunity.net links together people all over the world, not just those with disabilities, but also their carers. It aims to do for people with disability what Facebook has done for practically everyone, providing a positive platform for people to meet and stay in touch no matter where in the world they are.
What’s Your Message?
The key here is positivity. People respond to a positive spirit, the novelty, an engaging medium and attitude. Charities do a lot of great work in raising funds and awareness for causes but that is only half the story; the internet provides a great opportunity for people with disabilities to aid in breaking down the barriers, to show that the person is not the disability, to share real stories of real lives.
Let us know about your blog… We’re interested to see who amongst you has been blogging, and how you’ve approached thinking about how to change attitudes towards people with a disability, and how far your thoughts have reached. Have you stimulated a positive discussion about inclusion, and the expanding of ‘workplace diversity policy’ to include people with a disability? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know what you’re doing in the world of blogging, or v-logging.