What Professionals With Disabilities Really Want in Their Job Search

By , March 17, 2015

When we led a survey to find out what professionals with disabilities wanted in their job search, we got some surprising results. First and foremost we were thrilled to see that job seekers with disabilities look for jobs like anyone else. Around 93% of respondents use social media as online job search tools, with LinkedIn the No. 1 job tool, followed by Facebook.

Our survey is comprised of 235 professionals with disabilities and reveals that job seekers would like more online job search tools, including ones that are geared to people with disabilities, to help them find meaningful work. Nine out of 10 respondents say they would use a job board specifically for people with disabilities, while three-quarters say they would like more detailed job leads at online career fairs.

More than half of respondents say they seek networking and mentoring opportunities with companies looking to hire them. That shows that job seekers understand that companies can’t always hire right away and are looking to build their pipeline of qualified candidates.

Despite being highly educated, the survey also shows that professionals with disabilities still remain largely underemployed. Nearly 60% of respondents do not have a job but are actively looking. Almost all of the respondents have at least some college, post secondary or trade school education.

When looking for a job, the majority of respondents—around 85%—say they worry about disclosing their disability in the workplace. The perception that someone who has a disability is unable to perform their job, or is unqualified for a promotion remains, causing a stigma that keeps people from revealing their condition.

This presents a challenge for employers, as they’re not able to give the support they would like to should a candidate choose not to disclose—and it’s unlawful to ask questions about disabilities. That’s why partnering with organizations like ours that specifically work with candidates with disabilities can be beneficial to businesses.

Around 40% of respondents say they require an accommodation to perform their job, while 35% do not—and nearly one in four (24%) say they do not know if they need an accommodation, suggesting that job seekers would benefit from better information about the range of available accommodations such as assistive technology and flexible work environments.

Federal contractors have an immense opportunity to hire from this group and meet their target hiring goals, and can partner with us to find qualified candidates through our online career fairs, virtual networking events and other programs that can reach our community of 7,000 experienced professionals with disabilities.

Ultimately we learned that there are now so many more ways professionals with disabilities search for jobs. Beyond the traditional ways of submitting a resume through an HR system, or attending in-person job fairs, the power of online job search and social media is opening up new worlds—and this tech-savvy group is eager to participate.

Check out our survey infographic here: http://bit.ly/TBTLsurvey 

Author: Laura Wilhelm

Laura Wilhelm has served as the Program Director of Think Beyond the Label since the brand's launch in 2010. She has years of experience in health and disability policy at Health & Disability Advocates, the parent organization of Think Beyond the Label.