Phone Screens Are Not Inclusive

Diversify your company’s approach to initiating first contact with Deaf job candidates

Companies with diverse and inclusive cultures should have multiple ways to make first contact with a job candidate regardless of whether they have a disability or not. Having a diverse approach to recruiting and screening allows your company to be flexible and quickly adapt to a candidate’s needs. That means there needs to be more ways to engage a prospective job candidate than a go-to phone screen, which sadly, is how many companies do it today.

Phone screens are a barrier for Deaf job candidates

First contact involves a phone screen with recruiters and hiring managers and that is a barrier Deaf people face when seeking employment.

Being asked to do a phone screen creates uncertainty and doubt in how to respond. We have to figure out how to explain that we prefer a different approach and why it works better for us because we are Deaf. Maybe we’re not ready to self-declare yet until we know more about the company.

We also wonder if the person and/or company is inclusive and flexible. Would they be willing to do the screening in the way we prefer? Do they understand what accommodations are? Do they have a diverse culture with inclusive minds? Have they checked their biases and privileges at the door? Would they enable us to be successful working for that company? Stuff like that goes through our minds. The Deaf community is full of frustrated stories about this awkwardness while job hunting. They want to work at companies that accept them for who they are and what they have to offer.

This one simple question removes the first contact barrier for Deaf job candidates

When your company reaches out to a candidate, ask how they would like to communicate. Don’t just assume and ask to do a phone screen. If they don’t respond with a preference, present them with options and ask for their ideas too. When that’s decided, share their preference with your assigned team member who initiates the screening. Make sure your interviewer understands how to connect with your candidate, the process itself, and share that information in the candidate’s recruiting file if the screening is successful and your company decides to move forward.

When I made first contact with Amazon, they asked me to do a phone screen. I was prepared for this because it was a common scenario I often ran into whenever I interview with a company. Hoping for the best outcome, I self-declared I am Deaf and that I preferred to chat over IM because I can’t use the phone.

There are many ways to be Deaf, and you will get different responses from different candidates but for me, a chat over IM worked best because I preferred direct conversation. I wanted us to be functionally equivalent where we both were limited to typing text in a chat window. Neither would have a communication advantage over the other and nothing would be misunderstood. That was important to me so I asked for that.

The versatile internet

Research what communication tools are available. There are many options at your disposal. Create a system to enable these communication pathways and update your training materials so that it propagates this information across your company. Make sure your team understands how to proceed. Normalize this process as if it is a common occurrence. People communicate in many different ways for both business and pleasure so it really shouldn’t be out of the ordinary for anyone.

A flexible approach to first contact creates a positive first impression

When a Deaf candidate learns that your company’s recruiting efforts does not have this barrier they often run into, this sends a positive signal that your company has an inclusive culture with diverse perspectives and understands how to engage them. They may self-declare that they are Deaf trusting that your company’s process would work well for everyone involved.

This works for candidates of all types too

The question above is inclusive to all candidates, not just for the Deaf and hard of hearing. You cannot ask candidates if they have a disability, but it shouldn’t matter if you have an inclusive barrier-free approach.

Take a good look at your company’s recruiting and hiring practices to remove as many barriers as possible. Use the internet’s versatility to create multiple options of initiating first contact and give that choice to your candidate to decide. Happy screening!

If your company has screened a Deaf job candidate and moved forward to in-person interviews, check out these tips on interviewing Deaf candidates using interpreters.

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