Disabilities: Tout Them, or Hide Them?

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Should a person with a disability include that on his/her resume (CV)?

I need some feedback on that question from the world’s best community of recruiters, please. It’s for some volunteer career counseling work I’m doing with a group of disabled (high-functioning) adults.

Here are the arguments in favor of “yes,” (as I see them):

  • Some companies actively recruit for people with disabilities, and federal contractors basically need to.
  • Some tax breaks may be available to the companies if they hire someone with disabilities.
  • The disability will be clear or will have to be disclosed in an interview anyway.

The argument against:

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  • Why disclose it until necessary? Let the company find out if/when it calls the person for an interview. The recruiter may consider a person who might otherwise have been rejected out of hand.

If you have some advice based on your preference as a HR executive or recruiter, and your company’s preference or requirements, can you provide some feedback below? Especially as to “why.” Thanks!

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Peter M. Zollman is founding principal of the AIM Group, which publishes Classified Intelligence Report, considered "the bible of the classified advertising industry.” CIR covers recruitment advertising companies worldwide, with clients including Monster Worldwide, Seek, StepStone, and many of the world’s leading recruitment ad businesses.


4 Comments on “Disabilities: Tout Them, or Hide Them?

  1. I have a lot of experience with this having a mildly disabled young adult as a son. We have tried both approaches and it seems to work best when the disability is addressed up front – so that he is given more training and more chances to make mistakes. It helps to have a liaison between the disable person and the employer to discuss problems and seek solutions – surprisingly, many employers welcome this.

  2. I just attended a college career fair and I was approached by a disabled student. He was applying for a developer position, and I was impressed by his experience. I tried to talk to him about accommodations, but he was unable to verbalize his needs. I think it is better to disclose the disability, and be very clear about what accommodations are needed for employment. Further, it might be nice to create a written and verbal elevator pitch so an employer can better understand their skill set and career goals. As @disqus_omP7ZWK83q:disqus said below, it will only help the employee.

  3. It depends. I have seen TONS of discrimination against people with disabilities, but there’s really no way to know, or stop that from happening, whether it’s disclosed up front or not. Even if the recruiter pulls you in for an interview with it disclosed up front, the hiring manager makes the ultimate decision. I used to work for a company which was family owned and they had a daughter with special needs, and you’d expect them to ‘get it,’ as they say, but even there among hiring managers all the way to ownership, it was a mixed bag. They made explicit outreach efforts to the special needs community, but at the same time I saw hiring managers blatantly discriminate against disabled people that came in on their own outside the official outreach channels. There’s no way to no, I guess in the end if you disclose it up front at least you have the comfort of knowing someone knew that and still invited you in for an interview. But, just know, any disability even as minor as a persistent lisp in your speech will likely be used to discriminate against you at some point, and likely multiple times, over the course of your career.

  4. My preference is to be upfront and clearly outline what accommodations you need to preform at your best. Outlining your needs creates the opportunity for open dialogue, as a candidate it would give me a good insight into what I could experience if I chose to join that organisation.
    That said, my brother is visually impaired, when you meet him you wouldn’t realise. He is currently job hunting, when he discloses his condition he has experienced blatant discrimination. As a HR professional it breaks by heart how ruthless & unprofessional peers can be. As a result he has removed all reference on his resume and will disclose when he feels comfortable.
    Perhaps the question should be how do we create societal change to embrace differences – different abilities, different cultures, different lifestyle choices etc. When did we become so close minded?

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