According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were an estimated 56.7 million Americans with disability in 2010. This is equivalent to approximately 19% of the population.
According to the American Community Survey, the percentage of people with disabilities in the United States was 12.6%, an increase from 11.9% in the survey’s 2010 estimates. These statistics are a clear indication that Americans with various disabilities are growing in number and subsequently, in significance.
Inequality in the Employment Market
It is an unfortunate fact that despite the employment rates of many minorities in the United States has improved significantly between 1980 and 2015; the rate among people with disabilities has experienced a decrease in the same period. Based on a report from RespectAbility, just 35% of Americans with a disability between the age of 18 and 64 years were employed in 2015. Conversely, at least 76% of Americans without disabilities were employed.
Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) puts the number of employed Americans with a disability at 17.9% while that of Americans without disability in 2016 was 65.3%. On the other hand, the unemployment rate among those with disabilities in 2016 was 15.5% while that of Americans with no disabilities was 4.6%. Interestingly, a huge section of employed Americans with disability are employed part-time. BLS estimates that 34% of workers with a disability are part-time. On the other hand, only 18% of workers without a disability are employed part-time.
(Source: Succesful Resumes)
In addition to that, many of the people with disabilities are not even in the labor force. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that out of every 10 with disabilities, 8 were not in the workforce in 2016. In comparison, only 3 out of 10 of those with no disabilities were not in the labor force.
One possible explanation of the high number of people with disabilities without jobs is the fact that many of them are aged 65 and above. 2016 BLS estimates suggest that 47% of people with disability were aged 65 and above. This easily overshadows the 15% estimate for the same age-group among people with no disability.
These statistics are also a stark representation of the apparent inequality in the employment markets particularly for disabled Americans. Many experience difficulties in getting good jobs; leaving them to resort to relatively odd jobs. It is no wonder then that many people with disability are losing faith and confidence in their employability.
Americans with Disability Act
The above statistics should not dishearten any job seeker who is disabled. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects job seekers with disabilities in the employment markets. According to the ADA, employers with more than 15 employees are forbidden from;
- Requiring job applicants to take pre-employment medical examinations
- Discriminating job applicants and more so, qualified individuals by any physical/mental disability
- Enquiring about the past or current medical conditions or inquiring about the nature and severity of the disability.
Qualified individuals under the ADA are defined as those people with the disability that can perform the vital functions of the job in question with or without reasonable accommodation.
But despite the presence of the Americans with Disabilities Act, many job-seekers with disability have to work harder to get a good job.
Probably one of the most important ways that such job-seekers can improve their employability is through learning how to write a high-quality resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV). Job-seekers with disability should keep several things in mind when writing a CV or resume;
1. To Mention or Not To Mention?
One of the biggest dilemmas people with a disability face when writing a CV is whether or not to disclose a disability on the CV or resume. According to experts, the decision to reveal or not to reveal lies entirely with the applicant. However, job seekers should not disclose disability if they can do the job without the disability affecting job performance.
It is important to keep in mind that employers use CVs to weed out applicants on paper. Considering the general misunderstanding of disability in the society as well as the realities of the employment markets, revealing a disability can act against a job seeker.
Employers are more likely to eliminate job applicants with disability meaning that job seekers with a disability also get fewer interview invitations. Most importantly, according to the ADA, job seekers with a disability do not have to mention anything about it to employers.
Nonetheless, some experts suggest revealing a disability when doing so increases the chance of an applicant getting a good job. This is particularly so when it comes to programs that are designed to recruit job seekers with a disability or when the disability is directly connected to a position, e.g., a disabled counselor for those with similar disabilities.
A better time to disclose a disability is after the potential employer sets an interview appointment. One may also choose to disclose an invisible disability once a job offer is made if special accommodation is required.
2. Dealing with Gaps in Work History
One of the barriers to getting a good job offering is having too many gaps in one’s work history. Many job applicants with disability have disability related work gaps in their CVs and many grapple with how to deal with these gaps.
Job applicants with a disability often resort to concealing these work gaps to make the CV look good. However, many experts advise doing this because it is easy for suspicious employers to do a background search leading to the discovery of such facts.
Instead of hiding the work gaps, some experts recommend having fillers for the work-gap. The main benefit of fillers is to undo the notion that the work-gap resulted from the disability. One can fill such work gaps with details on volunteer work was done, educational courses pursued or any other activities that the applicant participated in during the gap. Including such activities as filler is a strong demonstration of an applicant’s attributes, skills, and strengths.
Applicants with disability ought to use these gaps to demonstrate the flexibility and adaptability they can bring into the work culture in the organization where one is applying for work. However, applicants should take care not to make things appear exaggerated.
However, in cases where the work gap is only for a short period, some experts recommend filling the gaps with a statement declaring that these gaps were “illness and recovery” periods. Apart from symbolizing honesty, such a statement also demonstrates a personal commitment to recovery and getting back to work.
Another way of eliminating the work gaps is to develop a functional rather than a chronological CV. Functional CVs focus on highlighting the applicants work experience and skills rather than focusing on the time factor of the work history.
3. Simple and Qualifying Language
To get a good job, one must demonstrate that he or she has the skills and qualifications necessary for optimum job performance. However, it is not enough to simply make statements about one’s skills and qualities. On the contrary, one must attempt to qualify these statements with evidence that demonstrates the abilities in question. For example, if one mentions that he or she is a team player, he or she should give clear examples of how teamwork skills were central to an activity the applicant was involved in.
In addition to that, it is important to use simple and comprehensive language when giving these pieces of evidence. This is because potential employers often take a short time to review CVs and the easier it is to understand, the higher the chances of the hiring manager picking the CV. Most importantly, job applicants should ensure that they cross-check their grammar and spelling before submitting the CV. Having errors in the CV is a potential reason for employers to reject the affected CV.
4. Tailoring the CV to the Specific Job Opening
One mistake the many people often make (regardless of whether they have a disability or not) is using the same CV for different job openings. Many CV writing experts advise tailoring and customizing CVs to the particular job opening in question. It is quite easy for employers to tell that an applicant has not researched on a particular job from reading the CV. If it is a good job, then it is worth spending time and effort tailoring the CV to the job. This includes researching more on the company and its core values. Also as important is researching on the job description and required skills. It is also advisable to use keywords that are relevant to the specific job one is applying to.
Further, the applicant should use the personal statement section to show how their previous experiences relate to the job one is applying for. A personal statement helps to explain why the applicant is the best person for the specific job.
Applicants can also use the education section to highlight their educational background and how that background relates to the job vacancy in question. The education section should also include any specialized courses or training programs one has taken part in and are of relevance to the job vacancy.
5. The Importance of References
A huge challenge job applicants with a disability often face proving that they have the abilities and skills required for a certain job opening. While self-describing one’s qualities and skills are important, it is not enough. Applicants ought to have references who can give testament to their abilities and skills.
An applicant’s LinkedIn profile can also act as a benchmark for hiring managers especially if other members of the applicant’s professional network have made comments on the abilities and skills of the applicant. In this sense, employers use the applicant’s previous work history to predict future work.
6. Positivity and Self-Belief
To get a good job, one must believe that they are capable of getting the job regardless of their disabilities. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal.”
Belief in oneself is one of the most vital attributes any job applicant can have. This includes believing in one’s strength, skills, and achievements. It is important to note that not all employers view disability as a bad thing. The CV must reflect this positivity and self-belief. Job applicants who are disabled must identify their strengths and focus on them in the CV. Most importantly, they must, in an eloquent and clear manner, demonstrate to the hiring manager that they have something invaluable to bring to the organization.
7. Additional Dos and Don’t
There are many other things that job applicants must keep in mind when writing a resume. For starters, applicants must ensure;
- The resume is written on standard business size white paper (A4 or letter)
- The resume is typed and uses a clear font such as Times New Roman or Arial (especially if the CV is submitted in soft copy).
- They use action verbs when describing and highlighting their duties and achievements
- They use a reverse chronological order if necessary.
- They keep the resume short, brief and straight to the point. According to research, hiring managers spend an average of 10 seconds on every resume.
- That contact information is correct and up to date.
On the other hands, there are certain common mistakes among job applicants that can jeopardize their chances of landing a good job. These common mistakes include;
- Using fancy fonts and formatting. Some even add photos/pictures. However, experts recommend avoiding this unless the hiring organization requests it.
- Putting a date on the resume
- Including unnecessary details or negative details.
- Using the first person when writing the CV
- Mentioning expected or previous wages and salaries
8. Finding a Good Job
Job-seekers are synonymous to salespersons selling their products (skills and qualifications) to the employer. It is, therefore, the responsibility of job seekers with a disability to make the first step of looking for employment leads and actively pursue those leads.
Luckily, there are numerous ways and “places” to look for job leads and potential employers. It is important to explore all of them, or at least most of them to get a good job. These include;
- Advertisements in newspapers
- Government employment and personnel offices
- Specific employment programs for persons with disability
- Organizations of and for persons with disability
- Private and public employment agencies
- Non-governmental and community-based organizations
- Internet job websites
- One’s social network including friends, family, and neighbors.