Thursday, 6 November 2014

Professionalism starts with a spellcheck

When you spend days on end looking at CVs, after a while there is very little shock value in what you read. I've encountered the students who have managed to spell the name of their university incorrectly. That mind-numbing sensation when browsing another 'hard working individual' is a constant. And yet this afternoon I encountered a CV which perfectly illustrates how a candidate shoots themselves in the foot and would see their application discarded before a recruiter has even got beyond the first paragraph. Frankly it is a bit of a shocker.

I'll ignore the fact that this person has left an e off the word 'severe', and gloss over the upper case A in Active, and address the bigger problem. If you choose to begin your engagement with an employer by offering a professional profile, you better be damned sure that you can spell the word 'professional'

Hire me please, I'm a Peroffional
Professionalism starts with a spellcheck, Then read through your applications to check for spelling or grammatical issues that a spellchecker has not picked up upon, As an extra safety measure, ask somebody you trust to cast their eye over your documents. There is nothing professional about sending a CV that begins this badly to an employer, or in this case to a Placement Office.

First impressions are king. Candidates with a Peroffional Profile will not find their applications progressing very far. 

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Land of Opportunity?

Have you ever noticed on job descriptions how employers take a proactive stance towards equal opportunities? That short sentence that says something along the lines of 'We welcome applications from disabled candidates' and even go as far as guaranteeing an interview for candidates with a disability who meet the minimum requirements for the role. While this push towards equality is well intentioned, you have to wonder if it is a tick-box exercise rather than a meaningful attempt to to recruit disabled candidates.

Employment statistics paint the stark reality. The following paragraph is taken from report 88 of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, based on data from the Labour Force Survey, Q3 2012

On all key employment measures examined in this study, disabled people of working 
age in Great Britain are at a disadvantage compared with non-disabled people. They 
are less likely to be in work (47 per cent compared with 77 per cent); less likely to be 
economically active (47 percent are economically inactive compared with 16 per cent 
of non-disabled people); and those who are economically active are more likely to be 
unemployed (12 per cent compared with eight per cent) and unemployed for longer 
(47 per cent of unemployed disabled people have been unemployed for a year or 
more, compared with 31 per cent of unemployed non-disabled people). 

This makes for grim reading, and as somebody who works with disabled students who wish to undertake a placement year, it presents another barrier to entry for work based learning. This year I'm working closely with a student who has a severe mobility impairment. On paper the student has an excellent CV with relevant work experience, strong grades and heavy involvement in student committees and extra-curricular activities. The student is personable, articulate and somebody that any company worth their salt should want to hire. Time will tell if the student will be successful in their placement search. I will feel as though I have failed if they do not.

I take a very personal interest on this issue. After graduating many moons ago and while trying to decide on a career path, I undertook a period of voluntary service and was sent to a university in Wales where I was a carer for a student with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. I came to learn very quickly how different the world looks from a wheelchair and the daily challenges that someone with mobility issues encounters. I couldn't understand the logic of putting a Disability Service on the third floor of a building, making it that little bit more difficult for users to access. If a lift goes out of service, what are you to do? Unfortunately we found out on a number of occasions. When above the ground floor, the only lift in the building broke and we had to wait for hours for an engineer to come to fix it before being able to leave the building. Then there were taxi companies sending inaccessible vehicles despite clear requests for a specific type of cab. Don't even get me started on able bodied people making use of disabled toilets and leaving them in an unpleasant condition. My friend had enough difficulties in life without employment statistics being stacked against him too. 

I'm also a parent of a child with mobility issues, and as such worry what the future may hold for my son. I'd like to think that in twenty years time he will be entering a workforce that is much more embracing of disabled employees, and the disparity of the employment statistics listed above are a thing of the past. I have my doubts, but hope to be proven wrong. Having had the opportunity to attend the National Undergraduate Awards in recent years, it has been pleasing to see companies like Enterprise Rent-a-Car recognised for Best Diversity Initiative for Work Experience. That said, one hopes that in the future such award categories are no longer required and that it become the norm for employers to pursue a diverse recruitment strategy.
Take out the word Play and insert the word Work

I read this blog recently written by a graduate I know well, highlighting his difficulties in accessing employment, in part due to his disability. To borrow the turn of phrase at the end of the article, 'come on employers, take a risk'.