Should you disclose a disability on your job application (opinion)

For almost twenty years it’s been a legal requirement not to discriminate against disabled people, but only now do we have a viable solution to the disabled candidate's conundrum – to disclose or not to disclose? In this second blog of a two-part post, we’re looking at the solution to this intractable dilemma faced by disabled job-seekers everywhere.

The disclosure catch-22

Last time we looked at some startling research undertaken by an organisation trying to help disabled people into work. They applied for twenty jobs with CVs and covering letters that clearly demonstrated the applicants' ability to perform the role, and they ticked the box - common to many application forms - that asks if you have a disability. The result was that they didn’t get a single response from any of the different organisations they applied to. Oh and by the way, when they didn’t tick the box while applying for those same jobs, they got a response in every case!

photo of a job application form

For the full horror of the scenario to fully sink in I’d recommend reading last week’s article.

If, however, a disabled candidate chooses not to tick the box, then they usually find themselves unable to fully participate in the application, assessment or interview process as (often quite simple) changes haven’t been put in place – changes so vital to help them perform at their best. It’s a classic catch-22.

The recruiters' story

Recruiters aren’t necessarily discriminating in this way because they want to consciously avoid disabled candidates.  Imagine that you are a busy recruiter with dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of applications for a given post. You have lots to choose from. When you see one that has the box ticked the immediate response is to panic. The fear of not being able to adequately accommodate the needs of that individual means that, consciously or otherwise, they look for some rationale to put them to one side. There are, after all, all these other candidates to choose from - and getting it wrong might lead to all kinds of consequences.

That, of course, is not fair and disabled people deserve better. Quite apart from it being illegal to do this in those cases where the candidate is more qualified than those not being discarded, disabled employees are very valuable members of a workforce.

A diverse workforce is a stronger workforce

Research by The Health and Safety Executive has demonstrated that, when compared to non-disabled colleagues, disabled employees:

  • Are as productive when they have the right reasonable adjustments in place
  • Take less sick-leave
  • Stay longer in their jobs (more loyal)

I was once told of another striking example of the power of a diverse workforce. NASA, at the time of the space shuttle missions, tried to ensure that wherever possible one of the seven crew members had dyslexia. This was because the special connections forged in the brains of people with dyslexia make them excellent lateral-thinkers and thus invaluable to have around in a tight spot.

Knowing what disabled workers bring, who wouldn’t want to employ as diverse a workforce as possible?

4 young co workers looking convivial, including one in a wheelchair

A new British Standard encouraging recruiters to ‘Do the right thing’

A new code of practice: Valuing people through diversity and inclusion was launched on 4 May. The code of practice requires that recruiters make all parts of the process, such as filling in forms or completing online assessments, accessible to disabled candidates.

Check out our recent post for more information on what this new standard covers, as well as what it means for employers.

So the law is clear and the moral and business case is compelling, but the question of just how to do it right is, and always has been, a challenge. Enter ClearTalents, cape a-flapping, to save the day!


The challenge of asking all the right questions up-front and in a way that encouraged disclosure resulted, after several years of expert development, in ClearTalents. Put simply, ClearTalents is an online application that enables candidates to quickly create a profile that results in a tailored report for recruiters to know what actions they need to take. Turning an intractable challenge into a simple solution has won ClearTalents several awards.

Quick and simple, powerful and compliant

You might think that a process that explores all aspects of a candidate’s needs (not just disability and impairment but also any specific requirements they might have relating to race, religion, age, sex and sexual orientation and pregnancy etc) would be a lengthy one. In reality creating a profile take minutes for someone to complete as they are first asked high-level questions and only drill down into great detail in areas that apply to them. Whether they need a prayer room to be available during an on-site assessment, a wheelchair accessible venue, or information by text or email instead of by phone, the report tells the recruiter everything they need to know to put reasonable, timely adjustments in place.

One subtle but significant feature of ClearTalents is that recruiters ‘unlock’ each stage of the report as the candidate progresses through the application process. An audit trail in the system confirms what was viewed by who and when and in this way the recruiter isn’t able to look ahead to see what disabilities or other needs might show up later on.

Let’s use a practical example to illustrate how this might work in practice. For someone like myself, my blindness would not necessarily show up in my report until I had been shortlisted and called in for interview. This is because I don’t need any adjustments until that point. I am able to fill out online forms and have a nice chat with HR on the phone. But, when coming in for an interview I’d need to ensure that the building had a conventional entrance as well as a revolving door, for example, as my guide dog Archie is so big he’d almost certainly be chopped in half. Moreover, springing a disability on an employer at the last moment like that will often put them on the back foot, which doesn’t make for a relaxed and successful interview.

If a candidate’s needs do show up at an earlier stage, the fact that the recruiter has unlocked the report and accessed its tailored reasonable adjustment info means that they are then unable to dismiss that candidate without basing their decision solely upon merit, experience and qualifications. They have, after all, just been given the reasonable adjustments that candidate needs so what excuses do they have? Accountability encourages compliance and the recruiter just gets on with following the report’s advice and the candidate gets the adjustments they need.

Not just disability – inclusive recruitment is so much more

As ClearTalents is not just about disability, we both encourage all job-seekers to create a profile and recommend that all employers consider including it as standard. There are eight other areas (or ‘protected characteristics’) that are covered by the Equality Act – we’ve mentioned a few above – and candidates can easily be inadvertently discriminated against in these areas too.

Thus we find that, in reality, the majority of candidates have something they are able to disclose in these areas that, with the right adjustments in place, will help them perform at their best. For this reason, many organisations are indeed including ClearTalents as a step in their standard application process. 

Goodbye dreaded tickbox

Unlike the dreaded tickbox approach, recruiters using ClearTalents now don’t need to be made aware whether a candidate has needs, large or small, before it is time for them to know. When they do find out, the combination of audit trail and tailored adjustments at their fingertips means that they have no option but to consider that candidate on his or her merits.

red cross

Goodbye tickbox. Goodbye discrimination. Welcome to a world of compliance, opportunity and diversity.

If you’d like to find out more about how ClearTalents can help your organisation become a true leader in inclusive recruitment please do drop me a line.

Candidates - want to help make your talents clear to recruiters?

A message to everyone out there who is seeking work is to consider creating a free profile on ClearTalents. You might use your computer in a certain way, find steps or lifting difficult, or perhaps you have allergies or anxieties. You might need to make special travel arrangements, have print of a certain size, or require something specific in place for face to face meetings. Whatever makes you you, ClearTalents can provide the recruiter with the reasonable adjustment advice they need to help.

So if you’re someone whose looking for work and want to know a bit more about how ClearTalents can help, then check out this handy summary for candidates as it will help answer a lot of your questions.

It’s free. To get cracking today go to, create your profile and then start sharing it with companies you apply to. You may never need to tick that box again – instead just give them the link to your secure and confidential profile which contains the reasonable adjustments you need to perform at your best.

ClearTalents in Recruitment
ClearTalents At Work