Top tips from Microsoft about inclusive, accessible recruitment

In our free webinar last week, 'How to do inclusive, accessible recruitment,' we spoke with Microsoft's Digital Inclusion Lead, Michael Vermeersch, about how his organisation approaches accessible recruitment. 

Mairead Comerford, AbilityNet's Head of HR, and Amy Low, AbilityNet's Services Delivery Director also shared their best practice tips about inclusive recruitment, including about avoiding discrimination and unconscious bias. We outlined AbilityNet's own recognition as an approved Disability Confident Leader with inclusive recruitment practices. 

What did we learn during the webinar?

Here are our key takeaways from the session:

3 women and 1 man on grid on computer screen, speaking on live webinar

1. Only 8% of attendees said they are "very confident" their organisation has fully inclusive accessible policies and procedures.

As part of the webinar, we held an interactive session including a few of the questions from AbilityNet's workplace inclusion GAP Analysis service, which is designed to take people through a range of questions and have them provide their experience as employees or managers. We polled attendees to get a feel for where organisations are with inclusive by design recruitment considerations. 

Responding to the poll Q: 'Can you tell us how confident are you that your organisation (if applicable) is doing recruitment in an inclusive, accessible way?' attendees responded with the following:

  • 8% said they are very confident that their organisation has fully inclusive accessible policies and procedures.
  • A further 47% reported they are quite confident - 'there may be some things we could do better but generally we get things right'.
  • 38% said they are 'not very confident, we still have a lot to learn'. And finally, 3% were not at all confident - 'My organisation needs to make major improvements'.
  • 4% of respondents did not belong to an organisation.
In addition to questions about recruitment, there are other sections in AbilityNet's GAP analysis that relate to onboarding and ways of working, and the overall employee journey. We will share those in future webinars later in the year - sign up to our enewsletter for announcements.

2. 17% of job applicants that applied for a job in the last five years had a job offer withdrawn as a result of their disability.*

This is according to a 2019 report by Leonard Cheshire charity. Furthermore, 24% of employers are reportedly less likely to hire a disabled person and 6 out of 10 questioned thought disability would adversely affect someone’s ability to do a job. 

And why might organisations fail or refuse to make a reasonable adjustment? According to the same report, 66% cited cost of reasonable adjustments and 38% cited designing accessible recruitment process as barriers to employing disabled people.

Knowing what disability discrimination is and how easily it can occur is really important for all participants in the recruitment process including applicants, interviewers, and those in marketing roles advertising the job opportunity. 

3. Microsoft: Not a 'know-it-all company, but a learn-it-all company'

Michael Vermeersch of Microsoft: "We kind of became an organisation that, you know, rather than being a know-it-all we want to be a learn it all. That in itself drives that curiosity... how do we connect? How do we become a better organisation? People start really getting engaged in this because they would like to be treated like this as well. So it almost becomes part of our DNA....
Finally, we also publish our results. That keeps us honest and keeps us driving as well. Very recently we published our disability representation stats."

4. Only 24% of attendees said their organisations' job application processes signpost help with completing an application form/cover letter 

When polled on the question 'In your organisation's job application process do you signpost help with completing an application form/cover letter if required?' answers were as follows:

  • 24% said yes
  • 34%  said no
  • 12% said not consistently
  • 25% said they didn't know
  • 5% said the question was not applicable to them

5. Key advice from Microsoft: Listen to your employees

Michael Vermeersch

We asked Michael 'If you had to choose one piece of advice to give to people that is going to make the biggest difference [regarding inclusive, accessible recruitment], what would that be?'

Michael Vermeersch, Microsoft: "It's really key to listen to your employees and listen to your employee resource group if you have one. If you are sizeable enough to set one up, do do that. They will give you feedback on your experiences on your processes. It will make you a better employer both internally and externally..."

6. Allow candidates to request changes to the recruitment stages

During the webinar, attendees had the opportunity to pose questions to the panel. One question answered after the session was, 'Do you break inclusive recruitment into stages - are there any steps that should be prioritised?' 

Mairead Comerford, Head of HR at AbilityNet: "At AbilityNet we do state the process of each stage of recruitment and allow for this to be changed to suit the candidate.   

  1. Ensure your recruitment process is inclusive - provide training to hiring staff is really important so everyone understands ‘The Why’.
  2. Have a process in place to ensure job descriptions are checked for relevance to the role (and for any bias – using Gender decoder or Textio).
  3. Check that interview questions are strongly linked to the job requirements (if not then take them out).
  4. Strong communication with candidates welcoming them to ask questions and give feedback to help you to design the interview process to be inclusive to the widest audience (considering all potential barriers)."

Find all the Q&A responses on the webinar recording page.

Watch the webinar recording

You can also access a transcript, slides, question and answers from the webinar, and a captioned recording of the webinar via the webinar page.

What you said about the webinar

Feedback about the session was really positive, including from Sky Randall, recruitment specialist, via LinkedIn:

"I've just attended a really insightful webinar by AbilityNet where Michael Vermeersch from Microsoft explained their approach inclusive and accessible recruitment, and how we could all do more."

Further resources


* Leonard Cheshire Reimagining the Workplace report, 2019.