Would disclosing disabilities on a cover letter impact an employer’s interest in you as a job applicant – even if you were experienced and qualified for the position?
Researchers at Syracuse and Rutgers Universities recently endeavored to answer this question, and their findings may shock you.
In attempting to evaluate the incidence of disability discrimination in the hiring process, researchers devised more than 6,000 fake cover letters and resumes to apply to accounting positions. While about 1/3 of these letters disclosed applicants with a physical disability (i.e., a spinal cord injury), another third were associated with applicants who had a cognitive impairment (i.e., Asperger’s Syndrome). The remaining third disclosed no disability.
According to the study’s authors:
These specific disabilities were chosen because they would not be expected to limit productivity in accounting, helping rule out productivity-based explanations for any differences in employer responses.
Before analyzing the responses from employers, researchers predicted that disability discrimination against job applicants would be less of an issue when applicants had better qualifications and more job-related experience.
What they ended up finding, however, was that:
- Overall, there were about 26 percent fewer expressions of interest in disabled job applicants.
- For disabled applicants who had less experience, there were about 15 percent fewer expressions of interest from employers.
- For disabled applicants who had more experience, the disinterest from employers jumped up to about 34 percent.
- There was not a remarkable difference in employers’ responses to physical versus cognitive disabilities.
- Employers not subject to federal disability discrimination laws (i.e., those with less than 15 employees) were far more likely to exhibit discriminatory behaviors than employers who are subject to federal laws and/or those who regularly work on government contracts.
In the conclusion of the study, researchers noted that:
The overall pattern of findings is consistent with the idea that disability discrimination continues to impede employment prospects of people with disabilities, and more attention needs to be paid to employer behavior and the demand side of the labor market for people with disabilities.
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