By Joanna Samuels, MED, CMF, CTDP, RRP
How does a job seeker who is struggling with the job search as a whole handle complicated online job boards? How do you complete the forms in the drop-down menu of the online application when you have gaps in your résumé and work history, and the software’s algorithms don’t allow for an explanation?
What about the drop-down menu requiring the year of graduation or the first job with no dates prior to 1980, asks Chris Farrell in a Forbes article entitled “The problem with job boards for older job seekers.”
Online job applications are “the new norm” says Empish J. Thomas in her insightful article “The challenges of applying for a job online” (available on visionaware.org), which discusses the difficulties of online applications for job seekers with visual impairments.
In my capacity as a job developer and coach, I have been approached by job seekers who need my help to navigate online job boards’ application processes. The fear of not using this valuable job-search tool or of making a mistake and missing out on suitable employment opportunities is real. Many qualified applicants with visual impairments face challenges because the sites are not accessible—meaning that applicants lose out on opportunities
and employers miss out on talent.
With the changing face of the Canadian talent pool as the aging population increases in North America, the number of potential candidates and employees who identify as people with disabilities will be one in five—up 13.5 per cent—by 2025. The question is whether online job boards and their software developers can expand their algorithms to include the talent trends.
Tim Rose, founder of Disability Positive Consulting, gives the following tips to job seekers who are engaging with online job boards.
1. Manage your expectations.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. A professional presence can be daunting, so commit to building it one piece at a time—and start small. It is important to stay positive, even though that can be really tough, because a
good attitude will be reflected in your profile. Above all, ask for help. Register with supported employment programs in your area. Don’t look for work alone.
An online job board can be a fantastic tool, but it should not be the only thing in your toolbox! Searching for a job needs a complete approach, and sites like Magnet.today can be a great way to build connections and look for jobs.
2 Diversify your job-search strategies.
Keep your skills, experience and networking up to date and you never know what will happen! Continue building your network and connections, including through social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, to name but a few. Use technology to your advantage. Talk to people in your field or related disciplines by attending and networking at industry events, conducting information interviews and finding as many opportunities as you can to meet people one on one.
3 Face the facts.
Don’t be afraid to call out the barriers presented by online job boards. Depending on your disability, issues such as language and non-screenreader-friendly job boards can pose major barriers. Most of today’s online job boards are designed with accessibility in mind, and are constantly changed and updated to make sure they remain accessible. If you have a recommendation to help a site improve, call or e-mail the team—which is an excellent networking strategy!
4 Use the applicant tracking systems.
Online job boards, including company’s career centres, operate “applicant tracking systems” (ATSs). Make sure you use keywords targeted to your career/employment goal in your résumé and profile. You will also be able access a learning centre with lots of great resources to keep your motivation high. You can also call or e-mail the team to help you with the application process, or work together with the job coach who is helping you with your employment search.
5 Keep current.
I didn’t have a lot of luck with online job boards in the four-plus years I was unemployed. But the thing about job searching is you never know where the next lead will come from. So I always kept my profiles up to date and a résumé at the ready. I also checked a few job boards frequently (I made a set schedule for myself) to make sure I didn’t miss any postings that might have been a match.
In addition to these suggestions, I refer to Thomas, who advises that if a company’s site isn’t disability friendly then to contact their HR department and ask for an accommodation. Let the company know you are having difficulties accessing its online application and that you need assistance. For example, the webmaster will post something like: “If you are disabled and unable to access this online application, please contact our HR department for further assistance.” Note: If the company is not able to provide an accommodation or alternative way to apply for the job then you might want to consider whether it will be the best place for you to work.
If you are not receiving responses from employers, think about using other job-search and networking strategies. After all, online job boards are just on tool.
Consider expanding your job-search and networking activities by asking for information interviews and using social media tools (especially LinkedIn). I would also encourage you to seek the help of a job developer or job coach within a supported employment program.
Joanna Samuels, MEd, CMF, CTDP, RRP, is the employment resource supervisor at reena.org. Joanna provides customized supported employment / career services to unemployed and underemployed individuals with disabilities and multi-barriers, in addition to helping employers with inclusive/diversity recruitment.