Dyslexia and Recruitment: Square Pegs and a Round Circle

Way back in the 13th Century a selection of artists were asked to demonstrate their competence for a job as a painter for Pope Benedict XI. Each provided an elaborate, detailed sketch to prove their abilities. Except for Giotto, who simply drew a single perfect circle.

Guess what? He got the job.

Dyslexia and Job Applications

This might be the earliest example of successfully taking a creative, unconventional approach to applying for a job. Since then, employers have set all kinds of different tasks, and applicants have considered the best way to respond to make them stand out. The evolution of the CV and application form through history has had challenging consequences for dyslexic applicants, and these, combined with interview struggles, are the things people approaching Dyslexia Scotland’s Career Development Service ask for help with most.

The recent report The Value of Dyslexia by Ernst and Young says “Standardised hiring processes can inhibit dyslexic individuals. Job descriptions and application processes can … play against dyslexic abilities.” Last year, the WAC report Opening Doors to Employment also highlighted how traditional recruitment processes are “significant barriers” to dyslexic people. These findings are no surprise to Dyslexia Scotland, but what hope and inspiration is there for the dyslexic job seeker who feels applications forms are more of a square peg to their Giotto-like circle?
In response to the challenges of recruitment processes, employers signed up to the UK Government’s Disability Confident scheme at level 2 are committed to accept job applications in a variety of formats”.

The open-ness of this commitment spells hope for applicants who find the traditional application form isn’t their style, particularly those gifted with dyslexic-thinking strengths of creativity and problem solving, who take daring and dynamic approaches to a challenge. But how open are employers to receiving truly alternative formats of applications?

Alternative Applications

Some of my favourite examples of out-there approaches to applying for jobs have resulted in great success for the applicants because they’ve approached things so very differently. Cole Warner, a young person in America showed he had all the right tools for an Internship job at American DIY chain store Home Depot with this ‘out of the box’ CV.

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In his blog, employer Phillip Newman said “When I took apart the toolbox, I was reminded by how much more there is to people beyond what a [CV] tells of them. [CVs] are ripe for disruption. So are job descriptions.”

Some creative approaches to getting a job are born of frustration at following the beaten track. Adam Pacitti from England turned the tables on employers, calling on them to approach him with a job in a stand-out way.

Dyslexia and Recruitment

And others have a more playful take on things, like Andy Morris, a designer from Wales whose Lego figure application is helping build his career.

Dyslexic Thinking Skills

Whilst dyslexic applicants can have difficulty with traditional recruitment processes, they can also be among the most creative thinkers, and like the examples above, able to see a different way to stand out to employers. With so much promotion around a need for dyslexic thinking skills in the world of business, employers could do well to apply the same principle to the way they recruit.

How alternative an approach would you be prepared to take to apply for a job?   If you thought a creative approach might catch an employer’s attention, how would you go about applying? Do you think employers should be more open to truly alternative applications?

Think differently about approaching recruitment; you might stand out for all the right reasons.  Men in Black – The Test Scene.

Katie Carmichael, Career Coach

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3 thoughts on “Dyslexia and Recruitment: Square Pegs and a Round Circle

  1. Michelle Stoop says:

    I love this! And this blog in general. You can adapt the ideas on here for younger dyslexics who might have completely different ideas when it comes to school projects or homework than their classmates. Letting them know that it’s more than ok to do things differently is important.

  2. Too many schools still stereotype kids with dyslexia as low achievers from an early age, trying to stifle future career opportunities.Then too many UK employers stick to traditional selection processes. That’s why unfortunately too many kids and adults end up hiding dyslexia.

  3. L. Jones says:

    We don’t live in America though , I can’t see this form of application ever being accepted from any employer here in Scotland . Young dyslexic people I know try to hide their dyslexia difficulties when applying for jobs , this is because for many years the support provided for dyslexic learners has been ignored and still is .

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