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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Getting to Know Your Learning Strategies: Part I

 

I was told I was dyslexic when I was around 6 in the early 1990s, and got extra tutoring for it, but it was believed then that dyslexia was merely a shortcoming in being able to read and write in my native language. Once I was able to do that, I was ‘cured’ – no one understood that I’d have the same problems learning to read and write in a new language, as I struggle to sound out words, or that I had working memory problems – making exams very problematic – and no one picked up on my dyscalculia either.

I love learning and reading and writing, so I was lucky that I was very motivated to keep at it. I never thought I’d get a university degree as I didn’t have the grades to get into university in Denmark, where I lived. In 2009, I was helped by a friend and got accepted into Stirling University here in Scotland and I was finally on my way towards my dream degree in psychology. Another friend told me about the university’s dyslexia support and I finally gained a formal identification in 2010 at 27.

I was offered extra exam time, help with essay spell checking and various software packages, and I said to the educational psychologist who diagnosed me: ‘I feel like I’m cheating now – getting all of this, which my peers aren’t’, and he said: ‘You’ve been playing football all your life with your peers, except you’ve been playing uphill. You’re not cheating, you’re getting support to play on a level playing field’.

But I still wasn’t given any leaflets about dyslexia, or any book recommendations, or links to follow, so I wasn’t much wiser. I came to learn that I needed to read a text three times, and recap everything I read in writing myself, to get it stored in my memory – and that this didn’t make me stupid.

I realised, via the software that I needed to read things on paper, to highlight it, rather than on a screen. I learned that being read aloud to was preferential, but while also reading along myself to see the words as they were spoken to me. And I learned that via practise – writing essay after essay – I did improve simply by repeating a task.

I also learned that it was no good to just read (and re-read) and memorise – I needed to apply the knowledge in either practice or, at least, via meaningful, real-life examples. Text books are often poor at offering this, so I needed to pause and come up with real-life examples in my head, where I could apply my new knowledge, and ideally share this example with others to really get it hammered into my own memory. I also needed to go hunting for the right kind of text books for me, and not just accept whatever the tutors suggested, as some books are more dyslexia friendly that others, in layout, font and their form of explanation. I needed non-fiction and text books to apply the rules of storytelling – a passion of mine – to really relate and, thereby, remember.

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I have a whole host of self-taught learning strategies – some weirder than others. For example, I’m no good at head maths, so I tap out small figures with my fingers on my leg, or quickly add up using taps of a pen onto paper, using the number formation of a dice. Though, obviously, this doesn’t work for bigger numbers.

Of course, I wish I’d known these things earlier to help me through life, but better late than never. And of course, these strategies are personalised towards my needs. Yours might be different, but they will be there, you just need to find out what they are and apply them.

What do you love doing? What kind of information do you retain and is that because it’s linked to something you love? Now, try to apply this to things that you struggle with. Maybe you already know your learning strategies? What are they and how did they come about?

Thank you for reading my blog – check out ‘part II’ on the 25th of January 2019.

Terese Kansted

Dyslexia Scotland blogger

High School Transition

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This year my dyslexic son started high school.  Worried about how he would cope with this new school environment, given that organisation is not his strong point, we ensured he went to as many transition events as possible before starting.  In November last year, he went to a taster day at the school, so he would become familiar with the building layout, staff and pupils.  He enjoyed the day and made some friends which helped him when thinking about changing schools.

Towards the end of primary seven, he did two full transition days, where pupils were given timetables and spent time in each subject classroom.  I discovered that there was a holiday club at the school over the summer which used the school’s sporting facilities, so my son did a week of activities to further help him get used to being in the school environment.  He enjoyed this, and I feel it did help him, if nothing else he knew how to get to the PE department!  His main concern seemed to be that he would get lost and be late for class.  I looked up Dyslexia Scotland’s advice for students moving to high school.  https://unwrapped.dyslexiascotland.org.uk/sites/default/files/useful-files/transition_from_primary_to_secondary.pdf

When he started school, I made several copies of his timetable, as he is very forgetful and often loses things.  I also made some backup copies.  I then typed out his timetable in a word document with the font Open dyslexic, using one page for each day. The font is free and can be downloaded from https://www.opendyslexic.org/.  I stuck these sheets to his wall to help him become familiar with what subject he had each day.  I ordered coloured rolls of plain paper and covered his text books and jotters with one colour for each subject.  I also bought coloured A4 files to match.  I made up a key with the subjects and their corresponding colours and stuck that up next to his timetables.  I had to check each day with him that he had what he needed for each subject against a list supplied by the school.

Initially, it was a lot of work helping my son become organised for school.  However, three months in he knows his timetable, although he always looks at it to double-check.  He still has trouble recording his homework accurately in his diary, but the school are involved in helping him, with teachers checking his diary. I get him to pack his bag for school at night-time, so that he isn’t panicking in the morning or forgetting things. I try not to do everything for my son, but early on I did have to help him sort his work into the correct files and folders and still do, although he is now better at this himself.  The colour coding has helped him tremendously and he can see at a glance which books are in his bag.  I would recommend giving yourself time to help your child make these adjustments.

Lorna Murray, guest blogger