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Disclosing A Disability In Cover Letters Is Risky Business

Imagine you've been handed two cover letters that look virtually identical in terms of qualifications and experience, except for one thing: One of the job applicants admits to a disability on paper. Which one would you interview?

Well, a new Rutgers/Syracuse study reveals that disabled-but-highly-qualified job applicants are 34% less likely to hear from employers than nondisabled job applicants with the same qualifications.

The researchers sent out more than 6,000 fictitious resumes and cover letters in response to advertised accounting jobs. I'll let the official Rutgers rundown offer an overview of the study methodology:

The research team carefully crafted robust resumes and matched the experience to job openings on a major job-search website. No employer was applied to twice. There were two candidate profiles—one with six years' experience, the other about a year out of college. Candidates with and without disabilities were equally qualified. One-third of the cover letters mentioned no disability, while one-third revealed a spinal cord injury and the other third Asperger's syndrome, both conditions chosen because they would not affect the accounting abilities required.

It turns out employers were significantly less interested in the cover letters that disclosed a disability.

In fact, employers contacted fewer than 5% of the applicants who disclosed a disability, compared to 6.6% of nondisabled applicants who did get a response. The difference in the two numbers, according to the researchers, represents a 26% "lower chance of employer interest" in job applicants with disabilities.

Studies have found that slightly more than one-third (34%) of working-age Americans with disabilities were employed in 2013, compared to nearly three-fourths (74%) of Americans without disabilities. So there's been quite a gap in the job market.

It may be worth noting that companies with fewer than 15 employees are not subject to the requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act, which prohibits workplace discrimination against the disabled in areas including recruitment, advancement, pay and benefits. Employers who do fall under the ADA, meanwhile, are not required to provide a reasonable accommodation that would be very difficult, or very costly, to create (also known as "undue hardship").

It's a complex employment topic that deserves greater attention in a still-recovering job market. I'll let you come to your own conclusions about the study, because you're smart and have a mind of your own. In the meantime, it may be wise to take great care in disclosing a disability in a cover letter.

Comments

  1. You may have all the accomplishments and awards that some college graduates only dream about, but the reality is you may still end up jobless in today's economy. Job hunts today are competitive and in this market only the strong-willed and determined with stand out and get hired. See more cover letter engineer

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