Skip to main content

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.


  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


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Seven tips for dealing with a jealous coworker

Look at you, doing so well at work! We're so happy for you. Well, most of us are happy for you and refuse to spend the entire work day talking behind your back. Let's talk about how to handle our jealous co-workers!Like every other professional, you've no doubt experienced your share of failures and successes. Lately, however, things seem to be going your way at work. And how! Perhaps you've managed to ace an important project this quarter, been instrumental in landing a huge client, earned some well-deserved rewards for this and that, or -- egads! -- been given a slight promotion or additional work responsibilities (e.g., the work responsibilities you actually want).You're quietly chuffed, but somehow your co-workers seem none too pleased with this rapid turn of events. Oh no, what should you do now?It's a workplace tale older than the disjointed last season of Mad Men. The playing field in the department was even, cozy and overall very friendly -- until so-an…

Employees Blame Technology For Slowing Them Down At Work

Do you feel like you're always working, but never getting very much done? If so, you're not alone. Too much technology, and too much red tape, keep slowing us down at work. But technology, and more of it, is supposed to make our lives easier! Too much technology, however, does not compute for employees. A new SAP/Knowledge@Wharton survey of almost 700 corporate employees finds a full 60% of respondents blame technology "for inhibiting their ability to meet strategic goals." Gee, anyone who has ever used the self-checkout line at the grocery store can tell you that. However, 40% surveyed said that looking for ways to simplify the technology has been "a low priority" for their company. Too much paperwork is an on-going problem for the workplace, too. A new ServiceNow survey of nearly 1,000 managers finds that 90% are doing too much administrative work, no matter the size of the company. This paperwork includes filling out forms, writing status updates, …

Is Your Co-worker Always Late For Work?

You've started the workday, but where is your co-worker? Oh, she's running late again, just like yesterday. And the day before. And the day before that. Let's get an early start on solving her tardiness problem, shall we? Working with someone who is consistently late is one of the most annoying aspects of office life, and also one of the most common, unfortunately. It's a universal theme of the workplace that everyone will get to work on time (give or take a few minutes...) except for the employee who is egregiously late nearly every day. And the excuses can get pretty amazing. Employees became more punctual as the Great Recession lingered, at least according to surveys. Everyone, that is, except for your able-bodied but habitually-tardy co-worker. It's bad enough dealing with tardiness when you're a manager, but it can be even more frustrating when you're a rank-and-file peer without any magical "shape up or ship out" managerial powers. So you…