Making Digital Recruitment Fair

Almost all recruitment is done online and many employers only accept online applications. During our recent Digital Recruitment Reviews we’ve found that almost all testers require support to submit an application.

In fact, an average of 18% of testers were unable to complete all the tasks required to submit an application for each vacancy. For each vacancy reviewed, on average 56% of testers stated they would not apply for a job again with that employer.

So why is it important to consider accessibility in online recruitment?

Our responses are just a sample but they are representative of the barriers faced by all disabled jobseekers. So not only are disabled jobseekers facing digital barriers and being excluded from the recruitment process at the first stage, but employers are missing out of potentially great candidates without realising.

What do we mean by accessibility?

Online accessibility is ensuring that your website and its content can be accessed by as many people as possible including disabled and non-disabled users. The aim of online accessibility is to remove barriers that might prevent a user from fully interacting with your website, regardless of their ability or circumstances.

What is a Digital Recruitment Review?

We test employers’ digital recruitment processes and record and evaluate the users experience and the technical barriers, from initial search to submitting an application. This is carried out by people with lived experience of a disability or long-term health condition and supported by web developers. Participating employers receive a comprehensive report and key recommendations to improve their online accessibility.

Why is it important?

Remember the 18% of testers who came up against a task during the application process that they were unable to complete? Well, as real applicants, that would’ve stopped the process for them.

You may think that the type of barriers encountered online are specific to each website, or dependent on the vacancy type, or the technical knowledge or skills of the applicant. However, this is not the case.

During the Digital Recruitment Reviews, we found that there are common recurring themes, many of which are simple to fix.

Online Accessibility is Everyone’s Responsibility!

It’s a common assumption that the accessibility of your website is the responsibility of the web team or the web developer who built the site or that it is expensive or difficult to achieve. That isn’t necessarily true.

    • Does your HR team write job descriptions and job specifications which are used online?
    • Does your marketing team upload images and write articles for your website and social media?
    • Does your admin team create Word or PDF documents which are used online?

Everyone who contributes to the online recruitment process needs to consider online accessibility. There are some elements of accessibility that you will need the help of a web developer to implement, but there are improvements you can make right now, with just a little bit of knowledge and technical know-how.

Points to Consider

1. Use clear and simple language

Avoid the use of jargon or unexplained abbreviations.

2. Use clear and detailed instructions

Do you explain to applicants what is required? Are error messages clear and helpful?

3. Provide information for disabled applicants or applicants with additional support needs

This provides confidence to applicants to know what to do if they do encounter a digital barrier.

4. Flexibility and Alternative options

Be open to people applying in different formats. You might not be able to change the way your process is currently set up but what you can do is offer alternatives ways to apply.

5. Page Structure

Use appropriate headings and subheadings, break-up large areas of text and be consistent in your style throughout.

6. Add alt text to images

Alternative text (alt text) on images provides a detailed description of what the image shows, which assists visually impaired users and those who struggle to interpret images. Screen readers are unable to describe the image if there is no alt text. This is especially important if you use infographics or icons to provide essential information. Plus, alt text also assists with your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

The following points may need to be addressed by a web developer, but anyone can test them for accessibility:

7. Keyboard Navigation

Can you navigate your website without using a mouse? You can check this by using the tab key to navigate a web page, online form, or downloaded document. Can you move through the page in a logical order and do you know where you are on the page i.e. does your website use focus indicators?

8. Online Forms

Is there colour contrast? Is it clear where you are to fill out information? Does the form use placeholder text and when you start typing do the instruction disappear? Often placeholder text is not read by screen readers. Do you have the option to ‘view password’ if users are required to create an account or log-in?

9. Error Messages

Does the message clearly state the problem and how to fix it? Remember, don’t only rely on colour to highlight an error.

10. Colour Contrast

The difference, or ratio, between the text colour and the background colour on a website. Colours are often chosen to match the company’s branding but we don’t consider the impact this could have on some users. You will generally find that larger text is more forgiving than small text, due to its size, it’s naturally easier to read. Which is good news for using colour on bigger headings and things like that.

It’s good to Review!

When did you last review your organisation’s online recruitment process?

If you would like to discuss a Digital Recruitment Review please contact Fiona Walker, SUSE Marketing and Communications Manager at