Accessible Hiring Conversation Guide

Introduction

The purpose of the guide is to help library workers have conversations about how to make the hiring process accessible for candidates and search committee members. The advice and ideas provided in this guide are not hard-and-fast rules that guarantee an accessible hiring practice. Instead, they are a place to start talking about how to make hiring as inviting and accessible as possible at your library. If you have ideas or suggestions, get in touch with us via this form. We would love to hear your feedback and how you are making hiring accessible at your library.

This guide was created by the ASERL Accessibility Working Group on Library Spaces which is a small group led by the ASERL Accessibility Interest Group. ASERL is a member of the Library Accessibility Alliance (LAA), an organization of library consortia founded to promote “equitable access to library services and electronic resources. Our member libraries are committed to providing equal access to information for all library users, and we work together to improve vendor products, educate our community, and advance digital accessibility.” (Library Accessibility Alliance, “Who We Are.”).

Pre-interview

Job Descriptions & Job Postings 

Job descriptions and job postings are often the first impression your institution will make on a candidate. It is important to use these descriptions and postings to begin communicating to potential candidates your commitment to creating an accessible work environment. Here are some tips for writing an accessible job description.

  • Make the essential job functions clearEssential functions are the tasks that the person in this role will need to complete with or without “reasonable accommodations.” Be sure that these essential job functions are based on this particular role and not copied from other job descriptions. If a task is infrequent and shared by a number of people in the department, it may not meet the threshold of an essential job function for this role. Make sure to also limit the job description to those qualifications that are truly essential, as overly long job descriptions can present barriers to applicants (a long list of preferred qualifications can also have the same effect).
  • Include mandatory qualifications – Provide detailed descriptions of the mandatory qualifications, working conditions, and physical demands of the role. Be sure the information accurately reflects this job and is not borrowed from other jobs in the department or from older job descriptions that no longer reflect the condition and physical demands of the job today.
  • Use accessible language – Carefully consider the language you use in a job posting, and whether the standard language used for a task is truly necessary to describe the job. For example, a job requirement of “typing proficiency for data entry,” could be “ability to input large data sets,” as individuals may use tools that allow them to complete this task without actually typing.
  • Present information in an accessible format – Ensure that any information about the job posting, including the job posting itself, social media posts, etc. is also readable. For example, if images are used (especially images that are being used to convey information), ensure that they include meaningful alternative text descriptions.
  • Provide a clear point of contact – Include contact information regarding accessibility of the position as well as the search processes. If contact information is already presented for general questions, note that candidates with questions regarding accessibility could use that contact information as well. 
  • Offer an online information session – If possible, offer an online informational session about the position that potential candidates can join anonymously and ask questions about the job, the organization, and accessibility. Refer to the Remote/Online Accessibility section for additional considerations (for example, be sure that there are captions available, and provide sufficient description of any visuals that are necessary to understanding the content).

Pre-interview Communications

As candidates are identified and conversations begin, providing all of the information a candidate needs to make an informed decision is important. Here are some tips for communicating with candidates before an interview.

  • Provide names, pronunciations, and pronouns – Include name pronunciation and pronoun information for everyone the candidate will be interacting with in pre-interview materials. Doing so provides candidates with the information they need to identify and interact with everyone they will meet. If possible, keep interview groups small to make sessions less overwhelming for candidates. Ask candidates if they would also like to share this information, but as an optional invitation rather than a requirement.
  • Provide schedules and questions – Share interview schedules, questions, or discussion topics with candidates and everyone the candidate will be interacting with in pre-interview materials. This will allow both candidates and interviewers to prepare for the day, including when they can take breaks and how they can prepare for interactions. These materials should be sent well in advance to allow candidates sufficient time to prepare. The documents themselves should also be readable in an accessible format.
  • Provide policies – Provide candidates with university policies related to accessibility, accommodations, childcare, and lactation. This informs candidates of university policies and provides insight into the overall campus attitudes about accessibility and family friendliness. Making these policies available to all candidates eliminates the need for the candidate to disclose personal information and should prevent university employees from asking the candidate personal, possibly illegal, questions. 
  • Provide breaks – Build many breaks into the interview schedules for both in-person and online interviews. Try to limit sessions to 45 minutes in length to give candidates and interviewers a chance to refresh themselves or take care of any medical needs.
  • Communicate expectations – Provide written details of the interview process and each meeting. This can reduce stress and anxiety. Written expectations provide more information to prepare for the interview.
  • Ask specific questions in direct language – Use clear language in your interview questions so the candidate knows what skill set you are assessing with each question. Try to ask one question at a time to avoid confusion or the risk that the candidate forgets to answer part of the question. If you are also including a presentation as part of the interview process, provide clear instructions on the topic and goals of the presentation to the candidate well in advance, as well as any information regarding setup, technology available, microphones, anticipated audience, etc.
  • Invite and welcome accommodations – Use language that encourages and invites applicants to share any accommodation needs, such as asking if there is anything they may need to fully participate in the interview process. Communicate who they can contact for any arrangements, and be sure that any communications with candidates do not request nor require that they specifically disclose any disabilities or any other information related to protected classes.

Interviewing Practices

Accessible Parking and Navigating the Campus

Providing accessible parking or transportation and accessible routes to navigate the campus are the foundation of an accessible on-campus interview. If an individual does not reveal that they use a wheelchair or other mobility aid, it does not mean they do not use one. Be sure to communicate about the most accessible paths within your campus and library to ensure that applicants do not start off the interview lost or in pain because they are trying to locate an accessible route. This will interfere with their ability to be at their best. Here are some tips for ensuring that your parking and campus are accessible. 

  • Provide maps and directions – Providing applicants with a narrative description of accessible parking and campus paths to interview locations along with a map of the campus is a great start. This will give the applicant information without requiring them to request it thereby disclosing information they may not want to share.
  • Train interviewers on accessible routes – In addition to providing the candidate with narrative descriptions and maps, ensure that anyone escorting candidates uses the most accessible routes throughout campus. If possible, provide the option to use a golf cart or other form of small transportation to bring candidates across campus, especially when the campus is not walking-friendly and does not allow cars near interview locations. If applicable, make sure that at least one committee member is certified to use a golf cart or transportation device on campus to allow this option to work as smoothly as possible.
  • Provide a 3D model of campus – Another level of accommodation would be to provide a 3D model of your campus’s accessible routes and library spaces to be used during the interview. This could be a tool that already exists for students and other campus users that could be repurposed for your candidate.
  • Build in travel time – Ensure that the interview schedule provides enough time between events to easily navigate from location to location as well as take care of any personal needs (i.e., using restroom, using a lactation room, taking medication, etc.) along the way.
  • Offer transportation to campus and around campus – Consider offering to pick up and bring candidates to campus. Be aware that candidates may want to travel on their own for a variety of reasons, including using a vehicle that provides them with additional accommodation. Provide information on navigating the local airport, available car rental services, and commute time from the airport, hotel, and campus when applicable. Consider offering to drive your candidate to and from the airport if this is an available option for you. Public transportation or rideshares can pose accessibility issues, including but not limited to concern for airborne illness such as COVID-19. It is also important to consider financial limitations for your candidate. Even if they will be reimbursed, paying up-front for transportation to and from the airport can pose a financial barrier for candidates. 
  • Know your physical space options and limitations – Providing information about physical spaces ahead of time will reduce the candidate’s stress associated with navigating new spaces. It enables them to focus on the interview and demonstrate who they are as a professional. 

Building Accessibility

“Many participants referenced using tours as a way to assess the hiring institution by looking for things like the accessibility of the library building, the knowledge of the staff on the accessibility of the building, and how homogenous people’s workstations are.” (Betz, 2022) Providing a detailed description about navigating the library is very important. Giving the candidate the option to tour the facility can be an additional benefit. People with anxiety may want to gather as much information as possible in advance to alleviate stress about potential workspaces. A tour can provide answers to questions such as “How far away is the nearest accessible bathroom?” “How accessible is the accessible bathroom?” “How far are the elevators from the workspaces?” However, some candidates, such as those with mobility impairments or those with chronic pain, may opt out of a tour. Below are tips for helping candidates get to know the facility in multiple ways.

  • Offer a library tour – When creating an interview schedule, at a minimum list a library tour as an optional part of the interview day so that the candidate knows ahead of time. When sharing the interview schedule with the candidate, communicate that the candidate can choose whether or not to take a tour. Describe the tour, including the physical aspects, which will allow the candidate to make an informed decision on participating.
  • Include workspaces in a tour – If the candidate wants to participate in a tour, it’s helpful to show workspaces, distances between workspaces and accessible restrooms or lactation rooms, and how they are accessed. The candidate should be able to observe how comfortable-looking the workspaces and furniture are, and whether the workspace is in a common office area, with cubicles, or in an open floor plan. 
  • Give candidates choices for how to get from floor to floor – Give the candidate options for taking stairs or elevators. Don’t assume the candidate can easily take stairs. If a candidate has chronic pain, traversing flights of stairs may be a problem. When presenting your candidate with choices, it is important to position both options as equal choices, rather than the accessible option as an alternative one. For example,it is better to ask a candidate their preference than it is to ask them if they need to take the elevator. The former question does not pressure the candidate to answer in a particular way. 
  • Make communal breaks and meals optional – When planning an on-site interview, meal planning should be considered. Ask each candidate, before they come to campus, if they would prefer to take breaks and/or meals with members of the committee or alone. Factors surrounding meals may include the candidate’s ability to navigate additional buildings, religious or cultural issues, food-related restrictions, allergies, comfort level eating with strangers, physical accessibility of each space, and increased risk of air-borne illnesses. Candidates should also have the option to choose eating indoors or outdoors, as sensitivity to sun or insect bites may be an issue. Regardless of whether the candidate chooses to have a collective meal, plan ample time for breaks that may or may not include food. 

Be sure that any parts of the interview day that are offered as optional, like tours or communal meals, comply with your institution’s rules regarding making each candidate’s interview experience the same.

Remote/Online Accessibility

Remote or online interviews, where the candidate is not physically present at the institution, may appear to be more accessible. Often the candidate is in their own home or office with their own technology setup which is likely to be ideal for their needs. This does not mean that online interviews are without their accessibility challenges. Some challenges are the same for both online and in-person interviews. Sharing the interview schedule and questions early and taking frequent breaks are good practices for any interview. This information sharing can reduce anxiety and allow candidates to be at their most prepared. This is particularly true in an online setting where technology problems can cause communication difficulties that could create stress for candidates and interviewers alike. Here are some tips for making online interviews accessible:

  • Consider time zones – Online interviews may include multiple time zones. Before scheduling meetings, discuss with the candidate their ideal beginning and ending time for the interview to ensure that you are catching them at their best.
  • Choose an audio and video platform – If possible, choose an online platform rather than an audio-only phone interview. Internet connectivity issues may make a phone interview the most reliable choice, but traditional phone interviews do not use visual tools, such as captioning and viewing the speaker’s face, which can greatly enhance hearing and comprehension. When choosing an online platform, be sure that there are captions available for all meetings. Be prepared to pivot if internet connectivity becomes an issue. While it is generally preferable for interviewers to have their camera on during the interview, it might be necessary to move to an audio-only format or chat that allows the candidate to be heard and understood when the internet is slow. 
  • Offer a test session – To increase the candidate’s comfort level with the online platform chosen for the interview, consider offering the option to have a quick test meeting with the candidate. This provides the candidate and interviewer a chance to work out any audio issues with headsets or microphones and any video issues. 
  • Use captioning and visual description – If the search committee uses slides or videos, ensure that there is sufficient description of any visuals that are necessary to the understanding of the content. This can be important not only for information presented to the candidate but also any information the candidate is presenting to the search committee and other evaluators. 
  • Minimize audio distraction – If multiple interviewers are taking part in a meeting, encourage them to mute when not speaking to minimize background noise and to use an external microphone or headset for clear audio for name pronunciation, questions or follow-up questions, and comments.

How to Advocate for Accessibility in Hiring

Ideally, everyone in your organization will agree that it is important to make the hiring process accessible. However, individuals may have questions about why certain practices need to change. When talking to administration, human resources departments, and search committee members, stress that the goal is to keep any information that you provide simple, descriptive, and friendly. This will reduce the amount of content that human resources and search committees need to create. In addition, straightforward documentation should reduce candidate stress. Emphasize that providing accessible information alerts potential candidates that the institution and library are interested in attracting great candidates and creating accessible environments. Being upfront about your campus accessibility provides a welcoming message to all including those with temporary or invisible disabilities. To whatever extent you are able, making portions of a traditional interview optional, like tours and meals, makes it clear that you want the candidate to be at their best. Requiring only the parts of the interview that are crucial to getting to know the candidate puts the candidate first and minimizes activities that might put the candidate at a disadvantage. Consider adding disability awareness training for search committee members. This type of training benefits managers and employees: “Managers and employees at leading firms state that managers who participate in autism awareness training become better managers for all employees” (Annabi, Crooks, et. al, 2019).

If you have ideas or suggestions, please get in touch with us using this form. We would love to hear your feedback and how you are making hiring accessible at your library.

Resources

  1. ADA National Network, “Reasonable Accommodations in the Workplace.” https://adata.org/factsheet/reasonable-accommodations-workplace
  2. ADA National Network, “What Are the “Essential Functions” of a Job?” https://adata.org/faq/what-are-essential-functions-job
  3. Annabi, H., E.W. Crooks, N. Barnett, J. Guadagno, J.R. Mahoney, J. Michelle, A. Pacilio, H. Shukla, and J. Velasco. Autism @ Work Playbook: Finding Talent and Creating Meaningful Employment Opportunities for People with Autism. Seattle, WA: ACCESS-IT, The Information School, University of Washington, 2019.
  4. Betz, Gail. “Navigating the Academic Hiring Process with Disabilities,” In the Library with the Lead Pipe (April 2022). https://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2022/hiring-with-disabilities
  5. Crawford, Kerry F., and Leah C. Windsor. The PhD Parenthood Trap: Caught between Work and Family in Academia. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2021.
  6. Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN), “Creating an Accessible and Welcoming Workplace.” https://askearn.org/page/creating-an-accessible-and-welcoming-workplace.
  7. Library Accessibility Alliance, “Who we are.” https://www.libraryaccessibility.org/
  8. Schomberg, Jessica, and Wendy Highby. Beyond Accommodation: Creating an Inclusive Workplace for Disabled Library Workers. Sacramento, CA: Library Juice Press, 2020.
  9. Tang, Lydia, Bridget Malley, Chris Tanguay, and Zachary Tumlin. “Toward Inclusion Best Practices for Hiring People with Disabilities,” Archival Outlook (July/August 2020). https://mydigitalpublication.com/publication/?m=30305&i=667849&p=6.
  10. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “The ADA: Your Responsibilities as an Employer.” https://www.eeoc.gov/publications/ada-your-responsibilities-employer

 

ASERL Accessibility Working Group on Library Spaces

Beth Ashmore
Karen Brunsting
John Burger
Ciara Healy
Carl Hess
Tracie Krumbine
Kimberly Larsen
Kim Looby
Elaina Norlin
Deirdre Scaggs
Tanya Zanish-Belcher

 

Special thanks to Tarida Anantachai, Sara Belmont, Laura Blessing, Jon Bodnar, Lizzie Cope, Rebecca Crist, Kelly Farrell, Karen Garrabrant, Elyssa Gould, Mandy Hurt, Peggy Kain, Jen Montavon-Green, Leigh Moseley, Robin Ruggaber, and Deseree Stukes for feedback and additional content.