Recruitment - What the NHS got right
Hello, I’m Chloe, a 27-year-old Cultural Studies & Media graduate and a qualified teacher who happens to be dyslexic. My educational journey wasn’t easy, I was filled with self-doubt and unique challenges that come with being dyslexic. However, understanding my dyslexia was transformative, reshaping my perception of myself and my capabilities. As we mark Dyslexia Awareness Week, it’s important to highlight the unique experiences of dyslexic individuals and the need for greater understanding and support. In this blog post, ‘Recruitment: What the NHS got right’, I share my experiences as a dyslexic job seeker during this significant week. I highlight the accessibility of the NHS recruitment process, setting it apart from others. My story is a testament to resilience and a call for more inclusive recruitment practices. I hope that by sharing my experiences, other employers can learn from the NHS and make their recruitment processes more accessible, especially for those with dyslexia.
Growing up with dyslexia
Growing up with undiagnosed dyslexia was a challenge. I was slow to read, easily distracted, and handwriting was a struggle. No matter how hard I tried, my writing was never neat enough, and I would experience physical pain attempting to neaten my scruffy writing. Teachers often labelled me as lazy or not good enough, and unlike higher-attaining children, I was never encouraged to follow my passions. This lack of belief from adults around me deeply affected my self-confidence. I entered secondary school believing I wasn’t good enough and didn’t bother revising for GCSE’s because I thought I would fail. Thankfully, in college, a teacher who treated everyone the same regardless of ability changed my perspective. His belief in us made us believe in ourselves. Despite the challenges I faced, with the right recognition and support after my dyslexia diagnosis at university, I graduated with a 2:1 and now aspire to gain a master’s degree.
Embarking on my professional journey, I first dipped my toes in the world of work at a charity shop. This experience, though voluntary, provided me with invaluable insights into the demands of a customer-facing role. My performance there paved the way for my first paid role at a bustling cinema, one of the busiest in the country. Amidst the popcorn and ticket stubs, I found my stride, consistently emerging as a top seller.
As I moved on to university, I continued to enrich my experiences through various volunteering roles. A standout experience was my time on the Young Women's Trust advisory panel. This role opened doors to exciting opportunities, from meeting MPs to attending royal garden parties. It also ignited a passion for women's rights within me, leading me to establish the Dyspraxic Women's Network (Dyspraxia is a condition affecting physical coordination and is different from Dyslexia, which primarily affects reading and spelling. I happen to have both conditions).
Post-graduation, I navigated through various roles, from serving coffee at Debenhams cafe to working in retail. Despite the challenges these roles presented, they were stepping stones on my path. The turning point came when I decided to train as a teacher. This decision rekindled my ambition and confidence. Earning my qualified teacher status was not just an academic achievement; it was a testament to my resilience and ability to turn dyslexia into a strength. Today, armed with self-belief and ambition, I aspire to gain a master's degree by the time I turn 30. Through this blog post, I hope to inspire other dyslexic individuals and shed light on our strengths.
Training as a teacher
My decision to train as a teacher was driven by several factors. Firstly, I believe in the power of representation. I wanted to show dyslexic, dyspraxic, and neurodivergent children that they could see themselves in a position of authority and knowledge. I wanted to boost their confidence and ambition by being a living example of overcoming challenges. Secondly, the practice of loving kindness or meta meditation has greatly influenced my life. At my core, helping others, being kind to others, and loving others even in difficult moments aligns with my values. Teaching provided the perfect platform for me to practice these values. Finally, teaching is a mentally stimulating job that pushes me to never stop learning. Before training to become a teacher, I didn't know what I didn't know. The school-based initial teacher training course provided me with invaluable insights and experiences.
The biggest takeaway from my training was understanding the importance of setting high expectations for each individual child. It made me reflect on my college teacher who believed in us and made us believe in ourselves. Before my training, I thought high expectations meant putting pressure on children, much like how I felt growing up as a child with undiagnosed dyslexia. But my training taught me otherwise. I hope that through my teaching, I was able to make the children in my class feel the way my college teacher made me feel. They all deserve that.
Why am I a jobseeker
Opening up about my personal struggles, I have battled anxiety and depression for several years. I have sought help through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and counselling, but this year, things took a turn for the worse. In consultation with my doctor, I made the decision to start taking anti-depressants. My mental health struggles have impacted my confidence, particularly when it comes to writing personal statements and attending interviews. As a result, I have a gap in employment from the completion of my course in July until now. However, I refuse to let these challenges define me. I am determined to turn my life around and find a role where I can be useful, fulfilled, and mentally stimulated.
To kickstart my job search, I created a LinkedIn profile, updated my CV, and revved up my engine for job searching. It's early days, and I'm waiting to hear back from employers, but I continue to apply and make inquiries every day. My current ambition is to secure employment and then pursue a flexible online master's degree. Throughout my job hunt, I've noticed certain aspects regarding the accessibility of different application processes. This is something I would like to discuss in the next section.
Embarking on the job application journey as a dyslexic and neurodivergent individual can often feel like navigating a labyrinth. The first challenge often presents itself in the form of job advertisements and person specifications. These critical pieces of information are frequently cloaked in a dense, unbroken text format, devoid of clear headings or adequate spacing. This format can be particularly disorienting for dyslexic or neurodivergent individuals, who may find it challenging to organise thoughts and process information.
The application process itself can often feel like deciphering an ancient script. Some jobs require you to download an application form, often a Word document created on an older version of Word with a layout that feels like navigating a maze. Other companies allow you to simply upload your CV, but then comes the personal statement. With no clear direction, neurodivergent individuals often find themselves caught in a cycle of overthinking, spending hours perfecting a personal statement for one job only to repeat the process for the next.
However, amidst these challenges, there emerges a beacon of hope - the NHS. In the next section, I will delve into my experiences with their recruitment process, a process that stands as a testament to accessibility and inclusivity.
What the NHS got right
Embarking on the job application journey as a dyslexic and neurodivergent individual can often feel like navigating through a dense forest. However, amidst the complex undergrowth of job applications, the NHS stands out with its accessible and user-friendly process. Their dedicated recruitment website, coupled with listings on platforms like the DWP job search website, makes finding NHS jobs a straightforward task. The job adverts on the NHS jobs website are a model of clarity. Clear headings, subheadings, and well-spaced paragraphs make it easy to navigate and understand the requirements. Essential and desirable skills are listed in an easy-to-digest bullet point format, making it simple for applicants to gauge their fit for the role.
The NHS job website allows you to save your essential information, eliminating the need to repetitively enter details for each application. The standout feature is the section that allows you to demonstrate how you meet each of the essential skills or qualifications. This structured approach is particularly beneficial for neurodivergent individuals as it provides a clear framework to showcase their abilities effectively, reducing the cognitive load often associated with unstructured application processes.
However, there's always room for improvement. In the UK, learning difficulties and learning disabilities have different legal definitions. By grouping them together in the form, employers could make inaccurate assumptions about a candidate's abilities or needs. The inclusion of a 'neurodivergent' option would also be a welcome addition. This could make it easier for some people to disclose their neurodivergence to the NHS as an employer, fostering an environment of understanding and inclusivity. Despite these minor areas for enhancement, the NHS application process shines as an exemplar of accessibility in the often challenging landscape of job applications.
The benefit of a neurodiverse workforce
A neurodiverse workforce offers a wealth of unique benefits for employers. Neurodivergent individuals often bring distinctive perspectives, creativity, and problem-solving abilities to the table, fostering an environment of innovation. They have the ability to see patterns and solutions that others may overlook, making them invaluable in roles that require out-of-the-box thinking. Moreover, neurodivergent employees tend to be highly specialized in their areas of interest, bringing a depth of knowledge and passion that can greatly enhance team performance. Embracing neurodiversity sends a powerful message about a company's commitment to inclusivity and diversity, enhancing its reputation and attractiveness to potential employees and customers. Furthermore, a neurodiverse workforce better reflects the diversity of customers and clients, enabling the company to understand and meet their needs more effectively. Therefore, investing in neurodiversity is not just ethically right; it's also good for business. It's a strategic move that can drive business growth and foster a more inclusive and understanding workplace culture.
What you can do to attract neurodivergent employees
Attracting neurodivergent employees necessitates a thoughtful and inclusive approach. Start with the basics: job titles should be straightforward and indicative, clearly stating whether it's an entry-level or graduate role. The job advert itself should be a model of clarity, with distinct headings, subheadings, and well-spaced paragraphs. Essential and desired criteria should be presented in an easy-to-navigate bullet-pointed list within the job advert.
The application process should be user-friendly, allowing candidates to save essential details for future applications. Including essential or desired skills within the online application provides a structured approach for candidates to demonstrate their suitability effectively. It's crucial to provide clear differentiation between learning difficulties and learning disabilities on the form, along with a 'neurodivergent' option for disclosure. For applicants who have disclosed their neurodivergent status, providing feedback, even for unsuccessful applications, can offer invaluable insights for future applications.
The job advert should explicitly welcome applications from neurodivergent individuals. Certification with the Disability Confident Employer scheme sends a strong signal of inclusivity. Additionally, providing interview questions in advance to all candidates can help level the playing field and reduce anxiety. These practices not only make the application process more accessible but also signal an employer's commitment to inclusivity. By implementing these suggestions, employers can attract a diverse pool of talent and foster a more inclusive and understanding workplace culture.
In conclusion, the journey of a dyslexic and neurodivergent job seeker is filled with unique challenges and experiences. From navigating the complexities of job applications to overcoming self-doubt and building self-confidence, it's a journey of resilience and determination. However, with the right support and understanding, dyslexic and neurodivergent individuals can thrive in the workplace.
The NHS stands out as an exemplar of an accessible recruitment process. Their approach, from clear job adverts to a user-friendly application process, sets a benchmark for other employers. However, there's always room for improvement. Clear differentiation between learning difficulties and learning disabilities, feedback for unsuccessful applications, and explicit welcome for neurodivergent applicants are just a few areas that can enhance the inclusivity of the recruitment process.
Attracting a neurodiverse workforce is not just ethically right; it's also good for business. Neurodiverse individuals bring unique perspectives, creativity, and problem-solving abilities that can drive innovation and business growth. Therefore, investing in neurodiversity and making the recruitment process more accessible is a win-win situation for both employers and job seekers.
As we continue to raise awareness about dyslexia and neurodivergence, let's strive to create more inclusive workplaces where everyone's strengths are recognized and valued. After all, our differences are what make us unique.
Written by Chloe Mielek