Back to Basics

Originally published in Graduate Recruiter

Graduate recruiters have constantly been challenged about who they recruit into their organisations. Not just the calibre of talent that is recruited, but also the diversity.

Focus has concentrated on areas such as attracting more women into the banking industry or choosing engineering careers, and increasing the numbers of black and Asian graduates joining the professional services. Graduate recruiters have risen to these challenges leading to progress being made. The current challenge facing organisations is attracting and recruiting more disabled graduates. Whilst there is good intent to make progress in this area achieving results continues to be slow. Why is this? Why are organisations finding it so difficult to attract and recruit disabled graduates and what do they need to do to make a real step change?

There are many reasons why organisations find making progress in this area difficult however the overriding one is that organisations don’t know where to start. Rather than spend time working out a robust strategy a scatter gun approach is adopted with the hope of achieving some quick wins. Approaches include advertising in the disability press, involving disability organisations, sponsoring events, and telling campus teams to ‘go and do the disability bit’.

Not surprisingly, none of these are effective. Disabled graduates look for jobs in the same way as their non-disabled peers; they don’t use the disability press to find a graduate job. Similarly many disabled graduates don’t want to use a specialist disability organisation; they want to apply to employers directly. And finally, tasking campus teams with attracting disabled graduates is just unfair. It is hard enough for the experts to get it right let alone those who do this as an add on to their day job. However it’s not actually hard to make progress in this area. At the risk of over simplifying it, let’s start at the very beginning….

If the aim is to increase the number of disabled graduates who successfully gain a place on your graduate programme, you have to increase the numbers who apply to you. To increase the numbers who apply to you, you have to increase the numbers you engage with. Put simply, it’s a numbers game. Just like the rest of graduate recruitment.

To make the engagement piece work for you there are three key areas to focus on:


If you wish to proactively tap into the large talent pool of disabled graduates you need to really understand the market. You need to know where these individuals are studying and what they are studying. You also need to know how they go about looking for their graduate jobs, and what is important to them. Once you know more about your market you can refine your activities to ensure they are effective.


Having a disability can affect a number of the factors that employers consider when progressing someone through their graduate recruitment process. Factors affected may include: UCAS points gained, choice of university, ability to gain relevant work experience, access to team / sport activities. Whilst you are not expected to lower your standards when recruiting disabled graduates you may need to take into account factors that you wouldn’t normally allow for. You don’t need to be an expert in the area of disability.

However having a basic level of understanding of some of the issues will enable you to better engage with this group of people.


Arguably, the most crucial element to get right is how you engage with your audience. If you don’t positively engage with disabled graduates they won’t apply to work for you. As organisations increasingly rely on Campus Teams it is imperative to ensure that they have the confidence and knowledge to be effective in their marketing activities. In addition, they need to know about the support their organisation can offer both during the recruitment process and once someone has joined the company.

First impressions are paramount. If you get it wrong, the consequences are hard to fix. Get it right, and you will achieve the desired results.

Engaging with disabled graduates isn’t difficult. It does not require additional resource or separate activities. What it requires is for organisations to understand this target market and to take a planned approach to engaging with them. It also requires you to ensure that the people who are tasked with engaging with disabled graduates are equipped and confident to do so. By addressing the basics at the beginning, the desired results will follow.