Disfigured applicants face tougher challenge

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Applicants with a facial scar, disfigurement or birthmark are being discriminated against in the recruitment process and one charity says the only way to end it is by breaking down taboos.

Academic research by Madera and Hebl (2013) found that interviewers are not only less likely to select a candidate with a disfigurement but they’re also less able to remember interview responses accurately.

Face equality at work adviser Sally Mbewe works with the charity Changing Faces – she says this behaviour is not necessarily something HR professionals do on purpose.

“Aside from the few who are concerned about the impact an employee who looks different might have on their customer relationships, interviewers are often so keen not to offend that they pay more attention to regulating their own responses than to listening to what the candidate has to say,” she explained.

The charity recently conducted a survey of facially disfigured jobseekers – 46 per cent said an interviewer seemed uncomfortable with their appearance and 55 per cent said colleagues treated them differently.

While the issue might seem a relatively uncommon one, more than 1.5 million Canadians are currently living with a facial difference.

According to AboutFace Canada, approximately one per cent of the working population has a facial disfigurement and each year, an additional 50,000 Canadians acquire one as the result of trauma, accident or medical condition.

So when so many people are affected by it – why is facial disfigurement still such a sensitive issue?
“To achieve ‘face equality’ we need to break down taboos and ensure applicants with disfigurements are seen as successful contributors to the workforce,” says Mbewe. “The first step is to help everyone get past their discomfort and work towards a mutual understanding and approach.”

The charity has now produced a guide for employers who want to ensure their recruitment practice is fair and inclusive. You can read the full guide here.

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