About the Author:
My name is Cheryl King and since 2018 I have been a trustee of the Scottish Stammering Network.
I have stammered since I was 3 years old. In April 2018, at an open day of the Scottish Stammering Network, I finally reached acceptance of my stammer. Acceptance has helped me to gain more control over my stammer, or my holding back as I now see it, and I actively speak out about stammering in the hopes of raising public awareness around this.
Stammering has taken so much away from me, and I have let it control me for far too long. I am now taking back the control, little by little, and absolutely loving my new crazy, busy life! My life has changed so much since 2018 and the fantastic Stammering Community has helped in my personal transformation. Thank You! #HearThePerson
…. Excellent Communication Skills …
Hands up who knows what this means? Nuh, me neither!
For those of you (perhaps only in the UK) who have looked at job advertisements recently, you will know that these 3 words appear on almost all job adverts. But what exactly does ‘excellent’ mean and what is the communication type referred to? Communication is not just verbal, and yet, we as job seekers, are meant to instinctively know what the communication type is.
These 3 words on job adverts, could, and probably do, put some people off applying for the post. Employers therefore, could be missing out on the ideal candidate, just because they did not fully explain what type of communication they are referring to, and how they would measure for excellence. For those of us with speech disorders, who are hearing impaired, or whose first language is not English we could very well feel excluded.
The Change I Want To See – more inclusive recruitment. Equality In Opportunity
So, in 2021, I decided I wanted to run a campaign and challenge Scottish employers to re-think their job adverts and the wording around communication. Excellent, is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as meaning – “extremely good; outstanding” but how is this measured at an interview? Or how is this measured by employers in general? And what exactly does “extremely good” mean? Surely, this is open to individual interpretation, and potentially unconscious bias or even conscious bias. Who judges if the candidate has ‘excellent’ communication and how?
For Public Sector employers, I began to write to the individual recruiting managers where the job adverts asked for ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ communication skills, in the hope that they could explain what they meant by this. All these managers passed my letter on to their Human Resources (HR) Departments! In all honesty, this was what I expected. Job adverts are not created anew for each post that is advertised, nor are they necessarily created by the recruiting manager or department. Job advertisements are used time and again with no real update unless an issue is highlighted.
It was then that I decided, as I was doing this campaign on my own, that this may be the best way to make contact for public sector employers – it would certainly be a lot quicker than searching internet job sites to locate the job adverts.
I drafted a standard letter around the employers’ use of the wording ‘excellent/good communication skills’ and asked them to respond with their thoughts. Many HR Departments replied to say that they had never actually thought as to the wording and how it wasn’t very inclusive. Some of the employers asked for a video call with me to discuss how they could change their job adverts to be less exclusive.
On the video calls, I highlighted how in the past, if a job advertisement had asked for ‘excellent communication skills’ I moved on to the next job advert as I thought this didn’t apply to me and I never even looked at the full job specification where oftentimes the communication type was explained. So, in effect, I was inadvertently being excluded from applying just because of those three words which had no full explanation.
On these video calls, I always made it very clear, that I was in no way saying that those who (sometimes) stammer are not good communicators. We are! I was only addressing the wording around communication and that it was not explained, along with words excellent or good.
Some public sector employers are now looking to amend their job advertisements and remove any reference to communication where there is no character allowance to include exactly what the communication entails. All reference to communication would then be on the full job specification and it would detail, as much as possible, what the postholder would be required to do – for example, make internal telephone calls, make external telephone calls, use email, present at meetings etc. As for the terms ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ these would only be used if it were absolutely necessary for the post.
The Private & Charitable Sectors were a little more time consuming as I had to spend time searching through internet job sites to locate job adverts where they asked for ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ communication skills. Some of these employers did not provide a contact email address either, so this took extra time trying to locate this on their official website. Some employers I had to leave as there was no email address on their website and I simply didn’t have time to phone them all and explain the campaign – although this would have been great speech practice for me!!!
Again, the responses I was getting from the Private and Charitable Sector were very promising. Many of the employers that I emailed, or spoke to via video call, are also going to re-think their wording on job adverts.
Interviews were another area that I wanted to address. Many people, not just those with communication difficulties, experience interview stress and anxiety. A simple way to alleviate this would be to give all interviewees a copy of the questions at the beginning of the interview. I know when I go for an interview, I must consciously remember to breathe, remain calm and try to listen to what the interviewer is asking me. Many times, I have completely missed the question as I am trying to keep my breathing in check and, there is probably only twice per interview that I can ask for the question to be repeated. By making it standard practice to give all interviewees a copy of the questions would make the whole interview process inclusive for all. It is optional whether you read or listen to the questions which therefore also means it is not excluding people who are dyslexic or whose first language is not English.
The Change I Want To See – more inclusive recruitment. Equality In Opportunity
I have really enjoyed running this campaign and feel that I have helped to make a small difference to the recruitment process. However, I wish I could have contacted more employers, but I simply had no more free time in which to do so.
Overall, I am happy with the outcome from this campaign, and I hope that more employers find out about this and look to amend their job adverts too. Covid has given us all a chance to rethink how we do things and has opened so many doors of change and opportunity.
I have also helped to increase the reach of the Scottish Stammering Network as some employers were unaware of the charity. This can only lead to more help and support for People Who Sometimes Stammer or Hold Back (I don’t like using the term People Who Stammer because we do not stammer all the time, so what are we when we don’t stammer?) Eugh – labels!!!
WANT TO HELP?
Keep your eyes open for job adverts that ask for ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ communication and contact the employer to ask what they mean by this. Even if you are not intending to apply for the post this will help to make employers aware of how their wording could potentially be excluding the ideal candidate.
Lets have Equality in Opportunities!
#EqualityInOpportunity #HearThePerson #ISAD2021
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