Lowering the Workforce Barrier — A Usability Evaluation of Job Applications for Top Employers

Introduction

 

North Carolina, or its cities, often top the lists of “Best place for” for a variety of topics, including Business and living , and a lot of this is because we have great employers! A recent Forbes article rated the top 31 employers in the state.  The top five on that list were SAS Institute, Duke Energy, UNC Health Care, Novant Health, and Duke University Health System.   For the complete list, read the full Forbes Top Employers in North Carolina article.

 

With such great places to work in our State, we wanted to know what the experience of applying to a job for these employers would be for someone who was using a screen reader, so we tried it out ourselves!

 

Four members of our team, three who are blind and one sighted, applied for jobs from the companies listed Forbes Top 31 Employers list.  We were able to compare the experience for an applicant who is blind to that of someone who is not.

 

The team members who are blind are experts using an assistive technology called JAWS (“Job Access with Speech”), a computer screen reader program for Microsoft Windows that allows blind and visually impaired users to read the screen with text-to-speech output.

 

Methodology

 

Our evaluation of the application process measured:

  • Effectiveness – the accuracy and completeness with which users achieve specified goals. This was answered with either a yes or no.
  • Efficiency – effort expended versus the accuracy and completely with which users achieve goals. This was answered with a yes or no.
  • Satisfaction – freedom from discomfort and positive attitudes toward the use of the product. The overall satisfaction was rated on a scale of 1-3:
    • 1 – Severely degraded experience; not satisfying at all
    • 2 – Neutral; no strong feelings of satisfaction or dislike
    • 3 – Entirely satisfied, excellent experience

 

Our Results

 

Below are the average results for the applicants overall.

 

Category Sighted Non-sighted
Effectiveness 93% 81%
Efficiency 81% 65%
Avg. Satisfaction 2.58 2.13

 

 

Score Sighted Non-sighted
3 20 11
2 9 13
1 2 7

 
The most common challenges that our team members who are blind faced while applying for jobs were:

  • Required fields were not clearly identified as well as helpful errors after entering invalid input
  • Password criteria was not defined when creating a new account on the applicant platform
  • Lengthy application, and ongoing processes were timed out, resulting in loss of information
  • Accessibility masking software caused significant usability challenges

 

Another important aspect to consider is the time it takes to apply for the job.  The team members who are blind tracked their time for the applications that took a longer duration, in some cases that time was over two hours!  The sighted team member tracked the time for all of the applications and all were completed in 30 minutes or less.  If our advanced assistive technology users struggled to complete an application in less than two hours, this would be extremely frustrating for many other applicants.

 

After reviewing this data, this is something our team believes needs more looking in to. With some feasible modifications to the online application, it could allow all people, no matter if they are using assistive technology or not, to complete the process in a reasonable time.

 

The application is often the first engagement with a potential employer, and if someone struggles to complete a task that should take less than thirty minutes, what can they expect when they get in to the job?

 

Conclusion

 

We believe that if companies are truly committed to being inclusive of hiring people with disabilities they must consider accessibility, but also ensure that the user experience is a good one.

 

We would love to talk to you about our findings or conduct an evaluation of your online application. Please email us and we look forward to making North Carolina the best State for people employed with disabilities!

 

Keep an eye out for a future blog, where we will share the best practices that we saw from this exercise and help improve the Career application experience for all people.

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