The right match and open minds make for positive hiring experienceJuly 9, 2012 by Lisa Bailey
‘You need to make people comfortable with you,’ says IT administrator
A people person with computer smarts and the ability to handle oneself. It’s what Arc’teryx was looking for in their newest IT team member.
“I thought, ‘I can do that that.’ And sure enough, it did pan out,” Alexis Chicoine says. “It worked out well and I found the level of job I had been hoping for.”
More than a year into her role as an Application Support Administrator, Alexis and Arc’teryx Information Systems Manager Dana Lee shared their experience at a recent Abilities In Mind (AIM) workshop. Called “Candidly Speaking: How Does It Work?” it was to help give employers tools and understanding to hire people based on their ability.
Alexis, who is also part of AIM’s advisory committee, became a quadriplegic as a result of a spinal-cord injury. She found the Arc’teryx position online and had an acquaintance at the Vancouver outdoor clothing company. But she got the job in her own right, citing the keys to any successful hiring — making the right match and having an open mind.
“I think the biggest message (Dana and I) tried to put across is: Do the skills match?” Alexis says.
“Like any job hunt, you’re looking for the best candidate for the position,” she says. “For the business side of things, they’re looking at whether you fit their culture, the value set, the skill set. And if you are that, then all is fine . . . who cares about the disability?”
Alexis says the potential employee who has a disability must be realistic about the position they seek.
“Hopefully the people doing the interview will look for a fit. And then, as the disabled person, you need to be realistic about what you’re applying for — that you can actually physically and mentally do the job.”
Alexis says that being open during the job interview can lead to constructive conversation.
“You learn a lot and I’m totally open to answering any question, and that’s my personality. That can vary from person to person but I think that is the biggest key.
“The reality of coming to a job interview is that, though you’d like somebody to just be looking at the skill set and the company culture, it’s not always the case if you don’t look normal or you can’t hide your baggage,” Alexis says.
“I can’t hide my baggage; I have a wheelchair, so I find your attitude is extremely important. You need to make people comfortable with you — that’s my responsibility. I was there, I was open with any questions because of course, in that situation you’re afraid of being inappropriate, so if I open the door to the types of questions or say the information that I think they’re probably thinking, then it lightens it a little bit and I think that takes some of the pressure off.”
She and Dana, for instance, discussed Alexis’ start time and the end result was some flexibility as Alexis explained her routine to get out the door.
They also discovered that few adjustments were needed. Alexis required a roller-ball mouse to work at her computer. A ramp was installed so she could join colleagues on an outdoor patio. Most recently, patio table replacements included one with an overlap that Alexis’ wheelchair can slide under.
“It was really nice that they have done that,” Alexis says.
She’s happy to be part of AIM’s advisory committee, saying that “to be able to give back is a pretty neat feeling.”
Alexis first connected with the BC Centre for Ability in 2000 and received support in finding her first job. She stayed connected and thought it was “very cool” when AIM Program Manager Mark Gruenheid asked her to join the committee.
Alexis says people who have a disability are a huge, untapped workforce competing in a tough employment market. By raising awareness and encouraging hiring managers and others within an organization to think outside the box, AIM can ideally guide people to open doors to employees of all abilities.
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