It was interesting a few weeks ago to run a Mental Health First Aid course where many of the delegates were researchers, in fact some of them had worked on data which we use in the course. With that sort of audience we could really dig down in to the statistics and examine what was going on. I produced my headline that 4 out of 10 employers would not consider recruiting someone with a declared mental health condition.* (Which compares rather unfavourably with the 6 out of 10 who would employ someone with a physical disability).
We threw some ideas around about why that might be. Worries about high levels of sickness absence, safety risks and even the difficulty of workplace adjustments came up as potential reasons why companies may shy away from employing someone with a mental health condition. So nothing particularly different from a physical health diagnosis……
Imagine the following scenario. You have a CV in front of you. It’s from a guy called Bob who wants a job.
Bob has really varied experience, he’s a generalist business operations sort of guy. Worked in some interesting roles covering the Facilities Management / HR / Health and Safety roles in SME’s. He’s obviously a really good troubleshooter, he’s even attached some references which say glowing things about him. He looks to be a self starter and energetic. You can see from a recent placement that he can hit the ground running and effect change in a short space of time – not least because one of his references says so. He can do a bit of everything and maybe this lack of a specialism is what is counting against him as you note he’s not had a full time role for a while.
Then you look a little deeper. There are a couple of gaps in his CV. They seem a little more frequent than the average lapse time between roles. You wonder why that might be. He hasn’t written “sabbatical” and he hasn’t used the time to study more though he has done some travelling. So you move on. You’re bound to find someone lower down the pile of applications.
Which means that Bob remains on benefits. Depending on which newspaper you read he could be a scrounger or a victim of austerity. Except he is neither. He has Bipolar II. A “severe and enduring condition” which he has managed pretty well for much of his life. The gaps are times when he needed care and treatment. Those gaps in the CV have reduced over the years as he understands his illness and the triggers better. In fact, at times his energy and focus have been the reason why he has been successful. He now knows what sort of management he needs in order to get the best out of him but he just can’t get an interview – and this is even before disclosing his condition.
Would that change your mind? Would you pull his CV out of the discard pile and give him a chance?
If so then please drop me a line. You see “Bob” is real (though I changed his name).
Full disclosure, I don’t know Bob beyond a quick Skype call. He’s a friend of a friend. That mutual friend saw him in action on his last placement and is sad that their organisation can’t give him a full time role. I can’t vouch for him in any way beyond fully understanding his predicament as it is one I faced myself. I trust that your recruitment process will find out all you need to make a decision.
If you know someone in the London area who is willing to look beyond the basics of a CV, who has a business operations role that they need to interview for then please send them in my direction. Christmas is coming and I know a guy for whom that job could make all the difference. Please help me find Bob a job.
*Department of Health 2009