Recruiting Dyslexics

by : Genevieve Dawid

In 1997, my business partner and I formed an international recruitment company. My partner was in charge of the junior recruitment division. My role was to assess, select and mentor applicants for senior management roles in leading, international companies.

Our research involved tracking all of our placements and closely following trends within the recruitment market place. For example, over a ten-year period, we discovered on average that 50% of senior managers didn't gain promotion by having a degree; they were promoted internally.

Whilst tracking these results month-by-month, year-by-year we also started to notice that approximately 40% of our candidates were dyslexic to some degree. In fact, the most successful candidate for the most prestige position ever placed was probably the most dyslexic person that we ever came across in our assessments.

Research shows that approximately 10% of our population suffer from dyslexia, in varying degrees. The UK, which interestingly appeared to also reflect trends globally, showed 40% success rates in placements of dyslexics. The figure of 40% of senior managers being dyslexic obviously appears to be disproportionally high, against the 90% of non-dyslexic candidates.

I started to think about and take a lot more interest in these statistics and concluded that there were three possibilities behind out findings:

1.) This was merely a coincidence.
2.) Perhaps, as I treated all candidates without prejudice, I was giving dyslexics more of an equal chance.
3.) Dyslexics actually do make good senior managers.

I was convinced that I wasn't biased towards fellow dyslexics, but felt that I should put this to the test. Therefore, my non-dyslexic business partner and I changed roles on a selection; I assessed and interviewed for a middle-management role and he handled the senior role.

We deliberately chose clients who only used us as consultants and in both cases the client made the final choice of applicant. For the middle-management placement there was one dyslexic and one non-dyslexic selected for final interviews. The dyslexic was offered the job. For the senior role, two dyslexics and one non-dyslexic achieved the final interview stage. Again the client chose the dyslexic candidate.

Interestingly, I don't ever recall ever seeing an applicant disclose on their CV that they were dyslexic. To be honest neither have I, as I never felt the need to disclose this information at such an early stage. However, I did disclose this to candidates that I interviewed. When I mentioned that I was dyslexic, interviewees quite often stated that they suffered from the condition as well. The best time for a candidate to disclose their dyslexia is upon starting their new role, as they may need to adopt different strategies to complete day-to-day tasks.

When I was employed I always found employers considerate and my dyslexia never caused a problem. In fact in many ways I found I was more organized and efficient in my ways of mastering daily tasks than non-dyslexic co-workers. On many occasions these colleagues fostered my inventive ways of doing things.

Only once in my career have I ever been exposed to bullying within a company due to my dyslexia. It was a great disappointment that after being very successful and even winning an award for achievement within this specific company. I was victimized relentlessly by a new senior manager. This continued until I finally resigned. But from there on, I went on to successfully work for other companies and progressed to start my own business. Unfortunately, I have been made aware of other talented dyslexic individuals receive similar victimization due to their dyslexia. Thankfully, now there are systems in place to counteract this.

As a result of my research I now include 'How to deal positively with dyslexia, for dyslexics and also non-dyslexics' in my seminars. I also give an understanding and material for HR directors to understand the subject.