How Jobseekers with Disabilities Stand Out During COVID-19

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With the stock market plunging and jobless claims soaring due to the Coronavirus pandemic, economic uncertainty is at an all-time high. But one thing that has become increasingly apparent to experts like Dan Nielsen, Senior Director, Talent Attraction at Centene, is that the market is about to be flooded with new jobseekers.

“The unemployment rate was very low, hovering around 3%, but in just a few short days that’s no longer the case,” Dan observes. “While companies like ours are motivated to turn over every potential rock to find the best talent out there, we’re certainly going to be overwhelmed with candidates.”

So how can jobseekers with disabilities distinguish themselves amid this congested, virtual employment landscape? Dan and his colleagues at Centene have identified five exceptional traits that all job candidates, including those with disabilities, must possess in order to thrive in an increasingly competitive corporate world.

“We’ve done a tremendous amount of work figuring out what we have, what we need and where the industry is going. Five transcendent qualities emerged as the most impactful, and they hold true for entry-level hires and seasoned executives alike,” Dan explains. “These transcendent attributes include customer-centricity, digital dexterity, resilience and perseverance, disciplined execution, and change management.”

Customer-centricity is not an especially new term in the business lexicon, but it is something you should be prepared to talk about as you embark upon future interviews.

In its purest sense, customer-centricity puts the needs of the client first, offering solutions that are effective, easy to use and designed to earn long-term business. In order to carry out its mission of transforming healthcare, one person at a time, Centene takes a customer-centric approach to every client interaction, and the company only hires individuals who are enthusiastic and capable of delivering this level of service.

Digital dexterity most often refers to a company’s willingness to embrace emerging technologies for the purposes of streamlining business practices and improving outcomes. However, Dan says digital dexterity is also a skill individuals can develop to become more desirable job candidates.

“We’re looking for people who know how things translate to the digital environment,” he says. “It’s all about efficiency. It’s about automation rather than endless paperwork, and it’s a huge point of emphasis for us.”

Resilience and perseverance have always been regarded as admirable traits, and they are rarely more evident than during periods of hardship like the current health crisis. Even under the best of circumstances, individuals with disabilities are regularly faced with obstacles that ultimately bolster their mental toughness, a fact that’s not lost on Dan.

“Resilience and perseverance absolutely have to be a strong suit for many people with disabilities,” Dan acknowledges. “It’s always been a huge thing for us, but people are really getting pushed on it all over the world right now.”

Disciplined execution is fairly self-explanatory. Dan describes it as the consistent ability to meet stringent deadlines, regardless of distractions or unforeseen circumstances. This is especially important when you’re part of a team working on a large, time-sensitive project, particularly at a place like Centene, where the health of an entire community hangs in the balance.

Every workplace initiative requires cohesive change management, a type of leadership that ensures stakeholders at each level are adjusting to their new responsibilities and remaining unified in their pursuit of the ultimate goal. Successful change management is only possible when everyone buys in, and hiring managers will begin evaluating your adaptability and degree of commitment from the initial interview.

Even in the midst of mandatory stay-at-home orders, rising unemployment and an overly saturated job market, Dan offers jobseekers a glimmer of hope. The Coronavirus pandemic is teaching business leaders firsthand the value in improvisation and resourcefulness, reinforcing the notion that there’s more than one way to get the job done. This emphasis on creative problem solving could represent the opening applicants with disabilities need.

“Companies that never before considered something like working remotely are now forced to completely rethink how they do things,” Dan points out. “This new flexibility will present opportunities for people with disabilities because jobs that couldn’t be done from home previously are suddenly possible in a virtual setting.”

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