Web application for previewing interviews and requesting accommodations
B-READY is an application portal for candidates with disabilities to preview the interview process, and request accommodations they need in the hiring process. It is a culmination of an 8-month project along with Bloomberg aiming to improve the hiring, on boarding and way-finding experiences for candidates with disabilities. I was the UX designer and researcher in this project in a team of two engineers, two designers and one researcher.
By 2017, one out of every five Americans have disabilities (19%). The unemployment rate for people without disabilities (pwod) is 4.2%. In contrast, the unemployment rate is 9.2% for people with disabilities (pwd). (Data from The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2017). With the hope to improve the hiring experiences for candidates with disabilities, Bloomberg approached us in 2018 for a design solution for its hiring process.
Initial Research and Learning
We spent the first three months of our project in very intense primary and secondary research understanding key concepts. We learned that public sectors are generally doing better in supporting people with disabilities. Among the private sectors, there is still no universal accessible hiring procedure being shared publicly yet.
To have a good understanding of the hiring process, we had 50 retrospective interviews with candidates with motor, auditory, and visual disabilities. Although with the protection of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), companies should provide reasonable accommodations to candidates with disabilities, people with disabilities still worry that disclosing their disabilities or accommodations will cause bias and misunderstandings that influence their candidacy.
Initial Insight 1
Accommodation: a modification or adjustment to a job, work environment, or typical hiring process. Accommodations range from hardware like an ergonomic keyboard, software like screen reader, access issues like elevator pass, to policy enhancements like giving extra time.
Initial Insight 2
It is hard to advocate for yourself when you are also trying to be seen as capable. The fear of losing candidacy led many candidates to choose not to disclose accommodation needs until they have to.
Initial Insight 3
Most of the candidates choose to wait or even not to disclose their accommodation needs to their employer until they really have to. A direct issue which comes from this is that those who need accommodations to perform to their best abilities are losing career opportunities by being silent.
Rephrased Design Challenge
Ideation and Prioritization
To solve the problem as we defined, we brainstormed 50 ideas, including creating a peer-to-peer mentoring platform, a decision-making calculator, a story hearing and sharing AR experience, a Glassdoor-like website for accessible hiring, a place for anonymous accommodations requesting, and many more.
Test Learning 1
We conducted a feature-buying activity, in which we had candidates bid on features that are meaningful to them. Receiving accommodation was the most-desired feature among all 15 features that we presented to candidates with various disabilities.
Test Learning 2
Currently, candidates usually request items through email, a phone call, or face to face conversation. The lack of a standardized channel to talk about their needs makes them feel that they are the first or the only ones requesting certain things in the hiring process, which is very stressful and daunting.
Test Learning 3
It is important that all candidates are evaluated by their skills rather than being categorized by their disabilities. It is important that their interview experience and accommodation requests are merged into the general hiring process instead of being singled out due to their disabilities.
With the learnings we had from the testing of the early ideations, we decided to build a hiring portal that can be used by all, but particularly for candidates with disabilities to request accommodations they need in the hiring process. Below is an early mockup for this idea.
After the prioritization, we quickly mocked up a hiring portal where candidates could view the accommodation options and request the ones they need. From testing, we confirmed that these features are highly needed among all. However, as we observed users interact with it, we find that deciding what to request is more complicated than we thought.
Test Learning 1
Accommodation needs are highly associated with the job description, environment, activities, and tools of the interview process. Accommodations might change when the context is changed. Without knowing the situation in detail, it is hard to judge whether or not one needs accommodation.
Test Learning 2
Due to the wide range of disability types, everyone has their own unique situation. Generalizing accessibility can easily lead to mistakes or bad judgements. Application: To empower each candidate to evaluate the situation themselves.
Test Learning 3
Almost all candidates with disabilities we talked to mentioned that they do tons of invisible work for the interview. Getting what one might need takes time to purchase and prepare. An earlier notice can make a big difference in their interview experience. Application: We need to provide information ahead of time.
To support candidates in evaluating the situation for themselves and learning about the environment ahead of time, we added an interview preview feature to the current requesting portal. Among the variations we built out using static photos, videos, and AR/VR, 360 degrees photos proves to be the most effective in balancing fast information gathering and accurate decision making.
Backward Design From Perfect
As we had more understanding of the complex nature of accommodation requesting, we started to wonder, what kind of information is needed to make the best decision? What is the mental model for users to make that decision? In what form should we present this information? With these questions, we facilitated several co-design sessions.
As we synthesized the requesting process, we learned that to make an informed decision about what accommodations to request, candidates normally go through 3 stages:
An early version of previewing the tasks, tools, environment of one step in an onsite interview.
To support candidates with disabilities to make an informed decision about requesting accommodations, we built out 3 scaffolding steps: preview the interview, view the options, and make requests.
Problem Addressed: The current description of the interview process is too general for candidates to evaluate the interview situation and make an informed decision about what accommodations they should request.
Action: Users can read the tasks, tools, and environment of the next interview stage.
Value: Candidates obtain a transparent interview process ahead of time with more certainty.
Problem Addressed: Online office photos or Google street view do not give candidates an authentic feel of the office space.
Action: Users can navigate the office space just like they are touring the office themselves: from the entrance to the interview room, cafeteria, elevator, bathroom, and more.
We made sure that this web application is compatible with screen reading software.
Problem Addressed: Candidates have no idea of what accommodations they can request and whether the hiring company is open-minded and supportive of these requests or not.
Action: Users can view accommodation options, and request them in a few steps.
Problem Addressed: Users are not offered any options even when they know certain things might not work for them.
Action: Users request the accommodations while they are reading the requirements.
After 15 rounds of iterations guided by 30 user tests. We had our final design which not only supported candidates in requesting accommodations but also helped them make informed decisions.
Before: Request multiple items -- add to cart --- confirm information --- submit items Testing results: Most of the candidates we tested with did not complete this flow. Once they requested items and added them to the cart, they assumed that they completed the process already.
After: Request one item -- confirm information -- submit the item
Testing results: All candidates that we tested with correctly requested accommodations.
Learning: Allowing candidates to select multiple items and submit once causes them to forget about the items in the cart. To prevent this mistake from happening, we made the cart only available for power users.
Before: Testing results: People without disabilities assumed certain accommodations were for them as well, especially “Bring one’s own laptop” and “Ask for extra time”. People also misunderstood “accommodations” to mean “hotels”.
After: We took out the easily misunderstood items and added clearer directions for accessibility accommodations. We also made an optional message box for custom accommodations to avoid potential abuse. Through testing, all candidates without disabilities easily recognized the purpose of the accommodation requesting features and didn’t use them.
Before: Had users understand the environment, tools and tasks in an AR/VR experience.
Testing: Users feel navigating through videos or pictures can be time-consuming and cumbersome. It is not as lightweight, universal, or efficient in conveying information as reading written texts.
After: Rather than moving all information to immersive view, we only highlighted the minimal necessary information about the environment in the immersive view. Through testing, users mentioned that it is much faster and easier to navigate through the space than it was before.
Testing and Impact
We tested B Ready with 30 candidates with disabilities asking them to compare the current Email/PDF preview of the interview and B Ready. We looked at 3 metrics including comprehension of the interview process, confidence of requesting, and ease of use. Using B-Ready, comprehension rate increased by 80%, confidence increased by 67% and ease of use increased by 67%.
In the early stage of our design process we had many fanciful ideas about what tools candidates with disabilities might need. Through user testing, we quickly learned that these solutions, made up by people with no disabilities, were of very little real use to people with disabilities. One lesson we learned was the importance of engaging target users early on and swallowing one’s own ego. Using the insights of the people with disabilities we spoke with as our north star, we were able to make B-READY into a product that brings real value to candidates with disabilities.
In this project, one big challenge we encountered was to define the innovation space and find a way to satisfy the needs of both the hiring company and the candidates with disabilities. Many times, stakeholder interests were in conflict. Good designers are educators and negotiators aiming to solve problems. They should help stakeholders articulate their real needs and develop a solution with the needs of all stakeholders in mind.