Talented candidates at the third Applicant Workshop

On 1 March 2012, the Applicant Workshop by Dow Europe and MyHandicap was carried out for the third time.

18 handicapped people from different countries and one (guide) dog participated for the best possible preparation for the application process by Dow Europe and the Foundation MyHandicap.

Group picture of all involved (Picture: K.C. Wong Production)
(Almost) all the involved people of the workshop (Picture: K.C. Wong Production)

The aim of this workshop was to offer a disability fitted preparation for the application process. Travel, room and board were covered by the organisers. For any all-round support each participant was assigned an escort to.

Diversity strengthens a company

As an introduction to the day the participants were greeted by representatives from Dow Chemicals and MyHandicap. Ad Tolboom, HR Director for Dow in Europe, Middle East and Africa stressed the importance of diversity for a company like Dow at the global market. That not only different nationalities are meant but also handicaps is proven by the 16 disabled employees at Dow Switzerland, where the workshop took place. One of them is Debbie Stettler (short arms and hard of hearing) who was recruited by Dow after participating in the first Applicant Workshop two years ago.

Robert Freumuth, CEO of MyHandicap Germany, also mentioned the importance of (re-)entering work life for people with disabilities. It is a cycle that would bring benefit to all, Freumuth states.

Joachim Schoss, founder of the Foundation MyHandicap totally agreed to that in his presentation. He recounted his own experiences which led to his disability. After impressing everybody with his experience in private and professional life, he asked all the participants to tell him about their work and/or studies and their barriers in job search due to their disability.

CV is a large business card

What makes a good application portfolio was made clear by HR manager of Dow Switzerland Alessandro Guidi: clarity. A good application, in particular the CV as a "calling card", should make the employer hungry for more. "An exciting application leads to an interview," explained Guidi.

Quatriplegic participant talks with a Dow employee (MPL/MyH)
Intense networking even during the breaks! (MPL/MyH)

When it came to the mostly high demands in job ads, Guidi could soothe the anxious participants. It is not necessary to meet all the requirements in the ad; 70% would be enough since advertisements usually describe the "perfect candidate" who almost never exists.

Needless to say that an application must be flawless, not only in spelling but also the address and names must be correct. Those who feel unsafe should have the application read through by someone else. Recruiters evaluate mistakes as a lack of commitment.

Show your strengths

If the CV was interesting enough, the applicant is invited to a job interview where he or she has to prove their talents. Any exaggerations, for example in actual language skills, will be revealed. So better stay honest! The applicant should be able to provide examples for the stated skills.

"Good preparation is essential for an interview," said Guidi. “Therefore, try to find out about as much as possible about the company and the future employer. Make sure, you also have some questions ready; this shows your interest. It is ok to be nervous as this shows that the interview is really important to you.”

Dow employer talks with a blind participant (MPL/MyH)
After the test interviews, people just kept discussing (MPL/MyH)

Test runs in the afternoon

After a delicious lunch that was used for networking, the participants went to their test job interviews with real personnel managers who gave them valuable feedback. “It was exiting to have the interview in English!” said hard of hearing Tanja Muff from Switzerland.

Afterwards, the participants received professional application photos. Marcel Preuss, of short stature and a wheelchair user, took the chance for a quick feedback while waiting: "The workshop is very lively and a lot of integration is done here! Only the lectures in the morning need to be tuned a little. But I'm very happy! "

Led by John Carton, Global Business Excellence Director and executive board member of Dow's Disability Employee Network (DEN), open questions about applications processes were discussed in groups. Some points and experiences could have been discussed for days. The basic idea of the workshop, however, was put in a nutshell by hard of hearing participant Victor Senn: "The focus must be put on skills, not on disabilities."

Family environment

A participant from Germany, who is dyslexic and has depressions, was surprised by the familiar air: "I had that classic picture of business management companies like Dow but now I see that here the person counts and not just the money!" Impressed by the disabled participants was Ingrid Dohme, job title xy: "We have learned a lot about disabilities today!”

Piera Marongiu, main coordinator of the event, thanked at the end: "I was pleased about the good CVs and the positive energy today, thanks to everyone involved!"

MyHandicap also thanks Dow Europe for the great cooperation as well as all the participants and everyone involved for their commitment that made this day a the success!

Text & translation: M. Plattner- 03/2012

Pictures: K.C.Wong Production / MPL