Just because someone has a stammer, doesn’t mean they won’t be the best person for the job. Avoid unconscious bias and create an inclusive recruitment process.
Stammering affects fluency of speech. There is no link with intellectual capacity or intelligence. Some of our best poets and writers, actors, singers, politicians have had a stammer: Winston Churchill, Alan Turing, Margaret Drabble, Charles Darwin, Arnold Bennett, Isaac Newton, Elvis Presley, etc.
People who stammer are found in every walk of life, and can be successful as CEOs, air traffic controllers, teachers, doctors, in the army, navy and air force, customer services and communications. There is no job that isn't suitable for someone who stammers. In fact, the experience of stammering can give people valuable strengths such as resilience, creativity, a rich vocabulary and an ability to empathise.
Job Descriptions & Adverts
Before setting down ‘excellent communication skills’, consider your actual needs. Good communication is not the same as speech fluency. People who stammer can have excellent engagement and communication skills, and be spectacular wordsmiths. Good communication skills involve the ability to analyse and summarise, to interpret other people’s body language and words, to show empathy, to read situations accurately and moderate tone and messaging appropriately, the ability to listen actively and write well. Make sure you define the actual communication needs of a role and consider how you will assess these.
If someone discloses a condition which can cause difficulties in daily tasks, then you have a duty to look at 'reasonable adjustments', in the interview/at work. The key term here is 'reasonable'. Have a look at the legal advice section.
People who stammer may find job interviews a more nerve-wracking than for fluent speakers, which in turn can make stammering more severe. Highly capable people who stammer may find themselves unable to perform at their best at interviews. If you really want to see a candidate’s capabilities, and if they have disclosed a stammer then offer extra time say, or more informal interview arrangements. Think through the whole process from entry-phones, to reception staff – you don’t want a great candidate put off by a member of staff thoughtlessly laughing at a candidate. Try to avoid negative impressions of a person based on the way they sound on the phone.
Telephone interviews can discriminate against people who stammer. A reasonable adjustment would be the offer of an informal individual chat, or a skype or zoom where you can also see each other, or a face-to-face interview.
A few simple changes can help you avoid unconscious bias and create an inclusive recruitment process for people who stammer. Download our recommendations for stammering and recruitment pdf below for more information.