Special HR: hiring people with disabilities at SAP
Jun 8, 2020

Hiring employees with disabilities is sometimes a difficult topic for employers in different countries. There are many obstacles: ranging from entrenched prejudices to technical difficulties in communicating with candidates. In light of this, VCV is proud to help people with disabilities to reach their full potential, and we’d like to highlight one successful case.

The experience at SAP, the European software company, proves that hiring people with disabilities is easier than it seems, and the company has created a system that others can utilize. The Digital Inclusion project started in 2019 as an experiment for internships, but it has since grown into a robust HR vector and it’s inspiring the business community.

SAP’s HR director for the CIS, Vera Solomatina, shared a checklist for the implementation of such a program and told us how challenges can be solved with new technology - specifically, video interviews and tools for remote work.

Start with Managers

When Vera offered to hire people with disabilities for internships not everyone approved of the idea. There were the usual arguments against: people with special needs are less productive, they require many benefits, and other employees won’t be able to cooperate with them. If you needed to hire a person with a disability, then only for senior level management positions, which are currently in high demand on the labor market.

Then the team took a bold step - to bypass the hiring managers and deal with this issue themselves. A separate division was created in the company to hire people with disabilities. Several problems disappeared immediately: the managers didn’t have to invest their time and effort in the project and worry about the trainees' performance; yet, they were able to hire people from the new department for projects inside the company. Demand for their skills arose and entrenched prejudices were dispelled.

Find motivated people

For the program to work successfully you need people who are ready and eager to learn. Vera's team was looking for the most motivated: university students interested in internships and applied projects. SAP used all resources to search for candidates: social networks, funds, and employment centers.

Train staff and find ambassadors

A disability is a very personal and emotional topic. SAP employees from different departments offered to help when they learned about plans to hire interns with special needs. Each employee contributed to help form a common culture and to train the new employees: they conducted lectures and trainings, helped with onboarding and acted as true friends. It’s especially important to find hiring managers who are ready to promote the idea of ​​inclusiveness within the company.

Change your hiring approach

Positive discrimination is a complex and multifaceted topic that’s easy to get wrapped up in. Vera's team decided to anticipate possible complaints from HR and to apply a new type of recruitment style. They didn't announce vacancies and didnt try to transform the hiring structure. At first, they found candidates who were encouraged to pursue a job and then introduced them to the hiring manager. Multi-stage selection for people with disabilities can be a challenge, so the tools and interview format had to be changed.

Use technology

VCV was one of the first to respond to Veras announcement about the project - this is how Digital Inclusion started using video interviews.

100% of the candidates who recorded the video interview got a job at SAP. The video was shown to all managers - 15 to 20 people watched the interviews. The HR department selected those who fit best, and interviewed them further.

VCV solved three specific HR issues:

  1. Selection is easier for candidates. People with disabilities often find it difficult to travel to the office, especially if several interviews are required. With cerebral palsy, hearing impairment, and in some other cases, it is difficult for a person to speak, especially when he/she is stressed out. A video interview allows one to prepare and record answers in a relaxed atmosphere, as well as save time and effort.
  2. The stress level of recruiters has decreased. Those without experience working with candidates with disabilities were worried - they’re not sure how to tactfully pose questions, and how to help them in the office. At the preliminary stage, it’s easier to interview remotely.
  3. Interns adapt more quickly in a team. Hired interns recorded video messages to future colleagues in order to get to know each other in advance and not to be so worried when they meet. When new employees begin work the current employees already know their names, as well as the interns’ responsibilities, and are more open to the newcomers.


Most of the people hired via a video interview worked from home and later would go to the office for several hours a week. It does not mean that they are less motivated - interns work on an equal footing with the others; some work for international offices and with international projects. They can be offered a permanent job at SAP or in partner organizations. Vera said that since the launch of Digital Inclusion, eight other companies have approached her about hiring people with disabilities and have begun to adopt SAP’s approach.


VCV is always happy to hear from you - drop us an email at hey@vcv.ai. Well tell you how we can help if youre inspired by SAP’s success story.

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