Interviewing for a new job can be nerve wracking for anyone. It can be even more stressful if you have a disability. You want to do your best to impress the interviewer and don’t want to be judged by your disability. To increase your chances of being hired for the position, prepare for the interview so you’re ready for any questions asked. If you choose to address your disability, do so in a way that demonstrates that it will not impact your performance on the job.
Know Your Rights
It’s important to go into a job interview knowing your rights. Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, interviewers are not allowed to ask questions about previous medical conditions, including disabilities. However, this might not stop all interviewers from crossing the line, especially if you have a visible disability. Knowing the questions an interviewer can and can't ask lets you know what you should and shouldn’t answer. For example, an employer cannot ask you if you have a disability, if you take a lot of sick days, if you've ever received Workers' Compensation benefits, or any other questions regarding your health.
Disclosing Your Disability
In most cases, it's up to you whether or not to disclose your disability to the interview, if it’s not a visible condition. In some cases, however, a job candidate may be required to disclose her condition if it impacts her ability to complete all job tasks, or if she'll require any special accommodations. If you have an obvious condition, such as being confined to a wheelchair, it’s best to address it right away. When discussing your disability, always put a positive spin on it, finding a way to mention that it will not impact your ability to perform well in the position. For example, if you're blind and interviewing for a position in an office, explain that you have screen reading software you can listen to with headphones, which allows you to get your work done as quickly and accurately as anyone else. This can work to quickly negate any misconceptions the interviewer has about people with your disability.
Perform Background Research
Conducting research on the company prior to your interview is essential. The interviewer will expect you to be prepared by reviewing information on the company website, relevant news articles and any other readily available data. You might be asked questions on why you want to work for the company and what you know about the products and services it offers, its market, is growth strategy and its competition. Including accurate company details in your responses shows the interviewer you can see yourself as part of the team. A thorough knowledge of the company lets you discuss specific skills you have that are relevant to the open position. It also steers the conversation away from your disability and lets you demonstrate your value to the company.
Practice Interview Questions
Prepare for your job interview by practicing responses to common interview questions with a friend or family member. Reciting your responses out loud to another person will help you formulate strong answers and work on areas that need improvement. Put particular emphasis on discussing why your disability will not affect your job performance, if it's something you won't be able to hide. You want to relay this information with confidence and clarity. Also, create a list of standard interview questions to practice, including a few related to your past work history, skills relevant to the position, strengths and weaknesses, future career goals, a few situational examples, and why you should be hired for the position.
- EarnWorks.com: Interview Tips for Jobseekers with Disabilities
- The Seattle Times Company Network: Interviewing tips for people with disabilities
- National Center for Learning Disabilities: Questions Employers Might Ask at the Job Interview
- Kohlenberg & Associates: Talking About Your Disability in Job Interviews
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