Job interviews during the hiring process are stressful for everyone, but if you have a disability, it might feel as if the odds are stacked against you. Although you may be just as talented and skilled as any other candidate, a potential employer may not always recognise this at first glance. It’s your responsibility to go into the interview with a positive mindset and show your potential employer that you can do the job as well as (or better than!) a non-disabled candidate.
This article shares five tips to ace the job interview and makes sure your disability isn’t affecting how you’re received by the interviewer.
- Do your research
If you’re feeling nervous about an upcoming job interview, don’t worry! It’s absolutely normal to feel anxious at this stage in your job search. However, you can ease your nerves and enter the interview with confidence by doing thorough research prior to the interview session.
Find out as much as you can online about the company, hiring department, and whether or not the company is known for being disability-friendly. If possible, reach out to people you know in the same industry and talk to them about any potential gaps in your skill set. It’s also helpful to prepare your thoughts on the following topics:
- Why is the company a good fit for you?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Where do you see yourself five years from now?
- What is your salary expectation?
- Reflect on a conflict you’ve faced at work, and how you dealt with it.
- Why are you leaving your current job?
Preparing well for potential interview questions will give you an advantage over other qualified candidates and help boost your confidence.
- Consider disclosing your disability ahead of time
A lot of job applicants prefer not to disclose their disabilities unless they really have to. Although this is an understandable sentiment, in some situations, non-disclosure might prove to be more harmful than helpful.
While there are good reasons to be upfront about your disability, there might also be good reasons not to disclose it unless you really have to. Use your judgment and go with the option that you’re more comfortable with. Also, don’t be afraid to do research and ask others with either the same or similar disabilities what they did.
Remember, you’re not required to answer anything about your disability that makes you feel uncomfortable, but answering appropriate questions may help a potential employer make reasonable adjustments. If you have a hidden disability and adjustments will be necessary, it’s best to bring this up at the interview stage. However during the interview, keep the focus on how great a candidate you are, and all the things you can do.
- Investigate the location’s accessibility
Using this tip will depend on your particular impairment, but above all, you need to be able to make sure that you can get into the interview room. For instance, if you are a wheelchair user, you may want to check if the office building has elevators and is wheelchair accessible overall. If not, you should arrange for the interview to be somewhere more wheelchair-friendly. How far is the interview room from the carpark, and do they have disabled parking spaces? Is there an accessible bathroom? Are guide dogs welcome, and is there a hearing loop in the building or interview room? If you are deaf, you may need to arrange for a sign language interpreter to be present for the in-person interview. Keep in mind that the HR personnel may not know any good interpreters. It’s a good idea to inform them of potential agencies to contact and tell them your preference, if any. This will allow the employer to make reasonable accommodations.
The employer should let you know about all of these things ahead of the day, but if they don’t, make sure you ask. Also remember that you should be interviewed under the exact same conditions as an able-bodied candidate if an employer wants to conform to equality legislation.
- Don’t associate your disability with your weakness
Your interviewer might directly ask you about your weaknesses or ask you to talk about a work situation in which your weakness cost you a project. No matter what, never relate your disability as your weakness! Most importantly, don’t apologise for your disability, either.
Instead, before going to the interview, focus on how your skills set makes you a top candidate for the position. And think of the ways that your disability actually makes you a better employee.
Perhaps your blindness made you extra careful with meticulous work. Maybe the fact that you’re using a wheelchair made you more creative in completing day-to-day tasks. Highlight these facts and assure the potential employer that you can complete the tasks assigned to you despite your disability.
Remember, you are not your disability. When answering questions like this, answer them as any other professional would. Your disability isn’t your career, so don’t be afraid to make that distinction.
- Explain gaps in your work history
If you are a person with a disability, chances are there may have been times when you had to forgo a full-time job. You may have been hospitalised due to health problems or unable to work due to ongoing medical treatments.
Whatever the reason is, it’s important to explain these gaps in your employment history during your interview. Make it clear that you had to stop working due to your circumstances and not lack of interest. Explain that you’re fully prepared to be working again and committed to fulfilling all your tasks despite the challenges you may face. Show the interviewer that you’re optimistic about starting work and wow them with your upbeat attitude.