Don't let your disability stand in your way of landing your dream job.
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 recognize 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?
Tell us about 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 and walking into the interview with good body language 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.
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. 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'd be 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.
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.
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 apologize for your disability, either.
Instead, before going to the interview, think of the ways that your disability actually made 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 hospitalized 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.
What if the interviewer asks an illegal question?
The Americans with Disability Act prohibits employers from asking about your disability, the nature of your disability, and its severity. However, if you find yourself in a situation where the potential employers ask disability-related questions that are illegal, do not confront them angrily. Instead, maintain your cool and calmly explain that you're not comfortable answering the question. You can ask them about the underlying reasons for that question and address those instead.
Make it clear to them that your disability will not hinder you from performing your tasks without dwelling on the lengthy details about your condition. Keep in mind that the interviewer might have simply made a mistake by asking you that question and have nothing against you. Take this as a good opportunity to showcase your emotional intelligence and explain to them how your disability has made you a stronger person and a more-than-capable candidate.
Your disability is not a job-search death sentence. Don't let your disability stop you from going into the interview and impressing your prospective employers with your skills, achievements, and overall winning personality.
Is your disability leaving you less than confident? Our TopInterview coaches can help you prepare — and boost your confidence during the process!