Job Searching With a Disability | How to Prepare for the Interview Process was originally published on Idealist Careers.
For job seekers with disabilities, the job search may include questions and challenges that others may not regularly come up against. In addition to wondering whether the roles you’re applying for are a fit, you may also be concerned about how to discuss your disability with potential employers during a job interview.
Should you bring up your disability in an interview or wait until you’ve received a job offer? How do you showcase your disability as a strength? When is the best time to discuss the workplace accommodations you may require?
To help you navigate the interview process confidently and comfortably, Idealist partnered with the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s (MDA) Quest Media team. Here is everything you need to know before, during, and after an interview.
When you’re scheduling an interview
If you’ve been invited to interview, then you’ve already demonstrated to the hiring manager that your skills and experience are a good match for the role—now is the time to find out whether the organization is right for you, too.
Here are some points to consider when scheduling an interview:
- Is the organization disability-friendly? The answer to this question may reveal itself at any point during the hiring process, but you can make sure you aren’t wasting your time by reaching out to see if anyone in your network is familiar with the hiring organization’s work environment. You can also check whether the job posting lists an equal employment opportunity (EEO) statement with specific language regarding welcoming applicants with disabilities.
- Do you have any unique considerations to keep in mind? Finding a job that works for you is important for your success. Make a list of your strengths, role must-haves, and any health-related commitments to reflect on as you learn about the responsibilities and daily tasks for a particular position.
- Is the building accessible? If the organization invites you to an in-person interview, consider what you need to know about the location. You are entitled to reasonable accommodations during the hiring process, such as the ability to use an interpreter, bring a guide dog, or interview in an accessible location. If you are unable to attend an interview in person, discuss with the recruiter whether interviewing remotely is an option.
In the interview
As you prepare to answer questions about your background and interest in the position, you may wonder whether now is the “right time” to disclose your disability. The truth is, there is no point in the hiring process when you need to disclose a disability; you are the expert on your own experience, so only you can decide whether disclosing will help you feel more comfortable during the process.
On the one hand, talking candidly about a disability can help you control the narrative about your day-to-day, including how it makes you a stronger candidate for the role. If a physical disability affects whether you can shake hands, stand for long periods of time, or give a presentation, disclosing may help you clarify your abilities and request reasonable workplace accommodations.
However, you may be concerned that once disclosed, the interviewer will focus more on your disability than your qualifications. It can be stressful to think about whether disclosing will cause an interviewer’s possible bias to affect the hiring process, but remember that your background enabled you to land the interview in the first place. If an organization cannot recognize your competencies, then it may not be the place for you.
Additionally, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from asking job applicants about a disability during an interview; knowing which questions are legal (and which are not!) can help you pivot the conversation back to relevant information, such as how your skills and experience will help you succeed in the role.
When you’re considering a job offer
Receiving an offer is without a doubt the best part of the job search. As you consider whether or not to accept the position, here are some additional resources to help you make a decision:
- Request reasonable workplace accommodations. A reasonable accommodation is defined as an adjustment to a work environment that makes it possible for employees with disabilities to perform their job duties, such as specialized equipment, modifications to a work environment, or a change in schedule. All U.S. employers with 15 or more employees are legally required to provide reasonable accommodations under the ADA, but organizations outside of these parameters will likely work with you to find a solution.
- Negotiate for additional benefits. If you decide not to disclose a disability to your potential employer, consider negotiating for additional benefits in your job offer, such as flex time, the ability to work from home, or more sick days.
- Take advantage of free resources. MDA’s Access To Employment workshop helps job seekers with disabilities review their employment history, access interview tips, prepare to enter the workforce, and more. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is another great resource for expert guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues.
- Report instances of discrimination. If you believe a hiring manager has discriminated against you because of your disability, contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 days of the incident.
Starting a new role is an exciting part of your career journey. As you prepare for your first day on the job, check out our helpful resource, The Idealist Guide to Working (and Living) with Chronic Illness and Disability.