Navigating Interviews When You Have a Disability
As employers have ramped up hiring following the pandemic, they’ve increasingly added workers with disabilities to their payroll. The latest Current Population Survey, from the U.S. Census Bureau, shows that the share of disabled adults who are working has risen much quicker than the rate for people without disabilities over the past two years.
This applies to people with both visible and hidden disabilities—so if you have a disability and are looking to find a new job, it’s a great time to start researching employers in your area, networking and sending out your resume. Then take a look at the following tips for acing your interviews.
How do I explain recent gaps in my work history because of my disability?
While there is not a perfect answer, this is an opportunity to talk about what you have been doing, and how it may relate to the position. Have you volunteered, overcome a hardship, provided care for children or a parent, gone to school? If you disclose your disability to answer this question, focus on how you have dealt with challenges in a positive manner, are ready to move forward and are able to do the job.
Can an employer require a medical examination?
An employer cannot require you to take a medical examination before you are offered a job. Once an offer is made, they can require that you pass a medical examination, if all entering employees for the job category have to take it.
Are there questions an interviewer should not ask?
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, an interviewer cannot ask about a disability or the nature or severity of a disability. An employer may ask questions about your ability to perform specific job functions and may ask you to describe or demonstrate how you would perform a specific function. They may also ask whether you can meet their attendance requirements.
What if the interviewer asks an illegal question?
You do not have to answer it. However, how you handle it may affect the impression you make. Rather than confronting the interviewer directly, you can explain that you are not comfortable answering the question, or you can ask for the underlying reason for the question and address that. For example, “I understand you may be concerned about my low vision, but I am able to read screens using a device, and I’m able to participate fully in all activities of the job.” Recognize that an interviewer may make mistakes, but this does not necessarily have anything to do with your being hired.
Are you required to tell an employer about your disability?
No. Disclosure of a disability is not required. But job candidates should be aware that once disclosure of a disability or an accommodation request is made, employers may ask the employee about the limitations related to the job and are permitted to make medical inquiries.
When is the best time to disclose a disability?
If you have a visible disability, you may want to anticipate the concerns of the employer. Consider taking charge during the first interview to talk about your disability and how you would handle any impact on the job. You may want to describe any accommodation you use, how it helps your performance, or demonstrate how you would perform difficult functions.
What should I say?
Many experts suggest disclosing before a job offer in order to communicate self-confidence and refocus the employer’s attention on your ability to do the job. Some people with non-visible disabilities may choose not to disclose their disability at all.
Share examples of the strategies you use to do your work. For example, a candidate with low vision might say: “In my previous work, I was responsible for maintaining our inventory. I created a labeling system with a good color contrast that I could see easily. It turns out that this was a benefit for others as well.”
Let the interviewer know that you would be glad to answer any questions they might have about how you would do your work and the accommodations you use. Being open and direct about your disability will help put the interviewer at ease, which is a critical factor in whether you receive a call for a second interview.