GUEST BLOG: City Disabilities is a charity set up to provide support and advice for students and professionals with disabilities, as well as employers. Liz Dawes has very kindly written a guest blog post which contains excellent advice on how you discuss your disability at an interview.
For more information about City Disabilities and how they can support you and details of their excellent mentoring programme, please visit their website.
There is no legal obligation to disclose a disability at interview, and many people choose not to. For people whose disability is either obvious, or affects how they do their job, this choice is not available. That being the case, how do you discuss a disability at interview in a positive way, ensuring you are fairly assessed?
Focus on the job
Job adverts come with a person specification. The purpose of an interview is to discover if you fulfil that specification. Like any other candidate, concentrate on showing, through your answers, that you meet the person spec as advertised. If you don’t show how you fulfil the person spec, you won’t be offered the job.
How does your disability impact your work?
If you are going to discuss a disability, keep it in the context of how you will do your job. If you are asked about skills you have that are impacted by your disability, explain this in your reply. So to use a simple example, let’s imagine a person has some hearing loss, and the person spec requires them to use the telephone frequently. When asked about those skills, a candidate can say: “Because I have partial hearing loss, it can be difficult for me to hear conversations over the telephone.” They can then go on to explain what practical solutions will work best for them.
What solutions work for you?
Think through the ways an employer can offer you reasonable adjustments at work, and explain this to them once you have raised your disability. Demonstrate that you have thought through what you need to do at work, and have found solutions to any issues. Consider advances in technology, practical matters of access, and the kind of support you might need. If an employer can see how adjustments can be made, they are more likely to consider you as a candidate. You will also be demonstrating that you are proactive, understand the job requirements, and have a practical approach.
Try not to highlight disability as a big deal if you don’t need to. Put it into the context of the job you are being asked to do, and show how it is a practical issue that can be dealt with. There is no need to give the impression that it is an issue, when it isn’t. Ask yourself: What part of the job does your disability affect, how does it affect it, and how do you propose to overcome this issue? This approach reassures an employer that you have thought about the job, thought about the person spec, are clear how you can fulfil the spec and so do the job, and will be a reliable employee.
Accentuate the positive
Employers often ask questions designed to show a candidates resilience, resourcefulness and dedication. Remember that candidates with disabilities have very often faced more hurdles and shown more determination that non-disabled candidates. Do not be afraid of pointing out the issues you have dealt with while still achieving the academic and personal success that has got you to the interview stage.
Beware of inappropriate reactions
Unfortunately some employers are not as good as they should be on these matters. If you encounter a negative reaction to your discussions, think carefully about the employer. If they see disability as a big issue you may find them hard to work for. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t work there, but if you do not believe the culture of an employer is the best for you, then you may not be happy.