You will face different types of interviews during your job search. At times you will be part of a short interview called a screening interview. During this interview, the employer is checking to see if you have the qualifications the employer needs and what you say in the interview is consistent with your resume. If you meet the employer’s requirements, you may be invited to a longer interview. These interviews may be one-on-one or by a group of people. But whether the interview is with one person or a few, be prepared to discuss why you should be hired.
Finally, first impressions are very important. An employer can make a snap judgment about you even before you have a chance to say anything. Therefore, personal grooming is very important on the day of the interview.
Always remember interviewers will see a messy person as someone who may not be able to handle the job. Personal grooming takes little time, but it can make a lasting impression. Also keep good eye contact for the greeting. You want to present yourself as a strong person who can work individually and as a team member. Remember to smile when you first greet anyone. You are happy for this opportunity to show an employer that you are the right person for the job.
If I have an obvious disability, how can I positively address this in the interview?
How you present yourself at an interview helps an interviewer decide whether to hire you. For example, how you sit or how you walk promotes to the interviewer a perception of the kind of person you are. If, because of an obvious disability, you walk with a limp or are unable to sit straight, you may want to develop a positive strategy for addressing your limitations. For example, an individual without arms shared that when he was interviewing he would ask the interviewer if it was appropriate to take notes. He would then pull his notepad and pen out of his pocket with his foot and start writing with his toes. It was not as important to the applicant to take specific notes as it was to let the interviewer see him taking the notes.
Another suggestion, if you use a piece of assistive technology, would be to bring the equipment into the interview. For example, if you have a vision impairment and use a screen reading software, bring in the software on a laptop to show the interviewer the notes used to prepare for the interview.
Are there questions an interviewer should not ask?
Questions are the main part of the interview and are one of the main ways the interviewer can know if a candidate is right for the job. You can expect lots of different questions from discussion about your education to your last job. However, there are questions that an interviewer cannot legally ask. An employer may, however, ask questions about the ability to perform specific job functions and may, with certain limitations, ask an individual with an obvious disability to describe or demonstrate how s/he would perform a specific function.
How do I explain recent gaps in my work history because of my disability?
One of the questions often asked of candidates is their work history from most recent to first experience. Individuals can be asked to explain gaps in employment history.
I see that there is a two year gap in your work history. What have you been doing during this time?” This is an opportunity to talk about what you have been doing, not what you have not been doing. Think about valuable life experiences that you have gained during this time. Have you been taking care of children or a parent, going to school, taking art classes, or volunteering? This question may prompt you to disclose your disability if you have not already done so. Be sure to do it in a way that shows how you have dealt with a difficult situation in a positive manner. Remember to keep the past in the past, stating that you are ready to move forward and are qualified and able to do the job you want.” If and when this question arises, it is also wise to have researched the position for which you have applied as well as the organization’s focus, mission, and history. Using the information you found during the research, you can transition the conversation back to why an employer should hire you.
Can an employer require medical examinations or ask questions about a disability?
If you are applying for a job, an employer cannot ask you if you are disabled or ask about the nature or severity of your disability. An employer can ask if you can perform the duties of the job with or without reasonable accommodation. An employer can also ask you to describe or to demonstrate how, with or without a reasonable accommodation, you will perform the job duties.
An employer cannot require you to take a medical examination before you are offered a job. Following a job offer, an employer can condition the offer on your passing a required medical examination, but only if all entering employees for the job category have to take the examination. However, an employer cannot reject you because of information about your disability revealed by the medical examination, unless the reasons for rejection are job-related and necessary for the conduct of the employer’s business. The employer will also have to consider reasonable accommodation, barring an undue hardship, to allow an applicant the ability to perform the essential functions of the job up to the expectations of anyone entering the position. Finally, the results of all medical examinations must be kept confidential and maintained in separate medical files.
At this point, do I tell the employer I may have a disability?
Disclosing a disability is voluntary during the application and interview stages of the employment process. Some individuals decide to disclose to a potential employer at that time. Disclosure during the application or interview stage may be because the disability is not hidden or the individual decides this is the right time. It is suggested to frame disability positively and employ a positive approach to disclosing before a job offer has been made. This approach would anticipate the concerns of the employer, have innovative accommodation suggestions available, practice demonstrating how you would perform difficult functions, and keep the focus on your abilities. This approach should send a message to the interviewer that you are an innovative individual who can anticipate job changes.
JAN Consultants suggest “Disability Disclosure and Interviewing Techniques for Persons with Disabilities,” if you need to disclose during an interview “remember to talk about your abilities, not your disabilities. Employers need qualified, capable individuals to fill positions. Find a way to show that you are that person. Sell them on what you can do, not on what you cannot do and the interview will go better than you expect. Be positive about yourself and be honest.
It is your choice whether or not to mention your disability; by law, interviewers cannot ask candidates disability-related questions. And it is best not to discuss specific medical problems during your interview. However, if you use assistive technology, describing what you use and how it helps your performance can make a positive impression on the interviewer. This indicates problem-solving ability and self-confidence. Remind the person interviewing you that any purchase of assistive technology products is a capital investment.
Disclosing a disability requires a lot of thought and planning. Candidates with disabilities should plan how they will disclose and assess the consequences of sharing this intimate information with a prospective employer. Ultimately, the job candidate must decide the time, place, and degree of information to share with others.
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How do I ask for help when filling out the application and for the interview?
If you think you will need assistance in order to participate in the application and hiring process, you should inform the employer. Assistance needed to reduce the barrier a disability creates is called reasonable accommodation. Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodation only for the known physical or mental limitations of a qualified individual with a disability. Generally, you, as the applicant, have the responsibility to request an accommodation from the employer.
What examples are there of people being accommodated during the interview process?
Over the years, JAN has collected a number of examples of people being accommodated during the application, interview, and hiring process. If you need to talk with someone about what kind of help or accommodation you need, contact JAN.
There are also a number of other publications you may want to read as you apply for and are considered for a job interview. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), has an excellent resource called Job Applicants and the Americans with Disabilities Act. This publication addresses such topics as: Reasonable Accommodation for the Application Process, Asking for Accommodation, Discussing Disability with the Potential Employer, Discussing Accommodations to Perform the Job, and Being “Qualified for the Job.”
How do I ask for help?
An accommodation may be requested orally or in writing. JAN has developed an example of a written accommodation request letter.
If you have not heard from a company from 10 days to 2 weeks after you sent your thank you letter, you can follow up with a phone call. During this call, state your name, the date of the interview, and the position. Let the employer know you are still interested in the position and ask if there is a timetable for making a decision. Generally, an interviewer will tell you when the decision will be made.
Another thing that should be done is your self-evaluation of the interview. How did you do? Do you know? Can you take a step back and evaluate yourself on how you did during the interview? You should take some time and review what happened at the interview. Did you take notes? If you did, they are a good sign you were paying attention. Do you remember if you stumbled over your words? Did you delay answering a question? Did you sit up straight and ask appropriate questions? Did you give the interviewer the extra resume asked for? If you felt you did something wrong, what was it? How would you handle it differently? Think of corrections and if you do not get the job, be better prepared for your next interview. In addition, by reviewing the interview you may discover additional questions for the employer you can ask during your follow-up call or second interview.
Should I wait to hear back after an interview before considering other jobs? While you are waiting for word from the employer about the job, you can be getting ready for other interviews or continue searching for other positions. You should not wait until you hear back from an employer. If you wait and do not get the position, you will have wasted valuable search and possible interview time.
Effective interviewing is essential to getting the job. Job openings occur every day. Being prepared for these opportunities and being at the right place at the right time, often makes the difference in who is hired.
Adapted from the Job Accommodation Network: Difficult Questions During an Interview and How to Handle Them.