For many job seekers with disabilities, the issue of “disclosure” (if, when and how to alert an employer to their disability) is a major area of concern.
As you go about looking for a job, you will need to decide if and when to disclose your disability. There are no hard rules. It will be up to you to make those decisions. It will all be a strategic judgment call on you part.
As you know, having a disability can be a liability in the job search – due to the possible misconceptions and/or prejudices of the people you will encounter. Sometimes, however, having a disability can be an asset! When you are applying to proactive companies like those that use the disABLEDperson.com site, they may have a specific interest in applicants with disabilities.
Probably more important than “when” you disclose your disability is “how” you do it. They way that you present your disability can greatly affect how the employer will view it. Are you presenting yourself as a person with a disability who has some skills – or a person with skills who happens to have a disability? Don’t be mistaken, this is an important distinction! Employers don’t hire people because they have disabilities – they hire people because they have skills. Make sure that you are presenting yourself as an enthusiastic and qualified candidate FIRST and someone with a disability, SECOND.
If you don’t have a visible or otherwise obvious disability, you have the choice of when, how, and if you will disclose it to any employer. Even if you do require a reasonable accommodation on the job, you do not need to disclose your need for it until after you have been offered a job. (Know your rights under the ADA.
Job seeking is a true adventure. It is a lot more than passing out resumes and looking at the jobs posted in the classified ads. There are skills and strategies that can make your job search more effective. You can learn these from books, online sources, and from organizations in your community.
With the advent of the Internet, Online recruiting has become a favored method for employers to find qualified candidates for their jobs. According to HR Magazine, 50% of major companies now do half their recruiting online.
We think RecruitABILITY is your best resource for submitting your resume Online. We are doing everything that we can to make RecruitABILITY work for you and the companies that use it. We think our best feature is that employers can search our resumes for FREE! (Most other sites charge a hefty fee for that – and make it impossible for many smaller companies to find you!)
However, every place that you are listed does increase your chances! See below for a list of other online recruiting sites.
Once you have connected with an employer that invites you to an interview, the fun really begins! Here are some ideas to consider as you enter that process…
Requesting Interview Accommodations
If you need an accommodation to interview effectively, work with the employer/interviewer. Make it as easy as possible for them. Remember, you want them to see your disability as something that can be accommodated reasonably and effectively.
For instance, if you are Deaf, don’t just send an email saying “I’m Deaf. I’ll need an Interpreter”. Remember, the employer probably doesn’t know much about Deafness. Rather, send a message like “I am really pleased to have the opportunity to interview for this job. However, I am Deaf. To interview effectively, I will need the assistance of a Sign Language Interpreter. If you are not familiar with this service, I can help you make these arrangements or you can call Acme Interpreters directly at …”
Relieving the Tension
You are going to get the best interview from someone who is relaxed and comfortable.
For good reason, your Interviewer may be uncomfortable at the beginning of the interview. Think about it… they probably don’t meet someone with your disability every day. They are probably concerned about being “politically correct” in reference to your disability, anxious about the legal protocol demanded by the Americans with Disabilities Act or similar legislation, and generally nervous about their ability to interact effectively with you.
You, yourself, can do a lot to relieve the Interviewer’s tension. Be friendly and personable. You want to be professional; but you can be professional and relaxed. Humor is often a good way to break the ice.
An Employer is not likely to make you a job offer until all of his/her concerns about your ability to do the job are fully resolved. You should keep one goal foremost when you interview for a job – giving the Interviewer the confidence that you have the ability to do the job well.
An Interviewer who is aware of your disability may have real concerns about how it may affect your ability to carry out the job duties. They may be awkward or unsure of how to ask you the kinds of questions that would help to resolve these concerns. Yet, if those concerns are not addressed, they will never make you the job offer.
Not all employers are well-versed in the ADA. Those that are will know that they are not allowed to ask you disability-specific questions. For instance, if you have only one arm and the job requires placing bulky items on shelves up to six feet high, the interviewer might be concerned about your ability to do that part of the job. They may have no idea how to speak to you about that. (An employer wee-versed in the ADA would simply ask you to demonstrate or describe how he/she would perform this function, with or without an accommodation.) If need be, take it upon yourself to guess what the Interviewer’s concerns may be – and to explain how you can accomplish all of the tasks related to the job.
I remember once interviewing a young woman who used a wheelchair. The job involved a lot of filing. Our file cabinets were 4 and 5 drawers high. Mentally, I had begun to consider the possibility of converting all the cabinets to 2-drawer units – or making sure that all the files she would need would be in the lower 2 drawers of all the cabinets. Those thoughts were interrupted when she said “You may have some concerns about my ability to use the files in this office. Don’t worry, I can’t walk; but I am able to stand – so it won’t be any problem.”
The Interviewer needs to have confidence in your ability. Confidence is contagious! Take it upon yourself to boldly communicate your confidence in your own abilities. Look for opportunities to bring meaningful anecdotes about yourself into the conversation. They can be work-related or not – as long as they are good examples of your skills and attributes.
I remember interviewing a young man in a wheelchair once. He wove in stories about his post-accident motorcycle trips, hang gliding adventures, etc. By doing that, he left me with little doubt about his ability to overcome any barriers that he might encounter on the job or anywhere else!