Interviewing For A Job? Follow These Tips On Disclosing Your Disability
If you are a job seeker with a disability, you may have additional concerns and worries about interviewing for potential jobs. Should you disclose your disability? Under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the federal Americans With Disability Act (ADA), you are protected from discrimination as a job applicant and employee based on your disability.
Under these laws, you are not required to disclose your disability unless you need a reasonable accommodation. An employer is also prohibited from asking you about a disability or medical condition during your interview. However, you may want to discuss this in your interview—and, if so, you want to do so with confidence.
How Do You Know If You Should Bring Up Your Disability?
It is often best not to disclose disabilities in a job application or cover letter. You want to get your foot in the door and get asked to interview for the job first. Guidelines to consider when deciding whether to discuss your disability include:
- You should discuss your disability if you need a reasonable accommodation. You will want to talk about the nature of your disability and the accommodation you would need.
- If your disability is obvious but you do not need an accommodation, you may want to bring it up if you worry the employer will have concerns as to how you will perform your duties. For example, if you are missing two fingers and are applying for a job that involves a lot of typing, you may want to discuss your disability and explain how you can still perform the job duties.
- If your disability is visible—such as a hearing, vision, speech, or mobility deficit—but you need no accommodation, you may still want to raise the topic and put the employer at ease that you can perform the essential duties of the job description.
When your disability is not apparent and you need no accommodation, you should not bring up your disability as it has no bearing on the job.
Preparing to Disclose Your Disability
Preparation is the key to any successful interview and even more so if you are disclosing your disability. Here are some strategies for preparing for your interview.
- Research the company. Ideally, you took this step before applying for the job. If not, research the company and the job you are applying for. If possible, review any information regarding the employees with disabilities the company has hired and any employment policies it has regarding doing so.
- Find out about the interviewers. If possible, you want to know if you will be doing an individual or group interview. Some employers will tell you the names of the people you will be meeting with. If so, research them so you are better informed and more confident in your interview.
- Prepare to disclose your disability. Think about how you want to disclose your disability in relation to the specific job you are interviewing for. Be sure to stress your strengths when discussing it and have practical suggestions for any accommodations to offer. You want to stay positive throughout this part of your interview.
- Rehearse. Find a trusted colleague, friend, or family member and practice what you are going to say so you become more comfortable discussing this. In addition, use the person’s feedback to improve your presentation.
When thinking of what to say, remember the limitations of what you need to disclose. You only need to share how your disability impacts on the job you are applying for. You do not need to disclose personal information regarding how you became disabled, how long you have been disabled, your medical treatments, or other information that does not pertain to the job. You should focus on discussing the following:
- Basic information on your disability.
- The reason you are disclosing your disability.
- How your disability affects your ability to perform the specific duties for the job you are applying for.
- How other employers have made accommodations in the past that worked successfully for you.
- What reasonable accommodations, if any, you will need to perform your job.
How to Bring Up Your Disability at Your Interview
Raising the issue of your disability can be beneficial because you can address the situation proactively. Remember to keep your disability in perspective by following these tips:
- Focus on the job. You want to first discuss your qualifications for the job. Your main focus should be what you can do, your education, your experience, and why you should be hired.
- Keep your disability in perspective. Don’t focus on your disability more than you have to. When discussing the need for an accommodation, focus on its simplicity—many accommodations do not require the employer to do much—and how effective and productive it will allow you to be in the job you are applying for.
- Show your disability as strength. Turn your disability into a positive by showing how it has made you a better employee. For example, has it helped you develop more discipline and a better work ethic? Focus on what it has taught you about life and your abilities… because it most likely has.
- Stay calm. If you are asked an inappropriate question, stay calm and steer the conversation back to what is acceptable. While you ultimately may not want the position, use the interview as an opportunity to tactfully educate the interviewer.
Although it has been illegal for decades, employers continue to discriminate against job applicants and employees based on a protected disability. If you believe you are the victim of unlawful discrimination, talk to an Orange County employment attorney at the Law Offices of Corbett H. Williams at 949-679-9909 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.