How to Prepare for an Interview as a Person With a Disability

You’ve found a job posting you’re interested in, written your resume and cover letter, sent it out, and successfully made it to the next step of your job search. Now it’s time for the interview. Interviews can be very nerve-wracking, so it’s important to be prepared and ask how you will present yourself knowing you have a disability. Remember, practice makes perfect!

The interview is your opportunity to sell yourself, your strengths, and the skills you can offer as an employee. Appearing confident is important to show you have what it takes to own the role, and that the employer should pick you.

 

When does the interview start?

The interview starts as soon as the employer reaches out by phone or email. Be sure to sound confident and professional in your conversation in order to make a positive first impression.

 

Plan ahead

 

Before going to the interview, it’s important to plan ahead. Be sure to think about any obstacles you might face prior and during the interview, or while doing the job.

Determine where the interview is located and if it is accessible. Depending on your disability you may require extra time to get ready, travel, or enter the office location. For example, if you arrive and you can’t get over the curb or open the door it becomes an uncomfortable situation. Know in advance any obstacles you may face getting to the interview. This is also important for the job, and understanding your commute and the accessibility before accepting employment.

Discuss what accommodations might apply. Remember accommodations are not always considered in monetary funds. An accommodation can be as simple as extra time to finish a task, providing a notepad to write down your duties, or a laminated sheet to see your tasks for the day. However, in some cases you may need certain software for your computer, a modified desk, or a headset to reduce noise. Be prepared to offer solutions such as costs, options, and funding possibilities. In some cases, the employer is willing to absorb the cost.

 

As a person with a disability it can be challenging to navigate the interview process.

Here are some questions we often hear:
Do I need to divulge that I have a disability? This is a personal choice, however the key is to understand yourself and how your disability has affected you.

Has your disability affected your job performance in the past?

Do you require any assistance to do your job effectively?

Will transportation issues affect your ability to reach the job?

Does your disability affect your safety or others safety?

If you answer yes to these questions you will need to explain your disability to the employer and have prepared clear and succinct answers and explanations to any of the above. By preparing a script to answer these questions, you can practice your response, sound confident and keep it brief.

When do I disclose my disability?

There are several factors to think about. For instance, if you’re a person with a physical disability, mobility issues, deaf or blind, you should disclose your disability on the phone call. If your disability is not physical you can likely inform them at the end of the interview when you have the chance to ask your questions. This is another important time to know your script and be self-assured.

How do I discuss my disability? This can be daunting, but the best way to approach the interview is by focussing on your skills. Explain to the interviewer why you’re qualified for the role, and don’t present your disability as a weakness. A great way to practice this is by role playing with a friend or family member. You can also record yourself or write a script to go over how you might respond to certain questions, and determine where you can make improvements.

 

Interview tips – think ahead

Before going to the interview, it’s important to plan ahead. Be sure to think about any obstacles you might face prior and during the interview, or while doing the job.

Determine where the interview is located and if it is accessible. Depending on your disability you may require extra time to get ready, travel, or enter the office location. For example, if you arrive and you can’t get over the curb or open the door it becomes an uncomfortable situation. Know in advance any obstacles you may face getting to the interview. This is also important for the job, and understanding your commute and the accessibility before accepting employment.

Discuss what accommodations might apply. Remember accommodations are not always considered in monetary funds. An accommodation can be as simple as extra time to finish a task, providing a notepad to write down your duties, or a laminated sheet to see your tasks for the day. However, in some cases you may need certain software for your computer, a modified desk, or a headset to reduce noise. Be prepared to offer solutions such as costs, options, and funding possibilities. In some cases, the employer is willing to absorb the cost.

 

How to prepare for an Interview

The interview is a formal meeting where you and the employer discuss your skills and abilities and how they fit within the company. There are several different types of interview techniques such as face to face, panel, assessment, phone, screening, group, and video.

1. Research the company. Review their website, know the company’s industry and if they are an equal opportunity employer.

2. Know who is interviewing you. Learn the interviewer’s name, their role and the address of the company.

3. Bring an extra copy of your resume. Ensure it has no errors and all up to date information. You can also bring a reference sheet to the interview.

4. Practice interview questions. Role play questions and scenarios with a friend, or record yourself practicing prepared answers.

5. Ensure your voicemail and email are professional.

6. Show enthusiasm for the opportunity. Demonstrate to the employer that you want the job by being prepared, organized, and engaged in the conversation. It’s important to be an active participant in the conversation.

7. Dress for Success. Wear professional clothing that fits the position. For example when interviewing for a general labor position you don’t need a suit but you should still look put together.

8. Be positive and confident. Know your resume and what you have to offer to the role.

9. Consider your body language. Be mindful of your posture, make eye contact, and smile. It is important to be a good listener and show interest through your body. For example, don’t cross your arms as it shows a lack of interest.

10. Know your rights. Research illegal questions that employers can’t ask you. If you’re a person with a disability be familiar with the AODA, and the Human Rights Commission.

11. Be courteous. When greeting the employer, shake their hand if they offer it.

12.Prepare questions. Having at least 3 to 4 questions prepared for the employer. shows you have done your research and are interested in working for the company.

13. Discuss any accommodations. Inform the employer of any tools or assistance you may need to do your job effectively.

 

Interview Don’ts:

  • Have errors on your resume or any documentation.
  • Smoke prior to the interview, be over-saturated in perfume or chew gum during the interview.
  • Have your cell phone on during the interview.
  • Be unorganized or unprepared.
  • Dress poorly or unkept.
  • Badmouth or speak negatively of previous employers.
  • Ask questions like how many vacation and sick days the role has, details on the retirement package, or how quickly you can move up within the company.

 

Following the Interview

Once the interview is over, sending a thank you note is an excellent touch. You can come prepared with a note and leave it with the front desk after the interview. The note will demonstrate your appreciation of the opportunity and help you stand out among other candidates. Finally, approximately a week after the interview, follow up with the employer by email or phone call to see if they’ve made a decision.

If you’re looking for additional assistance with the interview process, we have a workshop designed to provide in-depth knowledge and walk you through each step. Learn more about our free courses.

References:

https://www.theguardian.com/careers/2015/may/06how-to-use-your-disability-as-a-strength-when-apllying-for-jobs

https://www.passionatepeople.invacare.eu.com/8-tips-dsiabled-people-ace-job-interview

https://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/iv-human-rights-issues-all-stages-employment/5-intreviewing-and-making-firing-decisions

Interviewing and Working with People who have Disabilities

Cheryl Doran

Cheryl Doran

Community Outreach Coordinator/Facilitator at The Coalition for Persons with Disabilities

Experienced Specialist with a demonstrated history of working in the individual and family services industry. Skilled in Community Outreach, Facilitating, Job Development, Recruiting,Mock Interviews, Interview Preparation, Market Research, Self Image, and Labour Market Research. Strong professional with 25 years in the Not for Profit sector and Social Services.

Related Workshop

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Interview Skills

When preparing for a job interview, it is common to be stressed and nervous through the process. This workshop will help you to prepare for both virtual and in-person interviews. The end goal is to be comfortable and confident during the job interview and therefore present the best version of yourself to the employer.

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