The labor market is challenging as it is, but if you are a person with a disability, you are often faced with additional obstacles in order to find meaningful employment. Statistics show that for every one interview a non-disabled person does, a person with a disability does five in order to secure a job!** While the numbers seem staggering, the five strategies below can assist in improving the odds.
1. Decide up front whether or not you will disclose your disability. Make a list of the pros and cons of disclosure. A hidden disability may not require disclosure unless you are requesting an accommodation. You may choose to disclose an apparent disability ahead of time to ensure the interviewer focuses on you and your abilities vs. you and your disability. The decision to disclosure is yours. Do what feels comfortable, and remember, disclosure doesn’t mean telling your life story! Keep it simple, practice what you’ll say, and only share what is relevant to the job.
2. When you are scheduling an interview, be sure to ask up front what the process involves (e.g. Will testing of any sort occur? How will the tests be administered? Where will the interview occur?). If you do require an accommodation at the initial interview, ask the employer as far ahead of time as possible. Don’t wait until the last minute! Be open to other suggested accommodations by the employer if they would satisfactorily meet your needs. Remember, an employer is not required to provide you with the exact accommodation you request. Show your openness during this interactive process.
3. Be proactive! Be prepared to demonstrate how you will be able to perform the essential functions of a job with or without an accommodation. Don’t wait for an employer to ask, especially if your disability is apparent. Share with confidence how you’ll be able to successfully get the job done and include examples of how past accommodations or modifications have worked to everyone’s advantage. Your confidence will help dispel any concerns the employer may have.
4. Don’t let your disability define you. You are a combination of many wonderful skills and abilities. The more positive you are, the more an employer will focus on your attributes. Remember – you are a job candidate that just happens to have a disability. Keep the focus on YOU!
5. Practice, practice, practice! Don’t go to a job interview thinking you will be able to “wing it,” especially as it relates to addressing your disability. Often, when we’re nervous, we will either say too much or too little. It’s always best to script out what you will say, anticipate possible questions, and then practice your response. Get the advice of a trusted friend or colleague. Go in prepared to dazzle them!
**This specific statistic was taken from “Windmills” Attitudinal Training Program.
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