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    Disabilities and the Job Interview

    Interviewing can be a very nerve-racking experience.  Aside from answering a lot of employer questions and asking a few of your own, what if you have a delicate topic in your present or past?  Should you bring it up?  If so, when?  And how?

    Today I’ll share some thoughts on talking about your disability.  I’m no attorney, so I’m not here to offer legal advice. If you feel you’ve been wrongly turned down for a position, please consult an attorney.

    Let’s cover a few scenarios.

    #1.  Let’s assume you have a disability that’s easily visible to the employer.  There’s no way to hide it, so the questions then become how and when to discuss it.

    The employer might ask whether you’d require any accommodations to perform your work; that’s the time to address the issue.  Frankly, disabilities aren’t viewed in as negative a light as perhaps they were decades ago.  Seasoned managers are more accustomed to understanding what goes into accommodating workers with disabilities.

    If the employer doesn’t bring up accommodations, then the ideal time to raise that topic is when they’ve described the job duties. Let them know you can perform the work or HAVE performed similar work at a previous employer  with an accommodation.  Describe the accommodation you’d seek.  Most are inexpensive, so money typically shouldn’t be a barrier.

    #2.  You have a physical disability, but it’s not readily visible and would keep you from performing the job without an accommodation. You can’t stand for extended periods, for example.  Treat this as you would in scenario #1.  Employers, just like applicants, don’t like after-the-fact “oh, by the way” revelations.  Let them know during your interview, not after you’ve accepted their offer.

    #3.  You have a disability, but it’s not visible and it’s also not physical.  It’s psychological or emotional, for example.  Your condition is controlled by taking medication. I would not bring up that disability if I did not need an accommodation.

    Deciding whether to divulge a disability is a personal decision.  While I’ve offered some strategies for addressing the issue, those strategies may not work for everyone.  Good luck!

    Randy Wooden
    Randy Wooden is Director of the Professional Center by Goodwill of Northwest NC. Randy launched The Professional Center by Goodwill of Northwest NC, the first program of its type for any Goodwill®, in 2012. His experiences in career coaching, executive recruiting, business ownership, as a hiring manager and as a job seeker have afforded him the opportunity to view the hiring process from all angles. He developed and provided on-air talent for the Internet’s first daily, live television program targeted toward job hunters. He shares job search tips through a bi-weekly newspaper column; regular appearances on television, radio; and frequent public speaking appearances. Contact information: rwooden@goodwillnwnc.org, (336) 464-0516
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