Employment can help individuals with disabilities to be more independent. Having adequate disability insurance in place also enables this. The switch to remote working over the past few years has increased the number of disabled people taking up employment. Forbes reports that between August 2021 and August 2022, there was a rise of 3.1%. Despite this, many disabled workers find that the interview process is the most challenging obstacle to overcome.
Be upfront about your needs
Deciding whether to disclose your disability to an employer before they offer you a job is a personal choice. There are many cases where being upfront about your disability and the before the interview will help you. For example, if you’re partially sighted, you may need assistance finding the right building or room to go to. Or, if you’ve got autism and need to avoid excess stimuli, you can request to be seated in a side room while you wait for the interview to start rather than the main waiting room. A good employer should be open to any requirements you need. If they’re not willing to accommodate you during the interview process, then the employer probably isn’t the right one for you.
Educate the employer
Some cities in the US are more disability-friendly than others. Overland Park, Kansas, has the highest employment rate among disabled people across all cities. Fargo, North Dakota, and Plano, Texas, are also cities with a high disabled employment rate. Trying to secure a job in a less disabled-friendly city can be a little trickier – usually because employers have less experience and knowledge of working with disabled people. Use the interview as an opportunity to educate the employer on your disability while demonstrating how it benefits you. This could include pointing out that your ADHD helps you to come up with innovative ideas or that your ASD diagnosis keeps you focused on projects. You should also highlight times when your disability has forced you to stay home for periods (this will explain gaps in your CV) and how you used the time to learn a new skill.
You’re more than your disability
During your interview, you don’t want all the focus to be on your disability. Make sure you talk about your skills, why you’re the right fit for the job, what you’ll bring to the organization, and similar. Talk through your CV and discuss your professional and personal experience. You could explain how comparing health insurance companies has improved your research and IT skills. More than 90% of employers want their employees to be experienced, so always talk about this in detail. A job interview is a good time to showcase your personality and soft skills. And remember to ask questions. Questions show that you’re keen and confident, which are crucial things when you’re trying to secure a job.
Discuss the benefits of hiring disabled people
Research has found that many employers have reservations about employing disabled workers. 81.4% of employers say they have worries about the cost of providing reasonable accommodations for disabled workers, and 69.9% have concerns over the additional costs associated with hiring disabled workers, such as increased health insurance. If you’ve already got health insurance, make sure you tell the interviewer this. You should also use your interview to highlight the benefits of hiring disabled people, as many leaders simply don’t know this. A good point to discuss is how having disabled workers makes a business more inclusive. Inclusivity is linked to increased employee retention, higher revenue, and improved decision-making, so it’s something all organizations should strive for.
Look the part
It’s always best to turn up for a job interview looking smart – even if your interview is online. What you wear will show that you’re professional and serious about getting the job. It will also give you confidence. Stick with solid block colors, as these look clean and won’t distract your interviewer. For men, a suit with a shirt and a tie is generally best, while women should opt for a dress suit or a dress and blazer. If you use mobility aids, such as a wheelchair or cane, clean them up before the interview. The last thing you want is to be remembered for leaving a trail of mud behind you.
Rehearse your answers
A typical job interview will last between 45 and 90 minutes. Expect to be asked a lot of questions during this time. Rehearsing your answers to the interview questions most likely to come up is a good way to prepare yourself. By doing this, you’ll have increased confidence, your answers will be clear and concise, and you’ll feel more at ease when you’re in the real interview. A common interview question, such as ‘How do you deal with pressure or stressful situations?’ can make you think of a time when your disability held you back, such as needing to take time off due to exhaustion. If you’re not prepared with a good answer, you could say something that could hinder your chance of getting the job. Instead, discuss the techniques you’ve learned to help you cope with pressure at work. This may be things like adapting your sleep environment, taking time to recharge, seeking support, and focusing on getting your work-life balance right.
The job market has become a lot more accessible to disabled people in recent years. You still need to work hard to get through the interview, though. Be as open and honest as you can with your prospective employer, but ensure that your disability isn’t the main focus of your discussions.
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