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Interviewing Tips for Professionals with Disabilities

HERC Star
By Higher Education Recruitment Consortium
March 21, 2017
An image of an African American man with disabilities smiling at the camera.

Congratulations! You made it through the job search, writing the cover letter, and developing the resume. Now, you have an interview at the place you’ve been dreaming about since grad school. The job is essentially yours to lose, so how do you ensure the employer sees you as the qualified and capable future employee you are, not as a candidate with a disability, visible or otherwise? Such a conundrum can be stressful, but the following tips can help calm your nerves and ensure that your interviewers view you as they should—a perfect fit for their organization.

Start with Research

Yes, you surely did some research before you sent off your job application, but it’s time to do more. To start, find out where you will be meeting and with whom. Before you disclose any disability or ask for accommodations, discover for yourself (if you can) whether the organization’s culture is welcoming and inclusive of people with disabilities. Even if your sense is "no," knowing ahead of time gives you the upper hand. 

Ask for Accommodations While Showing Strengths

Even though applicants and employees with disabilities are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, you should handle accessibility concerns early on. If you will need accommodations to participate in the interview process, ask for them. For instance, you could say, “I am excited to present my theories to the seminar at X College next week. Please make sure I can navigate my wheelchair to the stage where the presentation will take place. I look forward to meeting with the hiring committee. Thank you.”

The key is to give your potential employers an opportunity to avoid an uncomfortable situation. While they are required to provide any necessary accommodations for you to participate in the interview, making your needs clear in advance will improve the experience for everyone participating in your interview.

Practice Your Technique

Interviewees who practice interview skills with a trusted colleague or friend tend to feel more comfortable in the actual interview session than those who do not. If you haven’t interviewed for a while, practice is key. Don’t wait until you are in the interview room with the search committee to test a new answer to an important question. Work on your elevator pitch; for instance, be able to answer the question “Why should we hire you?” in three minutes or less. When you’ve mastered that, move on to the next potential questions. Use this technique to fortify yourself for biased questions that may be asked out of ignorance. Have your rote answer ready, so you are not tripped up by a well-meaning interviewer who needs to be educated on your abilities instead of focusing elsewhere.

Smile and Be Friendly

Lastly, be sure to show your potential coworkers what a great person they are considering bringing on to the team. Let your best assets shine through and save criticisms of former employers for home. Never trash your previous workplace, even if you had a bad experience there. As you did during the application process, show your potential employer that you will be a positive addition to the team.

Finally, don't fear that upcoming job interview. Career success in higher education can be yours, with or without a disability. Practicing your responses to difficult questions and making sure you are fully prepared before going into your interview can help ensure the best possible outcome for both you and your future employer.

 

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