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Navigating Interviews When You Have a Disability

As businesses increase their hiring efforts post-pandemic, there’s been a notable uptick in the inclusion of workers with disabilities on their staff. Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey reveals that the employment rate among adults with disabilities has surged at a faster pace than that of individuals without disabilities over the past couple of years. This trend encompasses individuals with both visible and hidden disabilities.

For those navigating the job market with a disability, now is an opportune moment to explore potential employers in your area, expand your network, and submit your resume. Additionally, consider these tips to excel in your interviews.

Explaining gaps in your work history due to your disability can be challenging, but it’s an opportunity to discuss your experiences during that time and how they relate to the position. Whether you’ve volunteered, faced adversity, cared for dependents, or pursued education, emphasize how you’ve tackled challenges positively and are prepared to contribute effectively to the job.

Regarding medical examinations, employers cannot demand one before extending a job offer. However, they may require a medical exam post-offer if it’s a standard procedure for all incoming employees in the job category.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), interviewers are prohibited from asking about your disability or its severity. Instead, they can inquire about your ability to perform specific job tasks and your attendance capabilities. If confronted with an illegal question, you have the right to decline to answer or address the underlying concern diplomatically.

Disclosure of your disability to an employer is voluntary. However, once disclosed, employers may ask about limitations related to the job and make necessary medical inquiries.

Timing for disclosing your disability depends on individual preference. For visible disabilities, initiating a discussion during the initial interview can preempt concerns and allow you to highlight how you manage any potential impacts on the job. For non-visible disabilities, some may opt not to disclose at all. Experts often recommend disclosing before receiving a job offer to convey confidence and redirect focus on your abilities. Sharing examples of successful work strategies, such as implementing effective systems or accommodations, can further illustrate your capability and readiness for the role. Being transparent about your disability can also ease the interviewer’s concerns, potentially influencing their decision to move you forward in the hiring process.

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