Guide for Federal Job Seekers with Disabilities
U.S. Office of Personnel Management, By Valerie Lipow, Kim Isaacs, Allan Hoffman, Ryck Lent Monster Contributing Writers
Don’t Let Disabilities Get in the Way of Getting the Job
If you have a disability, you know it will more than likely affect a potential employer’s attitude toward you. Even if your condition has no bearing on your ability to do the job, most employers will have some concerns. It’s up to you to show employers that, despite your disability, you’re the best person for the position. Here are 10 tips to keep in mind when searching for work:
1. Use a Variety of Job-Seeking Techniques
These include personal contacts, classified ads, campus job-placement services, job-placement assistance through disability advocacy or support groups, vocational rehabilitation agencies, etc. Take advantage of the Internet. When you apply for a position, stress your qualifications.
2. Do Your Homework
Research any company you’re applying to. Check with disability advocacy groups to see if the company has a good reputation for hiring, training and promoting workers with disabilities. Find out its business strengths and weaknesses. Many corporations’ Web sites provide lots of information, including annual reports. Know how your background and experience fit with the company’s goals, and be prepared to discuss why your strengths make you a good candidate. More than just flattering an interviewer, being familiar with the company shows you’re motivated to work there.
3. Know What Technologies Can Help You Work Effectively
Regardless of your disabling condition, your talents and skills may be maximized and enhanced through technology. For example, many people who use computers do not realize there are many accommodations available to them. Speech recognition software — StickyKeys and Autocorrect, for instance — can make using a computer easier for someone with dexterity problems. Adjusting a monitor’s resolution can make reading small print easier for people with limited vision.
4. Decide When to Disclose Your Disability
Even though federal law states you aren’t required to reveal your disability to prospective employers unless it relates to completing essential job functions, consider being open on this subject. If you volunteer this information, the employer may see you as a strong and confident person. Depending on the circumstances, you could describe your limitations in a resume, cover letter, job application, during the interview, after you’ve been offered the job or after beginning the job.
5. Make the Interview Easy for the Employer
If you are bringing an interpreter, wheelchair, guide dog, etc., notify your interviewers so they can prepare in advance. As needed, inquire about accessible entrances to the building and the best route once inside to get to your interview.
If your disability makes you do certain tasks differently, are you comfortable explaining how you will perform the job? Try role-playing the situation with a trusted friend or family member. Practice explaining how you will perform your job and what accommodations, if any, you need. Then describe how the company would benefit from hiring you. With rehearsals, you’ll become more comfortable.
7. Dress Appropriately
Unless specifically encouraged to dress casually, follow the universal interview dress code: A dark blue or black suit and dress shoes. For people with limited mobility, the process of dressing for a job interview can be quite a challenge, but it’s worth it.
8. Bring Samples of Your Work and Extra Resumes
A clean, printed resume leaves a better lasting impression than the faxed or emailed resume your interviewer probably already has in hand. Samples allow you to illustrate your skills with specific examples.
9. Anticipate and Address Potential Concerns Directly
You know some people have fears and prejudices about workers with disabilities, even when they don’t express these attitudes directly. If you want the job, you must allay these concerns. Using examples from your own life or prior work experience, discuss how you accomplish activities that challenge you, like getting around the workplace, communicating with others, using equipment and so forth.
10. Handle Illegal Interview Questions with Grace
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 made it illegal for employers to ask about medical history during an interview. If you are asked such an inappropriate question, respond diplomatically. Try: “Nothing in my personal life will keep me from doing an outstanding job in this position.” This answer should satisfy a prospective employer’s concerns about your ability to get the job done.