If you are in the job market and actively applying for jobs, at some point you will get called for an interview. Job interviews are nerve-wracking for many people. If you have a disability, the anxiety often climbs another notch. The good news is, with preparation and practice, you can get interviewers to notice you for you, and not your disability. If you find yourself feeling defeated before you even had a chance to interview remember, your mindset is key to your performance.
Look at it like this, if an employer has contacted you for an interview, they are interested. The interview is your opportunity to convince your potential employer that you can do the job and do it as well or better than a nondisabled person (although perhaps differently). If you can sell yourself and your abilities, then it may be to the interviewer’s advantage to hire you.
Strategies to Help you Develop a Positive mindset for your Interview:
- Be Confident
Interviews can be nerve wracking, but there are ways to increase your confidence. You may have to fake it at first if you struggle with feeling confident naturally, and that’s okay. Everyone feels unsure at times and feeling nervous about your big interview is completely understandable. Know that even if everything goes wrong, it is not the end of the world. There will be other interviews. Below are a couple of suggestions to help boost your confidence when preparing for an interview:
- Positive self-talk is a great way to motivate yourself. Say things like, “I’m excited”, or “This is my job, I am claiming it” instead of “I’m stressed out” or “No one is ever going to hire me” before the interview.
- Listening to inspirational music on your way to the interview or write a letter about a time when you felt powerful. Striking power poses before the interview is good too!
- Make sure you enter your interview projecting as much confidence as possible, in your body language, strong handshake, and easy manner.
- Remember not to come across overly confident. There is a difference between confidence and arrogance.
Doing your research, preparing well for interview questions, and knowing how to conduct yourself verbally and physically will give you an advantage over most applicants and help you build base-line confidence.
- Disclose (Or Don’t)
Many people prefer not to disclose a disability before or during an interview if they don’t have to and that is okay. Just keep in mind that in some situations non-disclosure may not be possible. Here are a few
examples where you may have to disclose your disability:
- For example, if you are deaf, you may need to request an interpreter for an in-person interview.
- For a phone interview, you may need to explain how a relay service functions or why live chat via a messenger service may be more effective.
- If you use a wheelchair and are applying at a company that works out of a historic building that has no elevators, you may want to ensure that the interviews are on the first floor.
- If you are blind, you may merely prefer not to catch an employer off guard or to make an interviewer feel misled.
No matter your disability, there are many good reasons to disclose. There are, of course, good reasons not to as well. Use your judgment and do what makes you most comfortable. If you need accommodations for the interview, disclosing beforehand is a must but never apologize for your disability.
- Have a “Plan B”
Having a backup plan is critical in maintaining your confidence. We live in an imperfect world where human resource personnel may:
- Forget to schedule an interpreter
- Forget to provide assistive technology for a test taken by a blind applicant,
- Forget to move meetings from the second floor to the first for a wheelchair user.
As a person with a disability, you are probably used to envisioning everything that could go wrong. It is important that you not get into negative thinking. Yes, things may go wrong, but you will have a plan in case they do. For example, if you are deaf, provide the hiring manager with information on obtaining an interpreter. Explain which agency he or she should contact and express a preference for specific interpreters. Envision what you will do if things start going wrong and have a plan of action if they do. Remaining cool under pressure is a great mark in your favor and will not be lost on your possible future employer.
- Recognize and Develop Strengths
An important part of exuding confidence is knowing that you have the skills and abilities to do the job. Develop at least one strength that you will use to position yourself as especially qualified during interviews. This strength (or strengths) could be a soft skill such as communication, persistence, motivation, leadership or research. It could also be a hard skill such as unusual proficiency in a software program.
Your strengths are your selling points. It’s your key to maintaining confidence because you know, no matter what, you have this strength, and any employer would be lucky to benefit from it. When faced with questions such as, “Why should we hire you?” or “Tell me about yourself, you can answer with this particular skill or accomplishment that makes you uniquely qualified.
Persistence, patience, creativity, and thinking outside the box are great strengths that just might have their roots in your disability. However, when discussing these strengths, do not make everything about your disability. Interviewing with a disability doesn’t need to be interviewing about a disability.
- Never Associate Your Disability with Your Weakness
Many variations of the question, “Tell me about your greatest weakness” exist. Whatever you do, never associate your disability with your weaknesses. If you are deaf, your weakness could be that you are a bit of a perfectionist, and that caused you to almost miss deadlines on projects several years ago. Since then, you’ve worked on achieving a better balance between quality work and cutting it close. Whatever the weakness, just make sure you are turning it into a positive action.
People with disabilities may be just as gifted, just as skilled, and just as qualified as anyone else. Your disability does not define who you are. You have every reason to enter your interview with confidence, knowing you are fully prepared, well presented, and ready to articulate your best self to your future employer. YOU’VE GOT THIS!