Interviewing Techniques for Students with Disabilities
Interviewing is a part of the job search process. In fact, this process has several steps:
- Preparing a resume and cover letter,
- Generating job leads,
- Interviewing, and
- Negotiating a job offer.
People with disabilities often experience some stress about Step 3, Interviewing.
The purpose of this online workshop will be to de-stress interviewing for students with disabilities through helpful tips and information. Also included will be general information on resources of interest to such students and links to resources within the Regis University Center for Career and Professional Development system, especially about job search. We will cover the following topics in this online workshop:
- The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
- How to Prepare for an Interview
- Your Strengths, Skills and Personality Assets
- What Employers Expect
- Interview Behaviors that Employers Look For
- Presenting Yourself with Confidence
- How Employers May Perceive a Job Seeker with a Disability
- What to Expect from an Interview
- To Disclose or Not to Disclose and When…..
- Essential Functions of a Job
- What To Do If You Feel You’ve Been Discriminated Against
- Helpful Resources and Websites
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
To begin, ADA (The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990), prohibits discrimination against any person with a disability from having access to or participating in programs and services offered by organizations, including educational institutions. An excellent discussion of the law’s salient points and definitions is found at the website for Regis University’s Student Disability Services.
Essentially the statement above means that Regis students with disabilities can participate in any program or service offered by the University including those offered by the University’s Center for Career and Professional Development office. Students with disabilities have access to accommodations for all career related services as long as the student has registered with Student Disability Services (303-458-4941) and documented the disability. Regis University Center for Career and Professional Development staff and Career Counselors work with all students in person or via email, phone and/or Skype. The ADA also prohibits any organization with more than 15 employees from discriminating against you on the basis of your disability. You can find more information on your rights as a person with a disability in Title I: Your Employment Rights As An Individual With A Disability Under The Americans With Disabilities Act.
Students with disabilities who are ready to interview for a job or internship often have questions about how they can prepare for an interview, what an employer wants, how they should present themselves, how they will be perceived, what to expect from an interview and what resources will be helpful. The best way to begin interview preparation is to identify your strengths and know your limitations. You may be aware of these already or you may want a Regis University Career Counselor to assist you in delineating these. Knowing your strengths is the first step to building confidence for a job search in general and the interview specifically.
Checklist for Interview Preparation
- Identify strengths, skills, personality characteristics that employers desire, and any limitations you may have
- Prepare a resume and cover or introduction letter
- Research employers of interest
- Determine networking groups/professional organizations that will be useful in helping you identify job leads or understand a specific organization’s culture, or to offer support
- Review materials on interviewing, e.g., frequently asked questions, questions you can ask, closing the interview, and follow up procedures
- Consult the JAN site to gather information on possible accommodations you might need and their cost (or 1.800.526.7234)
- Review ADA guidelines to know what your rights are in the interviewing process.
- Contact Regis University’s Office of Disability Services to determine resources available to you for an interview
- Practice interviewing with a Career counselor
- Practice interviewing with a Career Counselor
- Practice interviewing with a Career Counselor!!!!!
The Regis University Center for Career and Professional Development career counseling team will assist you in discovering your strengths, skills and personality assets that you would bring to any organization. This first step is essential to any productive job search since it’s difficult to prepare a resume and cover letter or interview effectively without this self-knowledge. If you and your Career Counselor want to, the counselor may help you prepare a functional disability statement. This statement would be used in an interview at the appropriate time so that an employer knows the skills or alternative techniques you might use to do a job effectively. The functional disability statement"
- Focuses on your strengths, skills, and job related assets
- Uses no medical jargon
- Emphasizes how you can do the job with or without accommodations
- Addresses common misconceptions
- Answers any questions you think an employer may hesitate to ask you
For guidelines to preparing the functional disability statement, go to the American Foundation for the Blind website.
The Center for Career and Professional Development has materials available to get students like yourself started on the job search. This site has information on Resumes and Letters to learn the basics of resume and cover letter construction. Go to Finding a Job for useful information on Internet resources for organization/company research, job links, and professional organizations. There is also a section on Interviewing for assistance in questions that employers may ask, questions to ask an employer, tips for creating a positive impression, and follow up tasks.
One of the highly qualified Career Counselors can assist you in finalizing your resume or cover letter and analyzing the information you’ve gathered on organizations in your field. From your own knowledge or work with a Career Counselor, you will have developed a list of skills and characteristics that would make you a good employee. The next step is to do a practice interview. When you’re ready to practice interviewing, schedule an in-person, phone or Skype appointment by calling the Center for Career and Professional Development at 303.458.3508, 1.800.388.2366, x3508.
If you need accommodations for an in-person appointment, be sure to contact Student Disability Services at 303.458.4941 to make arrangements. Give them as much lead time as you can.
These are the basic steps to interview preparation. Now, let’s explore some of the other aspects of interviewing that will give you a competitive edge.
Employers will expect you to demonstrate certain behaviors and characteristics in an interview and to be able to give examples of these behaviors from your work and educational experiences.
Willingness to accept criticism
Willingness to follow directions
Willingness to learn
Willingness to ask questions
Demonstrated ability to observe and
respect chain of command
Developing Job Seeking Skills For people with Disabilities: A Tip Book. page 3. National Center on Deafness, California State University, Northridge, CA.
As you look at the list above, have at least two examples that demonstrate each behavior from your work, academic projects or coursework, volunteer positions, or your life experience that demonstrate these qualities.
Often people with disabilities report that they are confident about developing a resume and cover letter and doing the research on companies that interest them. That confidence dissipates when they think about the actual face-to-face interview encounter. One way to deal with this is to carefully select companies and organizations that are open to and experienced in hiring people with disabilities. Check the last section in this workshop, Helpful Resources and Websites.
Practicing your interview skills with a career counselor or trusted friend goes a long way to increasing confidence and the ability to present yourself well. Knowing the types of interviews and what is standard procedure can allay fears. Generally, there are three kinds of interviews. They are:
- Patterned Interview that uses a structured format in which questions and topics to discuss are predetermined. These questions and topics are covered with all employees.
- Non-Directive Interview that uses a more flexible format. The tone of this type of interview is conversational. You are expected to “run with the ball” while the interviewer is more of an “active listener”.
- Group Interview in which several people form a panel and each panel member alternately asks the interviewee questions.
- Establish rapport with your interviewer or panel of interviewers. This can be done by shaking their hands, acknowledging them by name, smiling, and making eye contact when possible.
- Be enthusiastic, relaxed and honest. Be yourself! All of these qualities will help you put your best foot forward.
If you need assistive technology, accessibility measures, interpreters, alternative forms of communication, or other accommodations, remember to notify the employer well in advance. Inquire about access to the building and the interview room. Student Disability Services (303.458.4941) will provide appropriate accommodations for a job or internship interview. Arrive early and dress appropriately. Punctuality communicates to a prospective employer that you value and have respect for the time the interviewer will be spending with you.
People with disabilities often have some concerns about how they will be perceived during an interview and how to counter fears an employer may have about hiring a person with a disability. Most employers want to hire the best person for any given job or internship and want the selection process to be ethical and legal. Looking at the interview/hiring process from an employer’s view can be useful in allaying your concerns. Employers want to know if a person with a disability will be able to perform the job satisfactorily and will be able to communicate well with the staff team. As a job seeker with a disability it is your responsibility to convince a viable employer that you are the person for the position. That means doing your homework on the organization, on the organization’s culture, and even determining what physical barriers/obstacles there could be to get to the interview site. Demonstrate confidence and self-acceptance. These qualities will allay many concerns employer’s have.
Richard Bolles and Dale Susan Brown devote a whole chapter to addressing employers’ fears in hiring a person with a disability in his book Job-Hunting for the So-Called Handicapped or People Who Have Disabilities(10 Speed Press, Berkeley, CA. 2001). The question/answer format is helpful in your preparation and, most importantly, in increasing your confidence.
Interviews have a structure and are rarely open ended. In a typical half hour interview, expect to spend 5 minutes getting acquainted. This is the introduction phase. Each person at the table will be introduced to you and, hopefully, you will be made to feel at ease. Sometimes interviewers are not at ease in an interview. In this case it is your job to do your best to demonstrate warmth, calmness and confidence. Doing so increases the likelihood that unskilled interviewers will also relax.
The next 20-25 minutes are the heart of the interview. Be prepared to answer questions about your qualifications, ability to do the job, and to share examples that demonstrate these abilities. Be prepared to answer pre-determined questions if the interview is patterned or be prepared to take a more active role if the interview is non-directive.
To disclose a disability you have and when to disclose it is your choice. If you have a visible disability, bring this up prior to the interview or at the beginning of the actual interview. Practice being direct and confident. There is no need to be apologetic. Some experts advise waiting until the actual interview to disclose unless you need to find out about special considerations such as building accessibility. This approach has the advantage of minimizing the employer’s time to develop stereotypes. However, some employers have difficulty getting over the shock if they’re not prepared to interview someone with a disability. This means you need to be ready to refocus the employer and defuse any issues.
If your disability is obvious, expect a question in the interview about your ability to do the job. By law interviewers cannot ask you about your disability. However, it is legal for an employer to know how well you can perform the job duties. If you get this question, you may want to ask for the employer’s list of “essential functions” of the job. Many companies have prepared these for each job title within their organization. The essential functions are often quite detailed and should give you information you need to respond. If you can, ask for the essential functions after you’ve been asked to interview but before the interview occurs, all the better for your preparation. If you cannot get an essential functions list before an interview ask for a job description or consult the vacancy announcement.
If you will require assistive technology or accommodation to perform any of the essential functions, this point in the interview would be the time to discuss this with the interviewer(s). This is where your research on the JAN site will pay off. You would want to describe what you use and how it helps your performance. If appropriate you may want to bring assistive technology to demonstrate for the employer how such devices will assist your performance. From information on the JAN Network (1-800-526-7234), you’ll see that most accommodations are not expensive. In fact 68% of accommodations cost from $0 - $500, according to the Division of Career Services and Division of Unemployment Assistance . In general, costs to employers for accommodations do not increase the cost of hiring a person with a disability. Accommodations can reduce worker’s compensation and other insurance costs. With such data, most employers will be impressed with your confidence, problem-solving ability and your ability to anticipate the employer’s concerns.
If your disability is not obvious, you are not required to reveal any specific medical problems. However, knowing beforehand your limitations and any necessary accommodations is useful. When you are offered a position, you may want to discuss such accommodations with the employer at that point. It is becoming more common to have a “post-offer/pre-employment” period in which the employer will want you to review an essential functions list before the job begins. The disadvantage to revealing your disability this late is that some employers may become distrustful of you wondering why you waited so long to reveal your disability.
Another approach when your disability is not visible is to reveal this information at the end of the interview. You would want to follow with an oral statement reiterating your qualifications and ability to do the job. And, these facts would bear restating in a thank you note to the interviewer(s). Many employers will appreciate your honesty.
The last 5-10 minutes will be for the wrap up and give you an opportunity to ask questions of the interviewer(s). Be sure to have 1 or 2 questions that show your interest in the company and the position. Find out what the timelines are for the interview process. Determine if you should contact the employer about your status as a candidate or if they will contact you. Be sure to indicate that you are interested in the position and look forward to hearing back from the interviewer(s). Shake hands while making good eye contact before you leave.
The last step in the interview process is to write a thank you note/email to the interviewer or interviewing team. Be sure that you have business cards for the interviewer or the chair of the interview team. You’ll want everyone’s correct job title and the correct spelling of their name. In the note/email, thank them for the opportunity to interview. Mention one or two outstanding qualifications you have for the position. Indicate you look forward to hearing from them. Send the note/email the day of the interview.
You do have resources available if you feel that you’ve been discriminated against because of your disability. Generally, you must file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 days of the alleged discrimination. Check the website above for details.
ADA Document Portal: A user-friendly and informational website regarding all your ADA questions.
ADA Home Page: Americans with Disabilities Act web site from the U.S. Department of Justice. A large number of resources are available through this site.
ADA – Rocky Mountain ADA Technical Assistance Center: Providing information on the Americans with Disabilities Act to Colorado, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota.
ADDvance: An online resource for women and girls with Attention Deficit Disorder.
American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD): The largest national nonprofit cross-disability member organization in the United States, dedicated to ensuring economic self-sufficiency and political empowerment for the more than 56 million Americans with disabilities.
American Council of the Blind Assistive Technologies Act: This act supports programs of grants to states to address the assistive technology needs of individuals with disabilities.
Careers and the Disabled Magazine: Companies actively recruiting and articles of interest to people with disabilities. Regis University Career Services has a hard copy of issues of this magazine.
Career Connect: A free, web-based service that provides information about job experience and technology available to people who are blind or visually impaired and their family members, teachers, counselors, rehabilitation professionals, and employers.
Disability Resources: A non-profit organization established to promote and improve awareness, availability and accessibility of information that can help people with disabilities live, learn, love, work, and play independently.
Employment Resources: Numerous links from the Empowerment Zone.
Entry Point: Paid, summer science, engineering, mathematics, and computer science internships from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
HirePotential: Specializes in employing people with disabilities, mature workers, veterans, and individuals from other niche groups.
Job Accommodation Network: Not a job placement service, but an international toll-free consulting service that provides information about job accommodations and the employability of people with disabilities.
NBDC—National Business & Disability Council: A leading national corporate resource on all issues related to the successful employment and integration of individuals with disabilities into America’s workforce.
National Center on Workforce and Disability/Adult (NCWD): The site offers job development guidance for people with disabilities.
National Organization on Disabilities: Promotes the full and equal participation of America’s 56 million men, women, and children with disabilities in all aspects of life. Has a section on employment.
RecruitAbility: A free, online, targeted recruiting site that connects proactive employers with job seekers with disabilities.
U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy: The mission of the ODEP is to bring a heightened and permanent long-term focus to the goal of increasing employment of persons with disabilities.
WAPD—World Association of Persons with Disabilities: Extensive career and employment information.
World Institute on Disability: International public policy center dedicated to carrying out cutting-edge research on disability issues and overcoming obstacles to independent living.
College Resources for Students with Disabilities: Published by Affordable Colleges Online, this guidebook is designed to provide students with disabilities assistance in making the transition to higher education less stressful.
Guide to Scholarships and Financial Aid for Students with Disabilities: Published by Affordable Colleges Online, this resource is aimed at helping students and their families better understand the vast number of financial aid options available to them.
Interviewing Techniques for Students with Disabilities, offered online by Regis University Center for Career and Professional Development
For a career counseling appointment, contact us by phone: 303.458.3508 or 1.800.388.2366 x3508. Appointments may be conducted in-person at the Northwest Denver Campus, or by phone or Skype.