As a career coach, I am often asked if disabilities should be announced before the initial interview, during the initial interview, or after the initial interview. Though there are no steadfast rules of etiquette in this capacity, if you possess a medical disability or chronic illness you have more decisions to make during an interview.
If you were an employer, would you value the information up front? Then again, we are tight-roping a little thing called illegal questions and issues. If you were the employer and information was not disclosed, would you feel as if you were being played upon? For the person being interviewed, the question “should you disclose such information” is a tricky and uncomfortable one. If so, how can you do this without taking the focus off of your qualifications?
Generally speaking, if the disability is obvious, don’t feel compelled to discuss it during the interview. The person(s) interviewing you have already seen it. Bottom line is: if it won’t interfere with your ability to do the job, it shouldn’t matter to the employer.
However, if your illness is not obvious, approach the first interview as a time to assess the company and interviewer’s attitude. A great deal about company culture, tolerance, and acceptance can be found with just a few questions and by looking around. In this capacity, take a moment to look at employee desks and photos (as you walk by—don’t stop and stare). See if there are any current employees with disabilities as well. A great deal can be learned by examining what is not under the roof.
Your safety and health (physical, mental, and psychological) are paramount in any job or undertaking. Think about it, if you are you a diabetic requiring a snack regularly, will you need to keep food at your desk? If so, you may be better off mentioning this during the interview process, although you might wait until you are actually negotiating for the position.
What if you have a heart condition and are applying for a stressful position? In this situation, go with your gut. I would suggest that you wait until the final interview and job offer to disclose this information.
Like all job hunters, be prepared for rejection and don’t’ blame rejections on your disability. I know it’s easy to do so, but maybe you were not the right person. I hear the rumble as some (okay, many) companies still discriminate, regardless of the rules regarding such behavior.
One more point: don’t ever think your disability is a handicap. Think positively and keep searching for the right company that fits your needs.
In conclusion, no matter the situation, evaluate the company you may be working for and make sure you feel comfortable with the attitude, philosophy, and culture. After all, if you go into a situation (or position) with an uneasy gut feeling, chances are you will not be happy.
Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPCC, CPRW
Owner, Author, Publisher
Career Services International
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