It's happened: You've been asked to come for an interview. It's a nerve-wracking situation for anyone, but when you have a disability, it's easy to feel like you're going in with two strikes against you. Your mindset is key to your performance. If you convince your potential employer that you can do the job, and do it as well or better than a nondisabled person (although perhaps differently), then it may be to the interviewer's advantage to hire you.
Here are several strategies to help you develop a winner's mindset for your interview.
Before the Interview
- Do Your Research: Find out as much as you can about the company or agency by going online, asking people you know in the field and by seeing what you can find out about the job you are applying for.
- Find Out About the Interview and Interviewers: Call ahead and ask if there is public transportation, on-site parking, if you need a visitor's pass, etc. Ask who will be conducting the interview to find out if it will be an individual or a group. If there are accessibility concerns, you will need to ask about that at this time.
- Prepare How You Will Answer Questions About Your Disability: If you have a choice, decide whether to disclose your disability. Think about what the job entails and how you will handle it based on your situation.
- Consider How You Will Address Gaps in Your Work History: You'll need to address the time period, and if you have been on disability benefits, why you are returning to work now.
- Put Yourself in the Interviewer's Mind: Look to your own experiences to consider any concerns the interviewer may have. Write down answers to these possible questions.
- Find a Person You Trust to Go Over Your Responses: Use the feedback to improve and then rehearse. Imagine that this interview is a drama and that you are the star performer. You want to achieve the same state cultivated by good actors who rehearse their lines so well that they sound absolutely natural. You need the concepts to be clear in your head.
- Choose Your Wardrobe Carefully, and Heed Your Appearance: It's important to look your best for the interviewer, but it's even more important for you to feel your best. If you smoke, don't have a cigarette to calm your nerves right before the interview. Promise yourself one as a reward afterwards.
At the Interview
- Go in with Confidence: If you don't project the belief that you can do the job, no one else will believe it.
- Listen Carefully: Make sure you answer the question you're asked and not something you thought you would be asked. Also, in your listening, you may pick up cues about the kind of answer the interviewer wants. It's OK to pause before you answer. It's better to give a well-thought-out response than to sound glib and off-track.
- Be Upbeat and Cheerful: Be humorous if appropriate.
- Don't Show Anger; Educate When You Hear Biased Statements: The interviewer may be ignorant about your disability. Although you may hear statements or sense attitudes that shock you, stay cool in the interview. What you hear or feel may convince you that this is not a place you want to work. But you have an opportunity to give information and change ideas about your disability. If you have examples that disprove the stated or implied concern, discuss them briefly and, if possible, tie them into the job description you would have.
- Learn from the Experience: If you're successful, congratulations! If you're not offered this job, talk about the process with someone whose opinion you value. See what you can learn about doing even better the next time around. For every job opening, there are many applicants and only one gets the job. It may or may not be your disability that cost you this particular position. Keep trying. Eventually, the right job will find you.