Being interviewed for a job can be stressful. I always feel a sense of pride if I make it to the interview stage, but I’m still always nervous. Whether I declare my disability during the application process depends on the position I’m after. However, during an interview it naturally comes up because, even though it won’t likely impact my ability to work, it’s a massive part of who I am.
I used to get nervous during job interviews for two reasons. One, I really wanted the job, which we can all relate to and two; I was worried I’d be seem as less capable than my peers. As I’ve become more comfortable with myself and my skills the second reason doesn’t worry me as much.
Especially when I was taught that an interview works both ways. That I was interviewing my prospective employers, just like they were interviewing me. So, from then on, I began looking for signs that signalled a good work environment.
Ask yourself, how does this business cater to my needs?
From personal experience I’ll listen for anything indicating about how accommodating they are. Whilst my disability doesn’t really impact my work physically anymore, it used to. I used to ask if management were happy with me factoring in my pain and fatigue and how that might impact my needs.
If you are neurodiverse, you might be interested in how the daily running of the office works. Will you be hotdesking? Are management happy for you to remove yourself from over-stimulating situations. Can or will they provide tools to help with that?
Workplaces lack disabled representation. So, you might expect to hear cookie cutter answers about company policies and procedures. Which can be reassuring but a bit vague. I also like to ask if there are any other disabled people working in a place. I always feel better if someone says yes because it means I can trust the company a bit more.
Also, try not to ask just disability centric questions. Make sure to show you’re willing to invest time and energy into the company too.
Questions you can ask a prospective employer
1. As a company/ employer, how do you cater to the individual needs of your employees?
I like this one because you’re not specifically mentioning disability and it’ll give your insight into the company’s ethics. Following regulations is one thing, but do they mention anything that shows they’re willing to go the extra mile.
2. I’d be interested in applying for the Access to Work Grant. Do you have any experience with this?
Access to work is a scheme which a disabled worker can get financial backing to help with workplace needs. Your employer is required to help with the application, so it’s handy to make them aware you’re applying.
3. What sort of opportunities for training and progression does your business offer?
This shows initiative and demonstrates you have a vested interest in this work opportunity. It costs money to train people. Show a willingness to learn and pick up new skills and you’ll be noticed.
4. Where do you see yourself in ‘X’ years?
Like the previous question this shows you’re interested in the company long-term. By doing this you show that you’re reliable and stick with a company, which is good for everyone involved, because you gain experience, and they spend less on hiring people.
5. Are you open to hybrid or remote working?
Post-pandemic this seems to be a frequent question. Flexible working can be ideal for all employees, not just disabled ones. Ask if they’re open to the option. The answer will tell you a lot about the business.
Phrases to look out for
During your interview look out for these phrases, as they could indicate structural issues within the business:
- We’re like family: to me this means you might be asked to overstretch yourself to ‘look after’ your team members. But there’s a difference between helping and carrying the workload.
- Not having answers to disability related questions: For me, this signals that there’s been a lack of foresight. Every company should have procedures in place to cater for disabled staff, even if they’re not used.
- You should be contactable at all times: or, we expect new starters to work (sometime unpaid) overtime. Basically, anything that contradicts the hours and time limits set out in job adverts. Having boundaries doesn’t mean you’re a bad candidate.
When it comes to interviewing your employer I recommend having questions you want to ask prepped, as it takes some of the pressure off. It also means you can focus on areas that weren’t already covered during the initial interview.
Remember, it’s just as much about the company being a good fit for you, as you being a good fit for them.
Bua’s mission is to help give disabled and neurodiverse people the skills they need to break into the creative industry. They do this by offering different courses that cater to different interests and fields. Bua also consults for organisations.
About the author
Lauren is a freelance writer from Falmouth. After graduating from university, she took a keen interest in writing about disability, so her story and others like it could be told with passion and conviction.