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Impression Management and Your Disability

By Mark Williams

Know the Impressions You Make. Make the Impressions You Want.


A Primer on Impression Management and Disability 

Interviewers of job applicants are less influenced by academic credentials and work skills than by subjective impressions of candidates’ interview performance. Negative bias towards jobseekers with disabilities may be more a sign of discomfort and anxiety than fear or ignorance. If you are a person with a disability, you can confront attitudes and create more favorable impressions of your hireability.


What Is Impression Management (IM)?

The basic premise of IM is that individuals can control the impression that others form of them by presenting descriptions of attributes and reasons for particular behaviors in order to shape others’ opinions. IM can be used to offset negative perception about your potential as a productive worker.


These common impression management techniques can be used during the interview: 


·   Confident declarations or affirmations to portray yourself as a competent individual who is qualified and can manage their disability.

·   Assertiveness can be used in:

·     Sharing or volunteering information.

·     Asking appropriate questions.

·     Complementing the potential employer.

·     Providing opinions when asked.

·     Highlighting specific skills and abilities.




·   Promoting your accomplishments, achievements, contributions, talents, qualities so favorably that you will be viewed as highly competent.

·   Self-promotion may have increased importance for higher level professional positions.

·   Frequent self-promoting themes include:

·     Hardworking and energetic.

·     Successful and confident.

·     Interpersonally skilled.

·     Growth oriented and flexible.

·     Goal and result oriented.

·     An effective leader.

·     Strengths.

·     Work related assets.

·     Selling yourself as the most highly qualified candidate.



·   The purpose of ingratiation is to get the interviewer to like you.

·   Ingratiation is used when complimenting the potential employer, their products or services, and the interviewer.

·   Use of ingratiation says that you are aware of social and contextual factors of the work environment. 

Basking in reflected glory

·   A self-serving cognition in which you associate yourself with successful others.

·   This tactic’s use can be important because the business world has increased the importance of being socially connected.

·   Stressing prior accomplishments can reduce stigma and negative views of disability. 

Opinion Conformity


·   To adopt and validate the attitudes and beliefs of the interviewer by sharing their values, attitudes, opinions, or beliefs.

·   Opinion conformity can strengthen the bond between applicant and organization by stressing similarities over differences.

·   Opinion conformity lets the employer know that:

·     Your values are a good fit with the hiring organization.

·     You and the interviewer share personal experiences.



·   Justification can protect your identity while establishing distance from negative outcomes or behaviors of others.

·   Justification may help to convince an employer that they would have acted the same way if in a similar situation. 

Apology and Reassurance

·   Apology can be used to acknowledge the impact of negative events, and accept responsibility.

·   Apology may be followed by reassurance in order to restore confidence and protect your self-presentation.


Use These Techniques Strategically. You should consider using the above techniques based upon specific goals you want to achieve. 

Example Goal

You want to adjust the perception that your communications skills may be viewed as weak because of a speech impediment. 

Example Techniques

·   AssertivenessQuestioning: “Is written or electronic communication acceptable in this position?” 


·   AssertivenessVolunteering Information: “Even with my speech impediment, I host a weekly podcast—listeners have said that they get used to my “accent”.


·   AssertivenessVolunteering Information: “I use a human voice synthesizer that allows me to participate in both planned and impromptu dialogue.”


·   Ingratiation—“I know how important communication is to this company’s brand, which is why I wanted to tell you how I communicate as effectively as anyone.”


·   Basking in Reflected Glory—“I excel at remembering both written and spoken information and I am able to explain things clearly and easily.” 


Select and rehearse IM techniques to show your strengths, and to show what you have learned about the job, the work environment, and the interviewer with whom you will be meeting. IM takes place in a dynamic, interactive manner. You will want to make fine adjustments to your strategy continuously in order to improve your success. Being able to read environmental cues and adjust, affects the success of your impression management strategy. But regardless of your proficiency in monitoring the situation, impression management techniques should always reflect congruence with your inner feelings and beliefs.


Don’t Overdo It.

Overuse of IM strategies to create specific impressions can backfire. When too much attention is placed on IM, little room may be left for you to be the real you. But, regarding impression management as conscious, manipulative, and deceptive is outdated.

A broader more expansive model of impression management sees appropriate use IM techniques as accurate, positive and beneficial. The ability to positively 'sell' yourself is often a desirable attribute both in the employment interview and on-the-job settings.  

Appropriate use of IM can enhance your image as an individual with a disability, and enhance your interview performance. And having a sense of control over your public identity will increase your self-esteem and sense of autonomy.