The interview process can be a nerve-wracking experience for any job-seeker, but people with disabilities can have extra concerns to deal with. Mark Williams, Consulting Director of the Chicagoland Business Leadership Network, presented a webinar in conjunction with AbilityLinks on February 26, 2015, tackling these very issues. The webinar, called “Get the Job: Manage the Impression You and Your Disability Make During the Job Interview,” had 241 registrants, including both job-seekers and employers. The program was designed to inform job-seekers on what employers can and cannot ask; whether and how to disclose disability to one’s advantage; and how to manage one’s impression during an interview.
“Specifically, we wanted to explore how to leverage disability as a strength to get a job and diminish unspoken negative impressions, assumptions, and stereotypes an employer may have or be forming,” says Ken Skord, AbilityLinks Director. Williams says that those stereotypes can even be subconscious. “Negative bias towards job-seekers with disabilities may be more a sign of discomfort and anxiety than fear or ignorance,” he says. “If you are a person with a disability, you can confront attitudes and create more favorable impressions of your ‘hireability.’ It’s all about presenting descriptions of attributes and reasons for particular behaviors in order to shape others’ opinions.” Presenters in the webinar shared their personal stories and tips of how they have explained any challenges in a positive way, and listeners asked questions from general to specific. Topics ranged from how to request accommodations at the interview stage to the difficult choice of when to disclose your disability—if at all. As to the latter, there was long and varied discussion on the ramifications of choosing to do so or not, especially for those with so-called “invisible disabilities” (i.e., disabilities that are not readily apparent).
Though the presentation was only scheduled to be one hour, it stretched to two, to accommodate the questions, interest, and stories of the audience. Williams says he is pleased that employers, too, wanted to learn how to make the process better. An audio recording of the webinar will soon be available here.
Skord says this is only the first in a series of upcoming presentations and resources on Impression Management (IM) and interview tips. For more tips about IM, please visit Mark Williams’s guide here.
A special thanks to Williams and all who participated in the webinar!