- If you decide to disclose your disability in your
resume, do not place
it in the opening paragraph. Weave the information into your resume in
a subtle manner.
- In Your Cover Letter
Sometimes it is to your
advantage to discuss your disability openly in a cover letter. For
example, some employers specifically recruit the disabled to meet
affirmative action goals or because they have a state or federal
contract that requires hiring disabled.
Once again, as in the resume, do not start the cover letter with
details about your disability. Follow the standard format for cover
letters (see Cover Letters that Sell) and at the end of the second
paragraph, describe your strengths and your limitations. Then continue
describing how you will perform the essential functions of the job.
- On the Application Form
applications may be required. Some organizations require all job
hunters to complete a standardized form. Most of the forms have a
section for disability disclosure but this is not mandatory. You do not
have to disclose your disability. You have the option but are not
required by law to discuss any aspect of your limitation. The major
drawback of disclosing at this point in the process is that you may not
have room on the form to describe accommodations or how you overcome
your limitations. This could be a disadvantage.
Large corporations often have a standardized disclosure form that can
be completed with the general application. This is also optional for
you. Think through the advantages of disclosing at this time and what
you know about the particular corporation. Some corporations or
employers are very supportive of disabled employees and this would be
an appropriate time to disclose.
Shock is a common reaction if
a visibly disabled person walks into an interview session and hasn't
adequately prepared the prospective employer. This shock factor can
lead to mistrust and nervousness on the part of the interviewer. If
your disability is highly visible (for example, being wheelchair bound,
blind, walking with a cane), you may wish to prepare the employer
A wise time to inform the interview of a visible disability could be
the time when the interviewer personally calls to set-up an
appointment. Do not disclose to a secretary or office assistant and
hope the message is diplomatically relayed.
If, however, your disability is not overtly
visible (for example, a learning disability or wearing a hearing aid),
you do not have to prepare the interviewer.
- After You've Been Offered the
Many people prefer to disclose
after they have been offered the job on their talents, skills, and
educational background. This may be temporarily distressful to the
prospective employer but by that time you are hired and ready to begin
work. You have passed the competition. If your disclosure changes the
hiring decision and the employer retracts the offer, you are eligible
to take legal action. The ADA does not allow this kind of
discrimination. The only drawback to waiting is the employer may be
unhappy about not knowing ahead of time and trust may be hampered.
- After Beginning the Job
This strategy lets you shine
on the job before having to disclose a limitation. If your impairment
or limitation does not impact the initial work, this may be a solid
choice. This option gives you time to make friends with co-workers,
staff, and supervisors to strengthen your employment position.
If you believe your disability
will not impact the essential functions of your job, you may not want
to tell your supervisor or boss. Smart job hunters know telling the
employer can have tremendous effect on the success of the job search.
Keep in mind this is not the time to educate an employer. You can do
that after you have worked on the job for a length of time; or you may
with never to do so. It is your choice.
Timing is important. If you
catch the employer off-guard and shock him/her your chances of
employment may be lessened. This possibility could be diminished if you
ask yourself several questions to prepare yourself and your prospective
- Am I comfortable and confident that I can do the
job tasks with my disability?
- Can I rehearse my answers to the interview
- If I disclose my disability at this time and in
this way, will I get hired?
Let's look at these in more detail. Are you
comfortable and confident that you can do the job tasks with your
disability? If you have the skills, education, or background that the
job requires, you may feel confident about your ability to do the job.
But, are you comfortable explaining the details of your disability? Try
role playing the situation. Have a trusted friend or family member
pretend to be an interviewer with a list of questions. Then explain to
the interviewer your particular disability, and how the disability will
effect your work. Then list the benefits of hiring you. If you are
uncomfortable, try it again. With a number of rehearsals, your comfort
level will go up.
Fullerton Bernhard, Ph.D. author of WORK WITH YOUR disABILITY
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