To Disclose or Not to Disclose Speaking of your Disability in a Job Interview

TRIGGER WARNINGS: use of the word “anxiety”

Please note that this is our experience with disclosing our own disability status. We are in no way trying to persuade you to disclose. This is just the positive outcome we experienced and the tips we used to find the right employer.

Disclosing your disability during an interview is daunting. The fear of how the employer will react, the odd stares, the questioning looks, and the silent judgment of “can they do this job?” Keep in mind, you don’t have to disclose anything during an interview. It is 100% up to your discretion whether or not to say your disability or neurodiverse status.

The Perks of Disclosing

For us, we will tell a potential employer at the first interview that we are on the Autism Spectrum. We will explain our cognitive delay and how it impacts our communication. We also share how we overcome any barriers in the workplace as a result of our ASD. We have had both positive and negative reactions to this discussion.

Years ago, we applied for a position at a place that provides services to the disability community. In fact, we received services there for some time prior to our application. We walked through the doors after getting the call to interview with hope, but no expectations of getting hired. The first interview was with two members of their staff. We were nervous, they asked “How are you today?” so our reply was “Nervous, anxious, and mind boggled about this interview.”

Positive Outcome #1

When you state the obvious it can make other people more comfortable. By us saying we were nervous, we are validating the body language the interviewer is potentially noticing.

We sat down in the chairs and the questions began. There are always standard questions asked and the one to particularly look out for is “What is your greatest weakness and greatest strength?” This is an opportunity to disclose any neurodiversity or disability. You have the chance to spin something that is stigmatized into a powerful representative of perseverance and problem-solving. This is how we answer: “I am on the autism spectrum and have a cognitive delay. This means I process information slower than the average person. This also means I have learned to be adaptable and use problem-solving skills to make sure to communicate things smoothly. At the same time, there will be interpersonal challenges because of my delay. So I have learned to get to know others and try my best to meet everyone’s communication needs. I appreciate when people respect my need for alternative communication, so I will do the same for others.”

Positive Outcome #2

You express your positive qualities that the interviewer will pick out. Keywords like “adaptable,” “problem-solving,” and “managing interpersonal communication.”

In this scenario, our disclosure was appreciated and we moved to the next round of interviews. The next interview was with our potential supervisor. This was the most intimidating part: meeting one on one with the person that needed to like us. We had to make this person understand that we were competent and had the skills they need for someone in this role. Again, we walked through those same doors and met with our, later to be, supervisor. We met in a smaller room which was comfortable and welcoming.

Picking a Company to Work for...

During an interview think about:

  • Do you feel comfortable in the environment or does it increase your anxiety?

  • What do you notice when you walk in? Is the room messy or organized?

Be observant and take note of your feelings. One rule that has helped us avoid negative employment is, if you feel uneasy in the building or talking with the interviewer, carefully identify the reason for that feeling before you say yes to the job.

The conversation was positive for us. The supervisor had knowledge of disability. This was a benefit of applying to work at a disability centered company. You may not be applying with a company that specifically works with the disability community, but awareness is important.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I need want/need accommodations?

  • Does the employer have accessibility in the parking lot, on their website, or in other areas?

  • Was I given any information before or after the interview on the American’s with Disabilities Act and the policies the company has in place in regards to this?

Looking for employment can be stressful, but if you are in a position to “shop around”, it is good to evaluate each place you apply. Find the best match for your skills, and remember disability awareness is invaluable in your job search.

(Disclaimer: we are not medical professionals. The conclusion in this article is based on our personal experiences, diagnosis, and knowledge of mental health.

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