Talking about disability in a job interview
It's your choice whether you discuss your impairment or condition at your interview, and how you choose to talk about it.
If you do discuss it, then do so in a positive light. If your experience of disability is something that would be valuable in the role, then you could work this into a broader discussion of your skills and experience. If your condition has given you useful and relevant transferrable skills, such as adapting to change or time management, then bring these up as strengths.
Another reason to talk about it is if you feel that you will need specific reasonable adjustments to perform well in the recruitment process, or in the job itself. For example, magnification, screen-reading software or a specially-adapted desk. Be prepared for follow-up questions regarding these.
Talking about your condition or not is all about personal preference. You may prefer to wait until you have a job offer. By doing so, you rule out the risk of an interviewer’s unconscious bias playing a part in the decision, if your impairment is not visible. It's also easier to prove discrimination if a job offer is withdrawn than if it was never made.
Decide before the interview whether you will talk about your condition or not. Doing so will help you feel prepared for the interview and able to focus on proving your suitability for the role.
How to discuss disability
The best time to discuss disability (if at all) is often at the end of the interview when they ask you if you have any questions. You may wish to bring it up earlier if it is relevant – it’s your choice.
Do not make your impairment the topic of the interview. Discuss it from the perspective of the support you may need if offered the job, or in terms of how your experiences will help you to do the role. If you’ve performed well in previous jobs or volunteer positions where there were challenges, mentioning these will be an advantage.
As a disabled person you are the expert on your condition. You are also the gatekeeper to that information, so only discuss what you feel comfortable with. Talk about it positively and offer solutions rather than presenting problems. For example, do not talk about things that you will find difficult, discuss how small changes can enable you to work more effectively.
Discussing reasonable adjustments
You can talk about reasonable adjustments you would need if offered the job. You may wish to explain what support you had in previous roles if you have had any. It’s about telling your prospective employer what you would need to succeed in the role.
Discussing the situation may resolve any fears the interviewer may have. They will often appreciate you explaining what they can do to help you, particularly if you have a visible impairment. If you have any equipment provided by Access to Work, you may be able to bring this with you and if so, then this is worth mentioning at interview.
If this will be your first job, you can talk about things that help you in your daily life. Make it clear that you are interested in working with them to find suitable adjustments.
One reason for wishing to discuss reasonable adjustments at interview may be that you want you and your employer to understand each other from the outset. Tell them what adjustments you need, such as assistive technology or flexible working. Ask questions about existing policies and procedures that may support you.
If you feel exhausted or overwhelmed at any point, it’s OK to ask for quick break.
More about reasonable adjustments.
Discussing Access to Work
If you will need adjustments or support at work, mention Access to Work. This is a government grant scheme which can help your employer assess your needs and provide funding for these. This is not a fix-all, and using the scheme can be a long process. Mentioning Access to Work shows you've done your research and can reassure the employer that support and funding is available.
Access to Work can cover some travel costs to work if you are unable to use public transport.
If the interviewer requests more information, you can direct them towards the official government website.
It's best not to mention the need to take time off for regular appointments until you’ve been offered a job. If you bring this up at interview, it may be viewed negatively. If you do mention appointments, frame this in terms of adjustments you may need in the role.
Questions about your condition or impairment
Your interviewer is not allowed to ask you about your condition or how it affects you, except in very limited circumstances. These include discussing adjustments you may need to perform as well as others in the recruitment process, or your ability to do the core aspects of the job.
You could challenge inappropriate questions by asking whether they ask the same of all candidates. Or you can politely decline to answer, for example:
“I don’t feel it’s appropriate to discuss that at this stage.”
“We can discuss that when you offer me the job.”
You may also wish to query the human resources department following the interview if you feel you were asked an illegal question.
They should not have to talk about how many sick days you had in your last job at the interview. If this happens, you could answer without giving an exact number. For example:
"Sickness wasn’t a problem in my last job."
“I feel that I am able to do this job reliably.”
You may be asked questions which indirectly probe the nature of your impairment. For example, if they ask you how you would handle moving around a lot or whether you could deal with the pressure. It's best to answer as frankly and positively as possible, and then follow up on this later if you feel it necessary.
it’s up to you whether you talk about your condition or impairment. Decide before your interview.
be positive when discussing it
talk about previous reasonable adjustments you have had, if any
mention that Access to Work can help fund adjustments
do not mention appointments until you’ve been offered the job
Last reviewed by Scope on: 12/04/2018