By Bam Thomas, LLB Law (International and European) at The University of Sheffield
I have completed dozens of applications for summer placements and internships during my first two years of university and this summer I will be completing a summer placement at Motability Operations.
Writing applications and interviews can often be daunting and stressful, particularly with a disability, I make use of all the techniques below to make the process simpler. Overall my advice is to be as candid as possible. It is always easier to write an application or complete an interview with candour than it is being anything other than yourself. Being open and honest about my disability is an important part of that candour.
1. Know the employer
Not only is it important to be well informed about the company you are applying to before writing an application, but this is an important step in determining whether or not a certain company is the right fit for you. One of the reasons that I chose to apply to Motability Operations was because within a few minutes of looking at the careers section of their website it was clear that the company was very aware of the potential barriers that disabled individuals may face. They also demonstrated a clear desire to create a work environment for all individuals that was both inclusive and free from barriers.
2. Know your weaknesses
Identifying your weaknesses is not always an easy process but the more honest you are with yourself the better. Being both aware of them and able to provide examples of how you are trying to improve is great preparation for an interview question on this topic. Additionally, for written applications, an awareness of weaknesses gives you the opportunity to emphasise other skills and write your application in a way that draws attention away from your shortcomings.
3. Be open
Having a disability is never something to be ashamed of. If you are applying for a placement or internship it is always best to share information about your disability at the earliest opportunity. Most applications will provide an area to provide information of any disabilities and you may also be contacted by a HR representative to discuss making reasonable adjustments.
I have been hesitant in the past to disclose my disability but my experiences have taught me that fears of discrimination or disadvantage are completely unfounded.
For the vast majority of companies, the person reviewing your application will not be informed of your disability so there should be no fear of bias.
It is particularly important to share information about your disability prior to the interview or assessment centre phase, if you have managed to get that far in the process you want to be on your best footing being able to access any adjustments you require makes that possible. There can sometimes be the misconception that adjustments offer an advantage; they do not, they are intended to level the playing field and give all applicants a fighting chance.
I find it useful to write a list of skills that the employer is looking for on one side of a piece of paper and one the other side write the extra-curricular activities I have done to develop those skills. Using this whilst writing an application can make it more obvious to the employer on a first read why you would be a good addition to their workforce. This is also a useful preparation technique for competency based interviews.
4. Listen back
I have made a habit of listening back to written applications before submitting them. The vast majority of Apple and Windows computers have a ‘text to speech’ function that allows you to listen to a dictation of any selection of text. This is useful for identifying grammar and spelling mistakes, as well as ensuring that what you have written flows from paragraph to paragraph. A number of firms have mentioned that they read applications out loud when reviewing them, taking advantage of this function allows you to hear your application as they will when making their decisions.
5. Don’t make the same mistakes twice
You most likely will not succeed on every application and that is why it is so important to take all feedback on board, especially when you have been successful! I take a brief look over all of my previous applications before writing a new one so that I always remember what did and did not work well for me in the past.