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Making the transition from education into employment is a challenging process for anyone however it can be even more daunting for individuals who have a disability or long term health condition.

You may have questions such as:

  • How do I account for 'differences' on my cv?
  • When and how do I inform a potential employer that I have a disability?
  • What support will be available to me during the recruitment process?
  • Is anyone else in the organisation in a similar situation to myself?

The following sections aims to address the common issues and concerns raised by students with a disability or long-term health condition. The information provided here is generic as opposed to disability specific.

For many individuals, telling a future employer that you have a disability or long-term health condition is one of the hardest parts of applying for a job and preparing for an interview. However, not informing them may seriously jeopardise your ability to demonstrate your talent and potential for the job. Even if you are successful in getting your dream role without being open about your disability without the support you require you may find every day a struggle.

Employers primarily want to know whether or not you have a disability so that they can put the adjustments you require in place. They do this in order that you can demonstrate your ability during the recruitment process.

In the main body of the application form, you are likely to be asked: Please inform us if you have any specific requirements during the recruitment process. The information you provide here will be used to implement the adjustments and support you require.

This is separate to the equal opportunities form where you are asked more directly: do you consider yourself to have a disability? This information is used to monitor the organisation?s demographics and to ensure that their employee base is representative of society.

Top Tips:
  • Include information about the adjustments you require rather than your actual disability.
  • Be open and concise.
  • Ask them to contact you to discuss this further if you wish.

The employer does not want to know the specifics of your disability; they want to know what adjustments you require.
There are a number of opportunities for you to tell an employer that you have a disability or long-term health condition. When you do so is ultimately your choice and will depend on when you feel most confident to do so. This may change over time as you apply for more jobs and work out what you feel most comfortable doing and what works best for you.

The various stages when you could inform an employer are as follows:
  • Prior to applying. Discussing your requirements at the beginning will reassure you that they can provide what you need.
  • On your application form or on your CV. There is likely to be space on the application form for you to add information about your requirements.
  • Once you have been invited for an interview. If you choose to inform them at this point, do so as soon as you receive your request to attend the interview.
  • During the interview. You could bring your disability up during the interview however be aware that this may come as a surprise to the interviewers and may not be the best option.
  • Once you have been made a job offer. If you have been made a job offer and are going to need support or adjustments in the workplace, it is advisable to discuss these prior to your start date. This will allow whatever you need to be in place from day one.
  • Once you have started. If you require very little support or adjustments, there may not be any rush for you to tell your new employer that you have a disability. It is advisable to inform them at some stage however as you may need support or time off in the future.
Top Tips:
  • Knowing what support you need will help you decide when to inform an employer.
  • The more notice you give an employer of your requirements, the easier it will be for them to accommodate them.
  • The longer you leave it the harder it may become.
The more notice you give of your requirements the more easily the employer can accommodate these.
What you tell an employer will depend on why you are telling them: as a precaution for the future or because you need adjustments to be made.

Regardless of why you are telling them, you do not have to go into the details of your disability. Rather, focus on your disability within the context of the interview and job and what adjustments you may need.

You can articulate the adjustments you require without going into the details of your disability or condition.

Top Tips:
  • Do not use complicated medical terminology when talking about your disability.
  • Demonstrate that your disability has not limited your personal achievements, study or work performance.
  • If you sense the interviewer has any anxieties, create an opportunity to address these.
Understanding the details of your disability will not help them understand what you actually need in the workplace.
Who you inform of your disability varies between organisations. Some organisations provide information on their website of who to call or email about diversity and disability issues.
Top Tips:
  • Contact the graduate recruitment team by phone or email as soon as you are invited to an interview.
  • If you are not able to find the number on the website, go through the main switchboard.
  • Obtain the name and contact details of the person you liaise with for future reference.
Aim to inform the person managing the recruitment process in order that they can implement the adjustments you a require.
Informing an employer about your disability or long-term health condition is not an easy thing to do. You may fear either discrimination or favourable treatment; you might feel embarrassed or ashamed; you may think that they will not be able to support.
The benefits of being open about your disability include:
  • Demonstrating your ability for the role. The overriding reason for telling an employer that you have a disability is to obtain the adjustments you require. If you don?t get the adjustments you need, it is less likely that you can show your true potential, and you are less likely to secure a job offer.
  • You can be yourself. If you have a disability it makes sense to be open about it since it is part of who you are. Trying to cover it up takes a lot of effort that would be better spent demonstrating your talents and abilities.
  • You can draw upon your disability to demonstrate certain competencies. Managing your disability on a day-to-day basis will have developed competencies and strengths that are unique to you.
  • You can discuss your disability positively. If you decide to be open about your disability when you are ready to do so, you will have more control over the way it is seen. You will be more confident to use it as an opportunity to describe your disability positively.
Top Tips:
  • Consider what the personal benefits to you are of being open.
  • Think about the positive attributes you have developed as a result of having a disability.
  • Being open from the beginning will enable you to talk about who you really are and the strengths that you have developed as a result of your disability.
If you are really want the job, it is your own interest to be open about your disability and the support you require.
Whilst informing an employer about your disability or long-term health condition is not always an easy thing to do, the consequences of not doing so may be detrimental to your success.
The consequences of not being open about your disability include:
  • Lack of adjustments and support. Being open allows an individually tailored support package to be arranged for your interview or job. By not assisting the employer with information about what you need, you are preventing them from successfully evaluating and accommodating you.
  • Rejection. Competition for student jobs is very high and every applicant is determined to show the employer why they are the best person to do the job. If you don?t have the support that you require, it is unlikely that you will be able to demonstrate your potential effectively.

If you inform an employer of your disability after you have been rejected, they are under no obligation to re-interview you.

  • Stress. The additional stress of trying to hide your disability is likely to negatively impact your performance during the interview.
  • A negative impact. Making a late request for adjustments may delay or postpone the interview/assessment causing disruption for both you and the employer. This disruption could have been avoided by being open at the beginning.
  • Inability to do your role. If you need adjustments to fulfill the role that you have been recruited to do but haven?t asked for these you won?t be able to do your job. This is unlikely to help you establish a good relationship with your new employer.
Top Tips:
  • Think through your own needs and the potential consequences to your performance of them not being met.
  • Work out how you wish to be open with a potential employer.
  • Practice being open with family and friends in order to build your confidence regards this
If you don?t ask for the support you need during the interview process, prepare yourself for potential failure.
Since employers rarely tell you what they do with the information you provide to them about your disability, it is understandable why you may be reluctant to share personal information with them. So what does happen to it?

On the application form you will be asked what adjustments you require. The recruitment team use this information to implement your adjustments. It is not passed on to anyone else without your permission.

The information you provide on the Equal Opportunities Monitoring Form is totally separate to the interview process. It is not viewed by anyone involved in recruitment.

Top Tips:
  • Think about who you are happy for your information to be shared with.
  • Let your point of contact know who you do and don?t wish your information to be shared with.
  • If you are happy for your information to be shared, be specific about what it is you are willing to share.
As an applicant you have control over what information you share and who it is shared with.
  • Take control. Decide when you are going to be open so you can do so in the way you wish.
  • Be honest. Start your relationship with a potential employer by being open and honest.
  • Relevant. Only share what information is relevant; you don?t need to go into all the details of your disability.
  • Know your needs. By knowing what you need you can know what to ask for.
  • Be positive. Talk about your disability positively by demonstrating the skills and strengths it has enabled you to develop.

When completing a CV or application form exactly the same principles apply for disabled applicants as they do for those without a disability. However, the difference is that you may need to explain certain elements of your application that relate specifically to your disability e.g. a gap in your education, lower academics or a lack of work experience. By being open and honest from the beginning you will find it easier to request any support or adjustments you may need later in the recruitment process.

If you have a disability or long-term health condition, or have acquired one, it is possible that you will have had to take time out from your education as a result.

How you decide to account for the gap in your application is a personal decision - you need to decide how you are most comfortable doing this.

The various ways of accounting for gaps include:
  • CVs. You could either provide the information wherever it appears in the chronological order of your CV or include an additional paragraph either at the beginning or end or your CV.
  • Application forms. You could either include the information wherever it appears in the chronological order of your work history or under the 'Mitigating Circumstances' or 'Additional Information' sections.
  • Covering Letters. If you decide to provide the information in a covering letter keep it short.
Top Tips:
  • Use the personal statement at the beginning of your CV to explain the gap.
  • A short explanation is more than sufficient; do not provided a long and in-depth explanation of what has occurred.
  • Be prepared to answer questions about whatever information you include.
It is essential to account for gaps in your education rather than leave any period of time unaccounted for.
Having a disability or long-term health condition may have prevented you from meeting certain criteria e.g. academic achievements, work experience, holding positions of responsibility.

When screening your application form, employers will take genuine mitigating circumstances relating to your disability into consideration. However, you need to be very clear that it is due to your disability.

As with Accounting for gaps in your education there are various different stages where you can explain your mitigating circumstances.

These include:
  • Application forms. If there is a specific space for you to explain any mitigating circumstances it is advisable to use this space.
  • CVs. You could either include a paragraph at the beginning or end or your CV or provide relevant information at the appropriate point in the body of the CV; e.g. explain lower academic grades where the grades appear.
  • Covering Letters. If you decide to provide the information.

Keep what you say brief and to the point whilst ensuring you provide sufficient information for the employer to understand the situation

Top Tips:
  • Explain the facts succinctly and ask these to be taken into consideration.
  • Provide documental evidence, or offer to provide it if necessary.
  • Never use mitigating circumstances inappropriately.
Having a disability should never be used as an excuse for not meeting certain requirements.
Work experience can be related to the role you are applying for, or it could be unrelated; it could be paid or voluntary; challenging or menial. It can be harder for those with a disability or long-term health condition to have gained work experience. Employers will take this into consideration (see mitigating circumstances), providing you can still demonstrate these kinds of qualities through alternative means.

If you have never previously worked, it is only natural that an employer may have concerns about your ability to do so. If you have work experience it will be much easier for you to address your employer's apprehensions.

Top Tips:
  • Try to gain work experience at every opportunity you have.
  • Volunteering is a great way to gain work experience.
  • If you don't have work experience, think about how you are going to demonstrate the qualities in other ways.
Holding down any job demonstrates that you can be proactive, reliable, trustworthy and hard working.
It is natural that some individuals are daunted by the prospect of referring to their disability during the recruitment process since you many not wish to discuss personal issues with people you don't know. However, by not talking openly about your disability you may be hiding the competencies that an employer is wishing to recruit.

Drawing on your disability to demonstrate your strengths may be the most effective way of demonstrating what is being assessed. Remember to draw upon a wide variety of examples to answer questions to demonstrate your range of experience.

Top Tips:
  • Use a variety of different examples to answer questions; do not use disability to answer too many of the questions.
  • Highlight the additional strengths you have gained as a result of your disability.
  • Don't go for the sympathy vote!
Our character, skills and abilities are formed as a result of our experiences.
  • Understand your strengths. Highlight the additional strengths you have gained as a result of your disability.
  • Think creatively. Think creatively about your skill set and why they make you an asset to an organisation.
  • Mitigating circumstances. If you have genuine mitigating circumstances, state them.
  • Open discussion. Be prepared to talk about anything you have included on your application form.
  • Be positive. See your disability as making your unique. Never go for the sympathy vote.

An individual who has a disability or long term health condition may require an adjustment in the workplace to enable them to efficiently and effectively do their job. You may have already have had adjustments during the recruitment process or you may request them only once you have started in your role. Either way it is imperative to ask for what you need.

Intelligent organisations implement adjustments simply because it is good business sense. However, they also have a legal duty to do so.

The Equalities Act 2010 states:

"Employers have to make "reasonable adjustments" to ensure that a disabled employee was not treated less favourably than their non-disabled counterpart."

Recently employers have started referring to reasonable adjustments as workplace adjustments.

Employers have to make "reasonable adjustments" to ensure that a disabled employee was not treated less favourably than their non-disabled counterpart.
The purpose of implementing an adjustment is to ensure that you are able to perform to the best of your ability. This is applies to whether an adjustment is made during the recruitment process or in the workplace itself.

Adjustments are also made for you once you are in the workplace to ensure that you can perform the role, as well as to demonstrate and fulfil your potential.

Top Tips:
  • Review your adjustment on an on-going basis to ensure that it continues to be fit for purpose.
  • Your adjustment affords you to be appraised and assessed on an equal basis to your peers.
  • Not having an adjustment may lead to a poor performance review; don't let this happen.
During the recruitment process, an adjustment provides a level playing field and enables the candidate to be assessed on an equal basis to their peers.
The term "disability" is very broad and therefore the different types of adjustments required are hugely varied. Some adjustments are very simple to implement and have little or no cost associated with them. Others are more complex and may require substantial financial support or additional resources.

Adjustments may also vary depending on the different situations. You may require something different during the interview process in comparison to when you join the organisation. Equally, your needs may change over time and with it the corresponding support and adjustments.

Types of adjustments that may be required include:
  • Provision of assistive technology.
  • Use of an interpreter.
  • Flexible working.
  • Adjustments to the layout of the work space.
Top Tips:
  • Become an expert in what you need.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for what you require to be able to do your role.
  • Be open to suggestions from others who are expert in this area.
The type of adjustment required is dependant on each individual's unique needs.
Organising for adjustments to be made during the recruitment process is a 2-way process involving clear communication between the employer and the applicant. The more open, honest and timely the communication, the more efficient the implementation process will be.
To ensure that the adjustment is implemented efficiently, your responsibilities include:
  • Informing the employer what you require.
  • Helping the employer to understand your needs as fully as possible.
  • Communicate your needs as early as possible in the application process.
  • Be timely in any correspondence.
  • Make yourself available for conversations or for an orientation visit.
  • Provide possible solutions - not just problems.
To implement your adjustments effectively, the organisation's responsibilities include:
  • Providing you with the opportunity to inform them about your requirements early on in the process.
  • Engaging in open discussions with you and listen to your requirements.
  • Respond to correspondence and answer any questions or concerns.
  • Being realistic about what is reasonable and what can be achieved.

It is understandable that some employers may feel uncomfortable talking to you about your disability and associated needs as this is potentially very personal and sensitive information. By engaging in open dialogue with the employer, you can help them to have these essential conversations more easily. You can help them to better understand what you require and why. One way of approaching this is to explain the consequences of not receiving the support or adjustments that you require.

Top Tips:
  • Engaging in open dialogue with the employer will help you to have the necessary conversations.
  • Explain the consequences of not receiving the support or adjustments that you require.
  • Be reasonable and remember adjustments are there to level the playing field not to provide you with an advantage.
Most requirements can be accommodated very simply and with minimum fuss.
It is important to ensure that you have the adjustments and support in place once you join the organisation; failure to do so may mean you end up finding each day a struggle.

In some cases the adjustments you had during the recruitment process can be used as a basis for what you need in the work place. If not you will need to initiate a conversation about what you require.

As with the requesting support and adjustments for the recruitment process, it is a two way process involving both you and your new employer. Open and honest conversations are required to establish how you can best fulfil your role.

To ensure that you get what you need to enable you to do your role, you will need to:
  • Be clear about what you need and don't be afraid to ask for it.
  • Make yourself available for discussions and meetings.
  • Involve your line manager as they will be involved in managing you on a daily basis.
  • Use your own expertise to help your employer understand what you required.
  • If you are unsure of what you require, organise a formal assessment.
  • Provide timely feedback on the effectiveness of their adjustment.
  • Aim to have the adjustments and support in place before you join the organisation.
To ensure that your adjustment is implemented efficiently your employer must:
  • Engage in conversation about what you need rather than jump to conclusions.
  • Be realistic about what is achievable.
  • Involve your manager in the discussions about work place adjustments and support.
  • Review the adjustments regularly with you to ensure that they continue to meet your needs.
  • Be sensitive and respect what is confidential.
Top Tips:
  • Ask for what you actually need - even if this is different to what you had during the recruitment process.
  • Become an expert in your requirements and be confident to articulate these.
  • Provide timely feedback on the effectiveness of the adjustment.
The more information you provide to your employer, the easier the process of providing support and adjustments will be.
Who you should speak to about the support and / or adjustments you require will vary between organisations. It may also vary depending on whether adjustments are being made for you during the recruitment process or as you join the organisation

During the recruitment process it will usually be someone from the recruitment team who will liaise with you regarding your needs. Where as once an offer has been made it would be advisable to talk to your line manager.

Depending on what adjustments are required, other departments throughout the organisation may be involved, including IT, Facilities, Health and Safety, and HR. It may be sometimes be appropriate to involve occupational health professionals in your discussions.

Top Tips:
  • Once offered a job, ensure your line manager is involved in all discussions about your adjustments.
  • Ask to involve the relevant experts if you need advice on specific areas such as technology.
Involve your line manager about your adjustments since they are responsible for managing with you.
It is likely that your condition will change over time, and consequently your support needs. It is important that you continue to be open and honest about what you require and to engage in the relevant discussions to fulfil your role.

You may require advice from others such as occupational health professionals or organisations who specialise in advising and assessing workplace adjustments. Be confident in asking for support to help you work out what you require.

Top Tips:
  • Acknowledge if your condition is changing and the impact on your work.
  • Discuss it sooner or later with your line manager.
  • Think about what it is you are going to need and be clear in what you are ask for.
If your condition is changing don't wait until your work, or indeed your health, suffers before you ask for help.
Some adjustments can be made very easily and have no cost associated. Others are more complex and can become very expensive.

There is external funding available from Access to Work (AtW); this is government funding covering the additional costs of employing disabled people.

Top Tips:
  • Familiarize yourself with how Access to Work operates and what it can fund.
  • Ask for what you required, regardless of cost.
  • Ask your employer for help in completing any forms.
Costs should rarely, if ever, be a barrier to accessing what you need in the workplace.
It is understandable that you may not wish to talk about the nature of your disability to your employers.

However you must understand that it is difficult for an employer to provide what you need if you don't tell them.

Rather than discussing your disability, focus on the impact your condition has on your ability to undertake the role.

Top Tips:
  • Decide what you want to tell an employer and how you are going to articulate this.
  • Practice sharing information with family and friends to build your confidence to have these conversations.
  • Focus on the adjustment you require and why you require it.
To gain the best support possible, you need to be open and honest.
  • Expertise. Become an expert in what you require.
  • Understanding. Help employers to understand what you need and why.
  • Identify the stakeholders. Ensure that all key stakeholders are involved in the adjustment process.
  • Cost is no barrier. Do not let cost considerations deter you from asking for what you really need.
  • Be reasonable. Ask just for what you need.
  • Feedback. Provide timely feedback on the effectiveness of the adjustment.

The most effective way of informing a future employer about your disability or long-term health condition is to have a conversation with them. However this is not always possible and you will frequently be asked to provide information about your situation on your application form. The following are examples of the type of information you could provide to an employer when informing them of your disability or explaining a certain aspect of your application form. Please note, that these are simply examples of what you might say and how you may say it. Please do not use these as templates; you need to personalise what you say to suit your own situation.

During my second year of university, I was diagnosed with cancer in my lower leg. Despite my absence from several weeks of lectures and tutorials, I coordinated with professors, tutors, and peers to ensure that I did not fall behind while recovering from my illness.

Managing various doctor appointments, meetings, and study groups helped develop my time management skills; my academic performance has not suffered since my illness due to this collaboration. This experience has revealed my strength and resilience when facing a significant challenge, and demonstrates my ability to adapt to any situation.

Throughout my studies I have found reading, taking notes, and gathering my thoughts when writing essays a challenge. I seemed to find it more of a challenge than my classmates and thought perhaps this was due to dyslexia.

Shortly after my first-year exams, my university's Disability Services organised an assessment to determine whether I have dyslexia. The assessment confirmed that I did have dyslexia and I communicated with my university's Disability Services to obtain adjustments that have significantly improved my ability to study and learn. My considerably improved second-year exam results show that I only required a few simple adjustments to succeed, and I anticipate further improvement in my final year. I trust that (FIRM NAME) will appreciate this when considering my application.

Example 1:

Before leaving university I was offered a place at Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, to begin a short-term commission with the Yorkshire Regiment in January 2011.

However, in September 2010 I contracted a rare and aggressive form of bacterial meningitis which subsequently left me severely disabled. I was told that I would be paralysed from the neck down for the rest of my life. After a lengthy stay in hospital I was discharged in August 2011 and began an intensive period of rehabilitation.

Today, after much hard work, I have regained significant use of my upper body and continue to regain strength in my legs. It was this recovery that encouraged me to take a Masters to prepare myself for a return to work.

I wish to achieve the same goals from work as I did prior to falling ill and feel that I have much to offer (FIRM NAME) not only in an academic and intellectual capacity, but also through my interpersonal skills and strength of character.

Example 2:

During my second term at university I lost 50% of my vision in a very short period of time. Obviously this was a very stressful time for me, and I decided to take some time out whilst my condition continued to change and I adapted to my new situation before returning to my studies.

During the two years that I took out , as well as intense medical treatment, I also worked part-time in a small law firm. My confidence returned during this time and I felt ready to return to university to start a new course in 2011. Not only have I participated fully in university life, I have also achieved academically as my exam results show.

While my disability has, until now, prevented me from obtaining work experience in (FIRM'S INDUSTRY), I feel that in managing my disability I have developed and demonstrated certain competencies.

Managing my disability has specifically forced me to develop my communication and influencing skills as a result of having to work with service providers. I have also developed my ability to plan and organise as a result of coordinating my doctor's appointments around my university schedule. In addition, by working with my university's Disability Services, I have advanced my ability to work effectively in a team. These skills will transfer well to a career at (FIRM NAME), and demonstrate that I have much to offer.

As you can tell from my application I have, overall, achieved at a very high level academically. However, I have found some modules at university a challenge. This was due to the exam-based assessment with which I was unfamiliar since previously I had been assessed through cumulative academic assessment.

For several years, I have suffered from anxiety and panic attacks when under severe stress. I experienced anxiety attacks during the exams for (MODULE) and (MODULE), resulting in a lower mark for these modules. Since I did not fail, I was ineligible to re-sit these exams. I trust that (FIRM NAME) will take this into consideration when reviewing my application.