By Helen Cooke, disability consultant and director of MyPlus Students' Club.
An interview is your chance to come face to face with representatives of the firm and to really show them that you have got what it takes to be successful in their organisation. As well as thinking about how to answer questions, if you have a disability or long-term health condition you will also need to decide whether to discuss or refer to this during the interview.
You may also need to request any adjustments or support you require during the interview in order to demonstrate your potential. This article looks at all aspects of preparing for and undertaking an interview, including the additional considerations for someone with a disability.
The purpose of the interview
During the interview the employer will be aiming to find out more about you based on what they already know from your application. They will look to see whether your skills, competencies and personal qualities match their person specification.
In terms of disability, the interview is not an opportunity to discuss what adjustments you might need if you were to be offered a position. It is highly unlikely that the interviewer will bring up your disability or what support you require. However if you wish to talk about it during the interview, you can mention it in your questions as the interview is coming to a close.
- During the interview concentrate on your abilities and strengths, not on what support you need.
- If you wish to talk about the support you will need, leave this until the end of the interview.
- Discuss your requirements positively; provide recommendations as to what you may require.
The interviewer is likely to refer to your application form during the interview; you should re-familiarise yourself with what you included in your application and be prepared to talk about it. Think about what you may be asked to talk about during the interview and prepare examples to draw upon.
- Know the time, date and location of the interview, and the name of the interviewer if you have been given this.
- Concentrate on the interview at the interview - nothing else.
- Have a contact phone number to hand in case you experience any travel problems.
As well as finding out about your motivations for applying to the company, and what you know about it, the interview will also be looking at whether your skills match the position you are applying for. You need to have thought about your strengths and be able to draw upon a variety of examples from different parts of your life that illustrate why you are right for the role.
Many organisations use behavioural or competency-based questions as part of their selection processes where the interviewer will be looking for specific examples about exactly what you achieved or demonstrated in such situations. Try to find out in advance if the interview is competency-based and prepare accordingly.
- Prepare examples you want to use ahead of the interview however only use them if they are relevant.
- Listen to the question; if you don’t understand it, ask for it to be rephrased.
- Avoid rambling in your answers, especially if you do not know the answer.
The interview process is designed to ensure you find the role that suits you; it is therefore important to be genuine and to show them who you really are. Do your research and be prepared to answer their question as well as preparing some of your own to ask them. It is important you use the opportunity to find out about them and their culture.
- Take time to sit down and think about you: who you are and what you've achieved.
- The most common interview question is “Tell us about yourself”; be prepared to answer this succinctly.
- Interviewers usually want to know about your personal qualities rather than your achievements.
Referring to your disability.
Whilst some individuals are very happy to refer to their disability during the interview, others are less happy to do so. This is totally understandable since your disability and how you manage it is personal to you.
Remember that everyone should draw upon a wide variety of examples to answer questions to demonstrate your range of experience. By mentioning your disability in this way, you are in control of the conversation and can project a positive image for your interviewer. However, you should not use disability-related examples for too many questions.
- Present all examples, including disability related ones, positively.
- Ensure you draw upon a wide range of examples to demonstrate your different strengths.
- If you are going to use disability-related examples, be prepared to answer further questions about this.
Requiring adjustments due to your disability.
Due to your disability or long-term health condition you may require an adjustment to be made to the interview process in order to demonstrate your full potential. The aim of such an adjustment is to level the playing field; it should provide you with neither an advantage nor a disadvantage;
An adjustment to the interview process will enable you to be assessed on an equal basis to your peers.
If you do require an adjustment it is your responsibility to communicate this to the organisation in plenty of time to enable them to both source and implement what you require. Failure to do so may result in your interview being delayed.
- Know what adjustments you require and be confident to request them.
- Help the employer understand what you need and why.
- Be timely in your request; the earlier you ask the easier it is for the employer to implement.
Good luck with your interview!