Applying to jobs can be a daunting task for everybody, but the recruitment process might seem to pose extra challenges if you, like 20% of the working age population in the UK, have a disability.
Here are five questions you should ask yourself, as a jobseeker with a disability:
1. Does my disability ‘count’?
The short answer is: yes!
The Equality Act 2010 defines a disability as ‘a physical or mental impairment’ that has ‘a substantial and long-term adverse effect’ on a person’s ‘ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Long-term means that it has lasted for, or is likely to last for at least a year, even if it comes and goes. It could be a condition affecting your physical mobility, coordination, hearing, or sight, but it could also be a condition affecting your ability to remember, concentrate or learn.
Crucially, it does not have to be ‘visible’ to count as a disability - ‘hidden’ disabilities, such as anxiety or other mental health conditions, are just as valid. You may also choose not to identify as disabled or prefer other terms to describe your condition rather than as a disability.
2. Do I want to disclose my disability?
In most cases, there is no legal obligation to share your condition with a potential employer.
You might choose to disclose your disability, and there are certainly pros for doing so. If the employer is aware of your condition, it can be easier to seek support and ask for adjustments to be made. You will also be protected against discrimination by the Equality Act. Some employers even offer guaranteed interviews for disabled candidates. You might decide against disclosing your disability, especially if you feel that your condition doesn’t affect your ability to do the job or succeed in the recruitment process.
The decision is yours to make, but don’t be put off by a worry of being difficult. You deserve to be supported!
3. How can I tell if an employer is good with disabilities?
All employers must make reasonable adjustments for applicants and employees, to prevent anyone with a disability from being disadvantaged. However, some employers are better than others at putting this into practice, and this might factor into your decision on what jobs to apply for.
It’s always a good idea to research the jobs you’re applying for, and an employer’s website can have lots of handy clues about whether they are disability-friendly, or just doing the bare minimum. You might want to look for policies on equal opportunities, or diversity and inclusivity. Are they open about reasonable adjustments in their career information? Some employers might take part in voluntary schemes focussed on the recruitment and retention of people with disabilities, such as Disability Confident, or partner with not-for-profit organisations that champion inclusivity, such as EmployAbility.
4. Would I benefit from any ‘reasonable adjustments?’
Reasonable adjustments in this context are any changes that could be made in the recruitment process that would allow you to shine without being disadvantaged because of your disability. Some examples might include: an application form in an alternative format; additional time for tests, exercises or interviews; level-access interview rooms; or pre-interview orientations. You can ask for these adjustments at any stage, including before you’ve submitted your application.
The most difficult part can be working out what adjustments to ask for. You might find it useful to reflect on any adjustments you had during university. Were they useful? Was there anything you didn’t have but might have benefitted from? As you apply to different jobs, try to learn from your experiences. If you attend one job interview, and feel that your disability negatively affected your performance in some way, what could have been done differently to support you? Can you ask for that next time?
5. How can I show that my disability won’t get in the way?
If you decide to disclose your disability, you might want to prepare for potential questions such as: ‘Will your disability affect your ability to fulfil any aspects of this role?’ This is also a valuable question to ask yourself, so you can feel confident that the job you are applying for is a good fit for you.
Reflecting positively on your experiences is key. You’re searching for the skills that you’ve developed, not in spite of your condition or disability, but because of it. You’ve likely had to adapt to various additional challenges that someone without your disability would not have faced. Perhaps you’ve balanced symptom management with academic deadlines and have excellent time management as a result. Perhaps you had to learn how to effectively communicate your needs in order to receive support. Perhaps you’ve developed a keen sensitivity and awareness of the diverse needs of different individuals. These strengths have been hard earned, so show them off!