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Those Awkward Moments - Applying for a Job as a Disabled Person.

MikeBroderickMikeBroderick Posts: 234Member Courageous

Michael Broderick is one of Scope’s new Online Community Interns.  In the role, he is helping to monitor and grow the online community.  He has worked in a variety of fields throughout his career including voice-over, local government, disability services, and education.

As a new member of the Scope team, I recently had the pleasure to interview for my position as an Online Community Intern.  I say pleasure, because I enjoy talking to people generally, and it was nice to meet the members of the team that I’d be working with should my interview prove successful.

But it was also a pleasure as it was the first time I’d ever done a remote interview for a job via Skype. 

Although it was a little strange not being able to shake hands and meet the interviewers face-to-face, it was a comfortable experience to sit in my own home, in my own office, and talk about the role, and the skills and experience I could bring to it.

It was only later that I realised how many disability-related hassles interviewing remotely had solved for me.




It saved me the considerable time and expense of arranging accessible transport to and from London and a more than 2-hour commute each way.  That in turn gave me more time to get dressed, which is something I find is taking me longer and longer these days as I’m getting older.

Although I did get dressed up to put across my professionalism, I didn’t have the added worry of getting “suited and booted” while rushing to be on time for a taxi, and trying to slurp down a coffee or grabbing something quick to eat on my way out the door.

It left me more relaxed and more able to focus on the task at hand. (I suppose that, in the back of my mind, I was also able to relax a bit more as well, from knowing that Scope is a Pan-Disability organisation that’s well-versed in disability matters.)

I also didn’t have to wonder whether the building was accessible, whether there was disabled parking, whether the lobby floor was slippery and I might fall on my crutches, whether I could sit down and get up from the chairs in the lobby (or, for that matter, from the chairs in the interview room), whether I could reach the registration desk to sign in, or even how far a walk it was going to be from the lobby to the interview room.

And there wasn’t that awkward moment that’s typical of when I usually arrive in the interview room – generally all sweaty and out-of-breath, trying to introduce myself and shake hands, while pulling out the chair, and getting my backpack off.  That moment when interviewers tend to have a look on their faces that’s a mix of: “Oh, I hope he doesn’t fall,” “Should I help him?” and “He’s really struggling”.

So, interviewing remotely was a nice luxury – a bit of a rarity (in keeping with the fact that the role of Online Community Intern can be done remotely). But it got me thinking about all the added issues and stress that come with applying for and interviewing for jobs when you’re disabled. It also got me pondering all of the questions this raises for disabled applicants, such as:

  • Is the application itself accessible? Do I need to request it in accessible formats?
  • Do I tick the “disabled” box? (You know the one, where available, that helps guarantee you an interview.)
  • Do I tell the interviewer(s) about my disability, and if so, when?
  • Can I get to the interview location?
  • Can I get around the interview location and the interview room?
  • Do I need reasonable adjustments for the interview itself?
  • Do I need reasonable adjustments to perform the job, and when do I request them?

These are just some of the issues you may grapple with when applying for jobs, and they beg the question of how employers can help improve the job application and interview process for disabled people.

Please tell us about your own experiences and give us your advice.

What specific disability-related difficulties have you had in applying for and interviewing for jobs?

What steps should employers take to improve the job application and interview process for you and other disabled applicants?

Replies

  • GeoarkGeoark Posts: 1,188Community champion Pioneering
    When I first applied for the location I now work I was coming to the end of a two year training program and there was a real concern I would end up back on JSA and it could be another 10 years struggling to find something. I got out of the tube station in plenty of time and got lost. 

    So when I found the station again I decided to go home. I was in a lot of pain, frustrated and angry with myself. Later I found out it was not unusual for people to get lost when looking for the site. When I got home I immediately called them and apologised and explained what went wrong. I was asked if I would like to return in the afternoon for the interview and immediately said yes. Given the new time I realised I would have to leave again in five minutes and groaned inside.

    Anyway got there, in a lot of pain, hot, sweating and bothered. What shocked me more was to find out later on I did well but the overwhelming impression I gave was that I did not want to be there. I didn't get the job.

    A couple of months later I got a call and asked if I was still interested in the job and said yes. I never found out what happened to the first choice, but the opportunity was given and I have not looked back since.

    The second set of instructions I got made finding the location very easy, get out of the station, on the pavement is stop S, get any bus from this stop and get off the second stop, we are opposite.

    Even though I missed my appointment and called them over an hour later to apologise and explain, had I not done so as soon as I got home I would never have got the position. When I got the original rejection I emailed the manager and thanked her for being understanding and giving me the opportunity to attend the second interview. Good manners don't cost anything and can make things happen in ways we may not expect.

    As an individual I stood alone.
    As a member of a group I did things.
    As part of a community I helped to create change!

  • MikeBroderickMikeBroderick Posts: 234Member Courageous
    Hi @geoark:

    Thank you. That is an awesome anecdote.

    It shows that in job-hunting, as in life, persistence, courtesy, and politeness pay off.

    Just to add that it used to be common practice back in the States where I am originally from to send Thank You notes to the people that interview you.

    While I know it's not necessarily the done thing here - and may no longer be back home in this email age - showing appreciation (and treating everyone from the receptionist to the CEO and MD with respect and professionalism) is the way to go.

    Thanks again. I loved your story.



  • RolandRoland Posts: 33Member Courageous
    You do know that in the UK, under the 2010 Equality Act, you can ask for reasonable adjustments to be made for the interview?
  • MikeBroderickMikeBroderick Posts: 234Member Courageous
    edited June 2017
    Hi @roland:

    Thank you.

     Yes, I had that sense, but one of the things I was thinking about was ways that employers could improve their processes around job applications and interviews to make them more accessible. For instance, perhaps a questionnaire to the applicants asking whether they need reasonable adjustments in terms of the application, any interview, and the job itself.

     (It's amazing. Even though I've been disabled all my life, I sometimes forget to check on accessibility beforehand. In my old job in local government, I'd sometimes be unable to attend a meeting when public buildings - which one would presume to be accessible - weren't.)

    I think a questionnaire from a potential employer would be a handy reminder to really think about it in advance and would show a willingness on their part to be inclusive.

    And perhaps an internal checklist that the employer can use on their end to help make sure that all stages of the hiring process are accessible.

    Do you have experience in hiring or workforce development?
  • htlcyhtlcy Posts: 132Member Pioneering
    Great post, @MikeBroderick ! I suppose my main worry about applying for jobs is actually disclosing the disabilities. It's taken me a long time to accept myself for who i am, and I always worried that this disclosure would hinder me in some way. I have learnt however that it'd be doing myself a disservice to not fully disclose. Of course, disability discrimination is illegal, but I suppose this still worried me (and occasionally it still does). I sort of think of it as 'if they wouldn't hire me because of my disability, then they're not worth my time'. I also ensure to always ask about any accommodations a company or business will make for me prior to the interview and during the role itself. It's vitally important that they support me. Just wanted to add my thoughts on this! Places are getting better and better, but there's still a way to go. 
  • K1635010K1635010 Posts: 4Member Listener
    Hi @MikeBroderick,

    I really enjoyed reading your blog post and was wondering if you would be willing to have a Skype call to participate in my research on "Resilience in Disabled Employed Individuals'? I am looking for research participants who are working with a known disability who would volunteer to be interviewed to assess their levels resilience and employer support. This is part of my dissertation project for my Msc. in Business Psychology from Kingston University. I am holding audio Skype interviews which are 30-40 minutes long during June which are all kept confidential and anonymous. Please get in touch with Ameena Ahmad via email [email protected] for your further information and participation!

    Looking forward to hearing back!
  • MikeBroderickMikeBroderick Posts: 234Member Courageous
    edited June 2017
    Thanks @htlcy! I have had some of the same concerns: Do you disclose your disability and when?

    I suppose it depends in part on the nature of the job and the nature of the disability.

    When it's there to be ticked, I personally always tick the "disability" box for getting an interview, in part because as a group disabled people are very underemployed, and if it helps redress that imbalance that's a good thing. More selfishly, if the point of the exercise is to try and get an interview, why not tick it? As long as you're a good fit for the job in terms of education, skills, and experience, I think it's worth ticking the box.

    I think it's great that you always raise reasonable adjustments. That's the fairest thing for both you and also the employer.

    But I think it would be great if we could get employers to have accessibility be "Top of Mind" and be an integral part of the hiring process.

    Thanks for your comments and insights.
  • GeoarkGeoark Posts: 1,188Community champion Pioneering
    Hi @roland:

    Thank you.

     Yes, I had that sense, but one of the things I was thinking about was ways that employers could improve their processes around job applications and interviews to make them more accessible. For instance, perhaps a questionnaire to the applicants asking whether they need reasonable adjustments in terms of the application, any interview, and the job itself.

     (It's amazing. Even though I've been disabled all my life, I sometimes forget to check on accessibility beforehand. In my old job in local government, I'd sometimes be unable to attend a meeting when public buildings - which one would presume to be accessible - weren't.)

    I think a questionnaire from a potential employer would be a handy reminder to really think about it in advance and would show a willingness on their part to be inclusive.

    And perhaps an internal checklist that the employer can use on their end to help make sure that all stages of the hiring process are accessible.

    Do you have experience in hiring or workforce development?
    One of the biggest changes I would like to see is the end of employers putting in essential requirements that are not truly essential. Typical ones include looking for a degree when it is not necessary or being able to drive. For example in my current location being a car driver is essential in certain jobs. But in my previous location this was not the case as public transport is more than sufficient to get to the necessary locations. I have also seen job descriptions and essential requirements which go beyond the actual job, but have been added to justify wages.

    Another change I would like to see is more use of assistant roles. By this I mean giving people with the potential to do the full role given support and training, but without the full range of responsibilities. When I hear companies complain that they cannot get the 'talent' they need I often wonder why they are not more proactive in developing that talent for themselves.

    As an individual I stood alone.
    As a member of a group I did things.
    As part of a community I helped to create change!

  • basiclee08basiclee08 Posts: 71Member Courageous
    After a lot of funny  looks at interviews rolling up in my wheelchair and no call backs. I finally found a employer that looked past my wheelchair and saw my skills. not looked back since I have to travel some distance but don't mind that. just happy to be working and great team i work with. as for support while looking  Dreadful workchoice program avoided Useless. work group Useless. I used to teach but now am happy with a office job as a office administrator role. still too many employers can't still see past disabilities and instead see the person and there skills they have to offer. given the chance!.



  • MikeBroderickMikeBroderick Posts: 234Member Courageous

    Great that you've found your way. If opportunity doesn't knock, knock the door down!


  • RolandRoland Posts: 33Member Courageous
    Hi @MikeBroderick - yes I do have experience of HR/recruitment.  Whilst the idea of completing a pre-interview questionnaire to be able to identify whatever access needs an interview candidate may have, I'm not sure how many candidates with an invisible disability would feel confident enough to complete such a questionnaire.  When their disability may be a long term or chronic medical condition which may have an impact on their ability to work some candidates may feel that declaring this pre being offered the job could bias a potential employer.  And being asked to complete a medical questionnaire before being offered a job is illegal under the 2010 Equality Act.  I have worked with a number of people whose job offer has been withdrawn once they have declared their disability through a medical questionnaire they were asked to complete after being offered a job.
  • MikeBroderickMikeBroderick Posts: 234Member Courageous
    Hi @roland. Yes, I understand that. It's a tricky one knowing what to disclose and when to disclose it. I'm just  trying to figure out if there is a process approach that employers can adopt to make the application and interview process more accessible. I guess potential discrimination will always be there in the background as an issue.

    Is it illegal for an employer to withdraw a job offer subsequent to reviewing a medical questionnaire?
  • GeoarkGeoark Posts: 1,188Community champion Pioneering
    @MikeBroderick,

    There are a few exceptions where it would be allowed.

    The big one would be the armed forces. But there are a few others where medical conditions could exclude someone. For example I worked 12 hour nights on my own, and using a fork lift was an essential part of the job. After a road traffic accidents I started having black outs. Fortunately the employer was able to swap my shift to day shifts for a couple of years until I was cleared.

    As an individual I stood alone.
    As a member of a group I did things.
    As part of a community I helped to create change!

  • MikeBroderickMikeBroderick Posts: 234Member Courageous
    Thanks @Geoark. That makes sense. Thank you.


  • Kathy_BramleyKathy_Bramley Posts: 132Member Courageous
    Must be well organised, communicate clearly and effectively, be able to drive. Independent but function well as part of a team. Things that are complex for me. This is why I went on checkouts at Asda. That didn't go well. 
    Lucky unlucky
    Guess my diagnosis,
    It may help, but
    Don't guess my kids's
  • Kathy_BramleyKathy_Bramley Posts: 132Member Courageous
    edited June 2017
    I once hand wrote a very long personal statement type application for a town centre warden with Groundwork and never heard back. Around that time I also applied for a clothes shop job in the city and got an interview but I had already been offered a job at local Asda. I probably would have chose the local job anyway so it was easier to get to and had more options, less reliant on bus and train times handling.  

    I'm quite avoidant... So haven't done many interviews. Afraid of being not one thing or the other but not wanted or a frustrated and potentially dangerous cog in the machine. 
    Lucky unlucky
    Guess my diagnosis,
    It may help, but
    Don't guess my kids's
  • Kathy_BramleyKathy_Bramley Posts: 132Member Courageous
    I am glad you got the scope job. I thought about applying but wasn't sure I was right and procrastinated til I couldn't find it/it was gone. The conditions sound excellent. One good thing about Asda was the interviewer had specifically said it was ok to wear whatever you were comfortable in. I and another had gone for smart casual while another had a suits. 
    Lucky unlucky
    Guess my diagnosis,
    It may help, but
    Don't guess my kids's
  • MikeBroderickMikeBroderick Posts: 234Member Courageous
    Thanks Kathy. I appreciate that. 

    I know. It can be tough huh? Even something as simple as being able to dress in business casual rather than in formal business attire makes a difference. 

    When I worked in a center for independent living all the office based staff dressed casually.

    I understand the avoidance and fear aspects that you mention. Let's face it, job hunting is stressful for everyone, and if you've got potential disability-related discrimination or rejection on your mind, it's an extra worry.

    On the plus side, it's not all negative. Job hunting - and interviewing - is a skill, and you can get better at them with practice.


     
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