Part III The Job Search, Application, and Interview Process

18 The Job Interview

The job interview can be a nerve-wracking and intimidating experience for anyone. If the student has a visible disability, they may wonder how the interviewer will respond to their disability and the best way to address it. If the student requires accommodation for the interview, such as having the interview in a wheelchair-accessible location, then they should disclose their disability to the employer before the interview. If the student has an , such as an anxiety disorder or chronic pain, the unknowns of the job interview may amplify feelings of stress, or the student may wonder if or when they should disclose. A student may wish to disclose before the interview to avoid misconceptions about their behaviour. For example, if a person experiences a barrier with social interactions such as shaking hands, or making eye contact, they may wish to disclose before the interview to dispel stigma or . Disclosing and discussing their disability with the employer may help dispel the stigma or discrimination that may arise during the interview if the candidate does not disclose. Refer to Part II for more recommendations on when to disclose.

In all these scenarios, the key to a successful job interview is practice and preparation. Preparing for a job interview is hard work, but the effort is worth it when it helps to increase the student’s confidence and make a positive impression that can increase their chance of getting hired. A job interview is too important to improvise or “wing it.”

Most experts recommend the following steps when preparing for a job interview:

  1. Research the job and organization that you are applying to. Use the company website to learn as much as you can about their products and services. Look at press releases, brochures, annual reports, and social media (ALIS, 2016f). Also, take time to review your skills and abilities against the job requirements and job postings. Think about how your skills, knowledge, interests, values, accomplishments, and personal characteristics make you a good match for the job and be ready to talk about them (ALIS 2016f).
  2. Practice. Giving advance thought to the types of questions that will likely come up during an interview and practicing how you will respond to them will help you with feelings of nervousness or anxiety. Take some time to review common questions that come up in job interviews and write down your responses. Don’t memorize your responses – focus on key points you want to remember – and then practice your responses aloud so your replies come across as natural and sincere. Ask a friend or family member to role-play with you. Also be sure to prepare a few questions to ask the interviewer about the job or organization that you couldn’t find in your research (ALIS, 2016f).
  3. Make a positive impression. It is important to make a good first impression during an interview. Alberta Learning Information Service (2016f) recommends the following tips for how to present your best self for an interview:
    • Be sure to dress and groom yourself in a professional manner. Dress how you expect the interviewer to dress (ALIS, 2016f). It is typically best to wear business-casual attire: a blouse or dress shirt, with dress slacks or skirt and tights. Do not wear clothing that is ripped or stained. Iron out any wrinkles. Arrange your hair neatly.
    • Be sure to arrive 10-15 minutes before the interview is scheduled to begin. This will help alleviate unnecessary stress.
    • Be friendly and respectful with everyone you come into contact with.
    • It is typically expected that candidates make eye contact, smile, and shake hands firmly when they meet the interviewer. If you have a disability that makes these types of non-verbal communications challenging or uncomfortable, consider disclosing your disability to the employer before your interview. Let them know what to expect, and assure them that you are interested in the job. Suggest any accommodations that may assist you during the interview (such as meeting in a quiet space free from distractions, or having a hard copy of the questions to refer to).
    • Pay attention to your body language. Avoid things such as leaning back or sitting on the edge of your chair, or crossing your arms (ALIS, 2016f). Similar to the previous point, if you require sitting in a position that does not look relaxed and attentive, consider disclosing this requirement to the employer before the interview.
    • Try your best to be positive and confident.
    • Turn off your cell phone when you arrive at the interview and leave it off until you leave. Use a pen and paper to make notes, rather than a laptop or other device (unless you require these as an accommodation).
    • Follow the interviewer’s lead. Even unusual or irrelevant questions get asked for a reason.
    • Listen closely to the questions so you can answer them accurately. If you don’t understand a question, politely ask the interviewer to rephrase it. If you don’t know the answer, say so.
    • Take a moment to think before you answer a question. Be pleasant, sincere and direct. Stay on topic.
    • Avoid answering with only “yes” or “no.” Try to figure out what the interviewer wants to know and answer with that in mind.
    • Follow up after the interview with a thank you note or email that emphasizes 2 or 3 reasons why you’re the best candidate for the job.

Applying these tips and suggestions will help you to make a strong first impression and increase your chances of receiving an offer of employment.

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Transition to Employment: A Guide for Supporting Post-Secondary Students with Disabilities by UPEI Career Services and UPEI Accessibility Services is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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