3 The Job Search, Application, and Interview Process
What Can I Do with My Degree?
All job seekers should first spend some time reflecting on their interests and skills, as discussed in Section 2 of this guide. A post-secondary student has likely already spent time thinking about what careers they might like to pursue. Part of this evaluation includes students identifying the knowledge and experience they have gained by completing their educational program. Many students are unsure of how their degree and associated areas of study related to various career paths.
The UPEI Career Services website offers a list of resource documents to help university students determine what they can do with their degrees. The University of Guelph Co-operative Education and Career Services offers another excellent resource for helping university graduates find degree-specific career information. Students can use these tools to explore potential career paths that relate to their degrees. These tools can give students ideas for the types of careers they might be interested in pursuing or gaining the experience to apply for in the future. Keep in mind that for them to secure their ideal career path they may have to take a job that is less than ideal for a period of time. They should not view this as a failure or a compromise of their values; rather, view it as an opportunity for them to gain the foundational skills and experience they need to find their ideal career later on.
Know the Job
Once the student has identified a job or career path that they would like to pursue it is important to understand what the job entails.
- What kinds of duties will you likely be assigned?
- What skills are required to successfully meet the demands of the job?
- Do you have those skills?
- Will you need to perform the job?
Answering these questions will involve researching the position that likely goes beyond the description in the job posting. An excellent resource for understanding the skills and duties a job entails is the Government of Canada Job Bank website. This is not simply a website where jobs are posted; it also contains some powerful career exploration tools that can help students identify the duties a job will likely entail. The website also has information on wages associated with various jobs, as well as the outlook for those jobs in certain regions.
To use this tool, follow these steps:
- Navigate to the Government of Canada Job Bank “Explore the Market” website.
- From the drop-down list, select “By Occupation.”
- In the “Occupation” text box, type in keywords of the job title you are interested in researching.
- Enter the region you are interested in finding work in the “City or Postal Code” text box.
- Click “Search”
This will give students an overview of the requirements and skills that are associated with that particular job. They can use this as a starting point for evaluating whether a given job is a good match for their skills and abilities and whether they may require accommodations to successfully perform some of the duties associated with that job.
The impact of a student’s is likely to be minimized when they put effective career planning and job search techniques into place.
Alberta Learning Information Service (2016c) recommends the following steps when searching for work:
- Identify the kind of work you can do.
- Look for employers who are likely to focus on your abilities and potential.
- Consider your needs when applying for a position. Figure out what you need to succeed at a job, and apply for positions that are the best fit.
Identify the kind of work you can do
Students should consider what type of work they can do, without accommodation or with reasonable accommodation. If you haven’t done so already, please review the information discussed previously in the “Where to Begin?” section with students. Once they have taken time to evaluate their experience, their program of study, and research what duties a given job entails, they should have a sense of what positions they are qualified for and know they can perform well in. They should apply for these positions.
Look for suitable employers
This is where knowing yourself, having properly assessed a job’s duties, and researching a prospective employer is key. When applying for a job the student will want to be sure that they have the skills required and that the work meets their needs and expectations. They will also want to search for employers who are likely to focus on their abilities and potential.
When researching employers, the student should start with a list of organizations that they would like to work for. They can then examine the organizations’ hiring practices and consider the following questions:
- Do the employers reflect their values?
- Do they have a reputation for being inclusive, hiring a diverse workforce that includes people with disabilities?
- Do they state on their website or on the application form that they hire for diversity or are an ?
Students can also contact employment agencies that work with people with disabilities. Refer the student to Appendix A: Employment Support Providers and Programs for Persons with Disabilities. They should keep in mind that all employers have the , however, some employers may be more familiar with providing accommodations than others.
Employers that are federally regulated must comply with employment equity legislation. This includes the federal government, federal organizations, Crown corporations, and federally regulated private sector companies, representing over 500 organizations in Canada that employ over 760,000 individuals. Every year these organizations must file a report to the federal Labour Program to ensure they comply with the requirements of the Employment Equity Act. These reports are available to the public and you can request a list of the organizations participating in the Legislated Employment Equity Program (LEEP). This can be an excellent resource for students to find an employer with a proven track record for hiring persons with disabilities.
Consider your needs when applying for positions
It is important for students to know what type of job is a good fit for them and what type of work environment they are likely to thrive in. If conditions are not ideal, they might want to give thought to whether accommodations would help them to succeed at work. For example, a person with ADHD might find it difficult to succeed in an open office environment with cubicles and high noise levels. However, that individual might be able to overcome that by using noise-cancelling headphones in order to concentrate better. A study of 46 successful adults with learning disabilities found that they had searched for work environments that optimized their skills and abilities, while minimizing their weaknesses, allowing them to experience the most success (Gerber, Ginsberg, & Reiff, 1992). This is referred to as goodness of fit. Students should make this their goal when searching for employment.
Once a student has decided which jobs and organizations they wish to apply to they will want to make sure that their application package is appealing and well-executed.
Resumes and Cover Letters
Unless the student has made previous contact with a prospective employer, their cover letter and resume will be the basis of an employer’s first impression and will determine whether they get an interview.
Students need to remember that they are marketing themselves. They cannot afford mistakes on their cover letter or resume – both documents must be as strong as possible. Encourage them to ensure their resume is up-to-date and free of any spelling or grammar errors. Employers typically view a resume for 15 seconds to a maximum of one minute. Applicants will want to make sure their application package grabs the employer’s attention and doesn’t give an employer any reason to rule them out.
There are several employment agencies listed in Appendix A that can assist students with resume and cover letter writing. UPEI Career Services would be a great agency to start with. Students can also contact the PEI Council of People with Disabilities, Career Development Services or one of the many employment service organizations listed in Appendix A.
Disclosure during the application process
Students need to consider whether or not they will their disability to their potential employer when they apply for a job. Before they have an interview, if a student does not need accommodations for the job interview and feels that their performance will not be unduly affected by their disability, most experts recommend that they not disclose their disability on a resume or application form (ALIS, 2016c; 2016e). For a more in-depth discussion of disclosure, please see “Disclosing a Disability to an Employer” in Part II of this guide.
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:
- 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).
- 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).
- 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.
While preparing for questions that might come up during a job interview, it is also important for students to think about how they might respond to inappropriate questions that a prospective employer might ask during a job interview. For example, under the PEI Human Rights Act it is inappropriate for an employer to ask questions on several grounds that could be discriminatory, including a candidate’s age, race, religion, sexual orientation, mental or physical health (PEI HRC, 2016). Applicants do not have to answer questions that ask for specific information on such topics.
If such questions come up during the application process, the student can simply write “not applicable” on the form; otherwise they should politely and tactfully tell the interviewer that the question is inappropriate. It is possible that they can address the underlying concern that prompted the question (e.g., concerns about attendance, reliability, commitment, fit within organization, etc.) by re-framing the question and speaking about their positive qualities, such as strong work ethic, excellent attendance record, or desire to succeed in an organization, for example (ALIS, 2016c).
Disclosure during the interview process
If the student does not need accommodations for the job interview and feels that their job performance will not be unduly affected by their disability, most experts recommend that they not disclose their disability during a job interview, unless they are sure that an employer has disability-friendly hiring policy (ALIS, 2016c). For a more in depth discussion of disclosure, please see “Disclosing a Disability to an Employer” in Part II of this guide.
If the student has a visible disability or does decide to disclose during the interview process, they should be sure to leverage the skills they have developed as a result of their disability to their advantage. They should give themselves credit for unique skills they have developed as a result of meeting the challenges of their disability, such as creativity, flexibility, positive attitude, problem-solving skills, and determination (ALIS, 2016d). These are skills that employers highly value and will be an asset to the student if they are able to highlight them during the application or interview process.
Know the Business Case for Hiring Persons with Disabilities
Employers may not know that it makes good business sense to hire persons with disabilities. If the student has a visible disability or otherwise decides to disclose their disability during the job interview, being able to educate an employer on the business case for hiring persons with disabilities can help them to market their skills to employers (ALIS, 2016b). They might wish to mention these advantages when an employer asks what assets they bring to the organization or in response to the question “Why should I hire you?”
If you are unfamiliar with the business case for hiring persons with disabilities, take note of the following advantages for employers with inclusive hiring practices and the infographic below. The list and infographic may be used to educate the student and help them prepare to “sell themselves” in a job interview.
- Reduced staff turnover. Studies have shown that persons with disabilities keep their jobs longer, resulting in better retention rates compared to other employees. Numerous companies, such as Walgreens, Tim Hortons, Pizza Hut, Marriott, and Washington Mutual have reported significantly lower turnover rates among employees with disabilities compared to employees without disabilities. This results in significant savings in terms of recruitment, hiring, and training. By some estimates the cost of new hires or internal transfers can range from $3,000 to $20,000 or more, making the case for hiring a person with a disability a measurable financial advantage (HRSDC, 2013; NBESS 2015).
- Reduced absenteeism. It is a myth that employees with disabilities are absent from work more often than employees without a disability. Both studies from DuPont and DePaul University have found that the attendance of employees with disabilities to be equal to or exceed that of employees without disabilities. Statistics provided by Tim Horton’s franchisee Megleen Inc. found an absentee rate of zero for 35 employees with disabilities (representing 17% of their workforce) in 2011 (NBESS, 2015).
- Minimal costs for accommodation. A misconception that some employers hold is that the costs of accommodating an employee are high. The reality is that in most cases the cost of accommodating an employee is little or nothing. Research conducted by the Job Accommodation Network (JAN, 2015) in the United States found that approximately 58% of workplace accommodations cost nothing, while the remainder incurred a one-time cost of $500 on average. Benefits employers experienced as a direct result of accommodating an employee with a disability included retaining valued employees, increased productivity, and reduced costs of training new employees. Employers in the study also cited several indirect benefits that included improved company morale, improved interactions with co-workers and customers, and increased overall productivity in the company.
- Access to a skilled, underutilized talent pool. As the population ages and workers from the baby boomer generation exit the workforce, employers face the challenge of finding skilled, talented people to fill these positions. Experts suggest there will be a race for talent in the coming decades. There are approximately 795,000 Canadians with disabilities who are unemployed but are able and willing to work. Almost half of these have post-secondary education (ALIS, 2016b; Human Resources and Skills Development Canada [HRSDC], 2013, New Brunswick Employer Support Services [NBESS], 2015). Businesses hoping to find and retain talent simply cannot ignore this pool of potential employees.
- Competitive advantage. Close to 40 million North Americans self-identify as having a disability. This represents a substantial proportion of the population that are potential consumers. It is estimated that persons with disabilities have an annual purchasing power of over $25 billion in Canada alone. When businesses hire persons with disabilities they are hiring individuals who recognize and understand the needs of this population, allowing them to effectively market to customers with disabilities and reach a broader customer base that is representative of the population. Additionally, promoting inclusion also influences family and friends of persons with disabilities in the products they buy and businesses they choose to support (ALIS, 2016b; HRSDC, 2013; NBESS, 2013).
- Improves public image and reputation. An organization that promotes an inclusive vision can reach a broader customer base. Hiring for diversity and inclusivity can raise the image and goodwill of an organization. (ALIS, 2016b; NBESS, 2013). According to one study, 92% of consumers say they are more inclined to do business with companies that have inclusive values and are recognized as open and just employers (Job Accommodation Network, 2006).
- Promotes universal access. When an organization is open to diversity, inclusivity, and accommodations for employees, it benefits everyone, including other employees and clients. For example, installing automatic doors benefits not only an employee with a disability but also other employees or customers who might be carrying items in their arms. When an organization promotes universal access and employs a workforce that is reflective of society, people of all backgrounds feel welcome and comfortable in that environment. As the Canadian population ages, the proportion of persons with a disability will likely rise in the coming years. Promoting universal access now will prepare an organization to meet the demands of an ageing population in the future (ALIS, 2016b; NBESS, 2015).
- Positive impact on staff and clients. Hiring for diversity and inclusion can have a positive impact on employee creativity and innovation, helping employees to be open to changes and new developments. Studies have shown that the presence of persons with a disability on a team improves employee morale, satisfaction, teamwork, and motivation, and does not cause more conflicts or communication problems (North East Community Partners for Inclusion, 2005). Hiring persons with disabilities can also improve client relations, as a person with a disability may have understanding and expertise in dealing with challenges in mobility, learning, work style, or communication (ALIS, 2016b; NBESS, 2015).
- Promotes innovation and creativity. Because of the challenges and barriers that they have to overcome, people with disabilities have learned to develop alternative paths to adapt and accomplish tasks by thinking differently and creatively. These skills can translate over into employment, facilitating innovation in the workplace through the creation of new ideas, products, and services. Studies have demonstrated that “organizations leveraging diversity are better able to adapt to changes in the external environment, and are more innovative in anticipating and responding to these changes” (HRSDC, 2013; NBESS, 2015).
(“Myths and misconceptions,” 2018, p. 20)
Transitioning from school into the workforce can be a daunting process for any student. Students with disabilities will want to make good use of career planning tools and effective job search strategies to maximize their chances of getting hired.
When they begin the job search and application process they will want to:
- Know themselves and their abilities well
- Know what duties a prospective job entails
- Target positions that maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses
- Make sure their application package is accurate, professional and free of errors
- Prepare well for interviews by doing research and practicing how they will respond to questions
- If they decide to disclose their disability during the application or interview process, they should highlight skills they have developed as a result of their disability and be prepared to make the business case for hiring a person with a disability.
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.
References and Resources
Alberta Learning Information Service. (2016a). Cover Letters Open the Door to an Interview. Retrieved from http://alis.alberta.ca/ep/eps/tips/tips.html?EK=154
Alberta Learning Information Service. (2016b). Finding Work When You Have a Disability. Retrieved from https://alis.alberta.ca/look-for-work/additional-resources-for-specific-audiences/for-persons-with-disabilities/finding-work-when-you-have-a-disability/
Alberta Learning Information Service. (2016c). What Can Employers Ask You? Retrieved from https://alis.alberta.ca/look-for-work/interviews-and-offers/what-can-employers-ask-you/
Alberta Learning Information Service. (2016d). Job Interviews for Persons with Disabilities. Retrieved from https://alis.alberta.ca/look-for-work/additional-resources-for-specific-audiences/for-persons-with-disabilities/job-interviews-for-persons-with-disabilities/
Alberta Learning Information Service. (2016e). What to Say About Your Disability and When to Say It. Retrieved from https://alis.alberta.ca/look-for-work/additional-resources-for-specific-audiences/for-persons-with-disabilities/what-to-say-about-your-disability-and-when-to-say-it/
Alberta Learning Information Service. (2016f). How to Succeed at a Job Interview. Retrieved from https://alis.alberta.ca/look-for-work/interviews-and-offers/how-to-succeed-at-a-job-interview/https://alis.alberta.ca/ep/eps/tips/tips.html?EK=150
Alberta Learning Information Service. (2016g). Resume Checklists. Retrieved from https://alis.alberta.ca/look-for-work/resumes-and-references/resume-checklists/
Myths and misconceptions about hiring people with disabilities. (2018, Fall). Careering, 20.
Gerber, P. J., Ginsberg, R., & Reiff, H. B. (1992). Identifying alterable patterns in employment success for highly successful adults with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 25, 475 – 487. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/21696110_Identifying_Alterable_Patterns_in_Employment_Success_for_Highly_Successful_Adults_with_Learning_Disabilities
Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. (2013). Rethinking disability in the private sector – Report from the Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities. (Departmental Catalogue No. ISSD-111-01-13). Retrieved from http://www.esdc.gc.ca/eng/disability/consultations/rethinking_disabilities.shtml
Siperstein, G. N. et al. (2006). A national survey of consumer attitudes towards companies that hire people with disabilities. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation. 24(1), 3 – 9. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228675339_A_national_survey_of_consumer_attitudes_towards_companies_that_hire_people_with_disabilities
Job Accommodation Network. (2015). Workplace accommodations: Low cost, high impact. Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/Documents/LowCostHighImpact.pdf
New Brunswick Association for Community Living (NBACL). (2015). Hiring & Training Workers with a Disability. Retrieved from https://nbacl.nb.ca/module-pages/hiring-training-workers-with-a-disability-intro/
PEI Human Rights Commission. (2016a). Workplace Rights: A Guide to the PEI Human Rights Act for Employers and Employees. Retrieved from http://www.gov.pe.ca/photos/sites/humanrights/file/Workplace%20Rights-english-web.pdf
North East Community Partners for Inclusion. (2005). Guide to hiring persons with disabilities for Saskatchewan employers. Retrieved from http://www.garytinker.ca/media/pdf/Employer_Guide.pdf
- You can also request the most up-to-date list of organizations in the LEEP program, or request to view individual reports, by visiting the Employment and Social Development Canada website or sending an email to email@example.com and requesting access to Workplace Equity Information Management System (WEIMS). ↵
- If a student feels that their rights have been violated during the application or interview process, it is recommended that they contact your provincial human rights chapter for guidance. Contact information for the PEI Human Rights Commission can be found on the Commission website. ↵
In this guide, accommodation refers to equipment, practices or policies that enable an employee with a disability to succeed in the workplace. Examples of accommodation include additional equipment or modifications to existing equipment, flexible hours of work or modified work schedule, additional training, modified work environment, and customized work duties .
The term disability is defined as a functional limitation caused by a long-term or recurring physical, sensory, mental, physical or learning impairment that restricts the ability of a person to perform the daily activities necessary to participate in learning or daily living. Disabilities can be visible or invisible.
Employment equity is the use of hiring policies that encourage fair representation of members of the four designated groups in Canada:
- Aboriginal peoples
- persons with disabilities
- members of visible minorities
Employment equity encourages the establishment of working conditions and hiring practices that are free of barriers. According to the Government of Canada (2018), employment equity “promotes the principle that employment equity requires special measures and the accommodation of differences for the four designated groups”. Any employer that is regulated by the Federal Government of Canada has a legal obligation to comply with the Employment Equity Act and provide equal employment opportunities to the four designated groups listed above.
A barrier is an element of the environment, including physical elements and emotional attitudes, that prevents a person with a disability from full participation in an activity.
Disclosure refers to the act of making information about a disability known. In the employment setting, disclosure would be the act of an employee informing their employer about their disability.
An invisible disability is a disability that is not noticeable or apparent to others. Invisible disabilities can include brain injuries, chronic pain, mental illness, diabetes, hearing impairments, gastrointestinal disorders, and many more. All of these conditions can disrupt everyday activities, but they are not obvious to others. Invisible disabilities may be overlooked and misunderstood.
Discrimination is an action or decision that prevents a person or group from having an equal opportunity. Discrimination does not have to be intentional. For example, to not provide an employee with a reasonable accommodation can be considered discrimination (unless there is a case for undue hardship). Discrimination does not have to include differences in treatment. In fact, treating everyone the same when they are not the same can result in discrimination.