In the past, prior to the American with Disabilities Act of 1990, I had an interview with a company that had no access for wheelchairs into the building. I called the Office Manager, with whom I was to interview, using a payphone and explained the situation. The Office Manager understood and agreed to conduct the interview on the front steps of the building; which begs the question: how do we handle interviewing a person who has a disability?
For an employer, the goal should be the same when interviewing a candidate with or without a disability.
The employer focuses on whether or not that person is able to perform the job and they determine if the person will fit well within the company’s environment/culture. As we discussed in a previous blog (Interviewing-101), the employer uses various tools to ascertain that information. Therefore, the employer should focus on the candidate’s qualifications, not their disability.
Still, a business owner or manager may not be sure of how to conduct an interview with a candidate who has a disability that is apparent, or a person who chooses to disclose the disability. According to JAN (Job Accommodation Network), the following are simple “Do’s and Don’ts” to follow1:
Do . . .
- focus on the candidates qualifications
- get the information necessary to determine qualification
- base hiring decisions on skills, qualifications and experience
Don’t . . .
- focus on a candidate’s disability
- ask unnecessary medical questions or require unnecessary medical examinations or documentation
- base hiring decisions on myths, fears or stereotypes of people with disabilities
There are a few exceptions to the above, however. For instance, if a candidate has a visible disability that may obviously interfere with the duties of the job; the employer has the right to ask relevant questions. But remember that the candidate has obviously found ways to master alternate ways of performing tasks; allow the candidate to explain how he or she would perform the duties in question.
By the same token, if a candidate chooses to disclose his or her medical condition, asking a general question such as “is there anything you need to perform the job described” would suffice without having to ask specific questions about his or her disability.
Generally, employers are not allowed to ask medical questions or require documentation before an offer is made. However, if the applicant requests accommodations for the interview, the employer has the right to do so.
For more information, the following website can be used as a great resource for interviewing tips that deal with all types of disabilities: Employer Tips on Interviewing Applicants with Disabilities.
1askJAN.org . Job Application/Interview Stage Dos and Don’ts.
David Spears is a member of the Workforce Solutions Navigator team for the Texas Gulf Coast Region. Combining training and education to real world examples, David brings personal and professional experience with disabilities to the table in order to help job seekers with disabilities realize their potential. David has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Business Administration with over 20 years of experience in the business world.