Looking for a new job can be a frustrating process for anyone. First, there are the hours spent sifting through listings and submitting resumes and cover letters; then there are the countless applications and miles driving all over town for interviews.
Unfortunately, in addition to the usual struggles, individuals with disabilities have a particularly difficult time, as they fight misconceptions from potential employers about what it means to hire someone with a disability. These misconceptions contribute to their being 83 percent of individuals with disabilities who are unemployed.
The good news is that the right know-how can help overcome stereotypes and unconscious biases held by potential employers, and improve your chances of being selected for your dream position.
How to impress recruiters and hiring managers
One of the most important things to do is continue to focus on what you can do, not what you can't. This includes emphasizing the skills and abilities you bring to the position, as any aspiring job candidate does. A common question is whether you should disclose your disability when you apply for a job. In most cases, it's better to delay sharing this information until you're further along in the job placement process. However, if your disability is likely to be apparent when you meet the hiring manager, such as the use of a wheelchair or cane, then it's best to acknowledge it directly and address that it will not affect your capabilities to complete the work.
Other important talking points for your interview are the achievements and accomplishments over the course of your career, to demonstrate a pattern of competence at work. In addition, if you have gone through recent training or learned new skills, those can be important details to highlight.
In addition, be honest about any gaps in employment. Perhaps you haven't had a job in years. While this may hurt your chances, it's not a deal-breaker. Generally, it's not necessary to be explicit about your health condition when discussing gaps in employment. Instead, you can explain that you've dealt with some personal things in the interim, and now you are ready to hit the ground running. Even if you have been out of work for some time while you dealt with your condition, you have the potential to bring a fresh perspective and the same reliable, responsible approach from your old career to this new one.
Know your rights
Often, the only things needed to maximize your potential at work are a few adjustments. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to make these "reasonable accommodations" for those experiencing disabilities, but many organizations are concerned about the time and money required to make such adjustments. Fortunately, for an accommodation to be considered "reasonable," it must not cause "undue hardship" to the organization, financial or otherwise, and employers have often found that these accommodations are very affordable -- sometimes even free.
Understand that it's unlawful for employers to discriminate against you because of your disability. In general, employers are aware that you have a legal right to request these adjustments, but you can share this information if your potential employer is unaware. A simple phrase to start out the conversation is, "I'm excited to be a part of your team, and I'll need to request an accommodation in order to perform at my best."
Help him or her understand that creating a disability-friendly workplace can be affordable and not all that difficult. Perhaps all you need to be at your most comfortable and productive are flexible working hours or work-from-home arrangements. Even outside the realm of disability accommodation, remote working arrangements are becoming increasingly popular -- even the norm -- across a number of industries. If it seems appropriate for the position, you may have the opportunity to offer to create a disability-friendly workspace at home. This could ensure the company sees lower costs and may make your application a little more attractive. It's possible you've already been considering a way to balance your specific needs with the work you want to do. Keep an eye out for opportunities to create these openings in collaboration with your new employer.
Reassure your employer and optimize for productivity
Let your potential employer know that you're comfortable staying on top of projects and managing a heavy, diverse task load even when working remotely. Working in your ideal environment, tailored to your own particular needs and uniquely oriented to the demands of your position, cuts expenses for employers and maximizes productivity overall. Other common accommodations include an accessibility device like a ramp or handrail, adjustable desks, monitor screens, cable management systems, color-coded keyboards, screen reader software, and sign language apps.
No one wants to feel like they're placing a burden on their employer, so it can be difficult to have the types of conversations necessary to receive the accommodations you need. The way you communicate with your potential supervisor is important for maintaining good relations and facilitating a positive outcome for all parties involved. Job-seeking with a disability isn't always easy. But with perseverance and a willingness to engage employers on their terms, you can win the fight against stereotypes and misconceptions. The rewards will be more than worth it in the end.
This article originally appeared on Glassdoor.com.
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