The competition for jobs is as fierce as ever. As the economy continues to waiver, employers have an upper hand when searching for the most qualified candidate to fill positions in their companies. If you have a disability, even if it is not immediately obvious, then the task can seem even more daunting.
Dealing with a disability during a job search adds issues and complexities that a candidate must deal with, but in many instances, these can be minimized if you handle them the right way.
As a job hunter, the first issue you must face is when to disclose that you have a disability. People with chronic illnesses and medical disabilities are not legally bound to disclose they have these conditions if they are not obvious or if they have no direct impact to the job in question.
The Americans with Disabilities Act expressly forbids companies with more than 15 employees from discriminating due to physical or mental disabilities, asking applicants about current or past medical issues, or requiring applicants to undergo pre-employment medical exams.
But despite rules that are in place, some companies do discriminate, and so it’s best to gauge each job opportunity as it comes up, deciding how and when it might be the most appropriate to disclose a medical condition. The nature of the medical issue may also have a direct bearing on when to disclose it as well. A condition such as diabetes that can be easily controlled by snacking on the right foods on a regular basis may be received differently than by someone who has a heart condition that worsens in times of stress.
Many experts also agree that if your disability does not affect job performance, you should never mention it on a resume. A resume is your primary marketing document in a job search, and any negative that may result in discrimination or inaccurate preconceived ideas about you or your disability will work against you, eliminating you from consideration before you have a fair chance to vie for the position.
Your resume may also contain employment gaps due to your disability. Many times, you can fill this gap with other things such volunteer efforts, continuing education, or other similar activities. If pressed, don’t lie. But you don’t need to be overly forthcoming about your timeline unless the situation demands a direct answer.
For others, their disabilities are obvious. If you are wheelchair bound, blind or missing a limb, while you are still not bound to disclose these issues on a resume or prior to a job interview, you will need to do some extra work to prepare for a job interview if you make it to that round.
Although an employer can’t legally discuss your disability until after you are hired, you can score points by being up front about any accommodations you might need while also correcting any misconceptions an employer might have related to your condition. By opening up about your disability, you have the opportunity to build an open and honest relationship with your potential employer. Of course, you’ll still need to prove yourself with your skills and experience, but your job is to level that playing field as much as possible and remove any barriers or limitations due to a disability as much as possible.
The bottom line is employers are looking for the best qualified candidate who will be the best possible fit into their company. Other factors such as a positive personality, secondary job skills, membership in professional associations, job references and a depth and breadth of industry knowledge can go a long way to overcoming any issues with disabilities, especially if you can demonstrate how a disability can be minimized once you’re hired.