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Interviewing Applicants with Disabilities

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

man in wheelchair rolling into an office

You know you want to hire people with disabilities, but you’re also aware that preparing for the appropriate interview isn’t always a cut-and-dry process. For instance, is it O.K. to ask if an applicant can perform the job safely? What do you do if an individual reveals a disability in the interview? Here are some tips to remember before and during the interview so that you hire the right applicant for the job, while complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The first step may go without saying, but all interviewees should be treated the same regardless of ability. That means making sure that you, your staff and your office are welcoming and accessible (user-friendly) to everyone you meet. Then keep the following in mind:

Before the Interview
1. Be sure your office or interview location is universally accessible so that anyone with any ability can visit safely.
2. Next, check your company’s application and interviewing procedures to ensure they comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits asking disability-related questions before a job offer is made.
3. Be open to making accommodations. Provided they are appropriate and reasonable, accommodations may need to be made for applicants to participate in the interview. For instance, help might be needed in filling out an application because of blindness or physical limitations. Or an interpreter may be necessary if the applicant is deaf and asks for assistance.
4. If a test is required to demonstrate ability to perform actual or simulated tasks, let applicants know ahead a time so they can request a reasonable accommodation, such as a different format or a written test, if necessary. (These tests are permitted under the ADA as long as they are given to all applicants.)

During the Interview
1. Once the applicant arrives, make him or her comfortable and relaxed. Don’t forget to relax yourself. If the applicant has a disability or reveals one during the interview be sure to concentrate on the individual, not the disability.
2. Treat that applicant with respect, just like anyone else. At the same time, hold individuals with disabilities accountable to the same standards as all applicants.
3. Only ask job-related questions that address the functions of the job. You are entitled to ask if they are able to perform the essential job elements. An example of an acceptable question: “This job requires a person to lift 20 to 30 pounds, stand or walk for two to three hours at a time and read written instructions. Are you able to do this with or without reasonable accommodation?”
4. While interviewing, focus on the applicant’s technical and professional knowledge, skills, abilities, experiences and interests.
By following these tips, you will undoubtedly find yourself at ease with the interview process and will likely find the best applicant for the job.

For more information, go to the website of the Job Accommodation Network or call JAN at (800) 526-7234.