By: Jim Hasse
When I interview a job candidate with a disability, I want our conversation to reveal something about how well that person has adjusted to living with a disability and how that applies to the job tasks at hand.
When interviewing to hire, though, I should not have to ask that question directly and indeed cannot ask under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). A candidate’s disability perspective should naturally bubble up during our conversation. At best, you should be familiar with this and other employment laws.
Legal Job Interview Questions
Remember, when conducting a job interview, the ADA prohibits you from directly asking questions about an individual’s approach to disability to maintain a legal hiring process. You can describe the essential functions of the job for which he is interviewing and ask if he can do the work and how he would do it for your company.
Your most savvy job candidates will volunteer to speak openly with you about how they intend to perform the job in spite of their obvious disabilities. Within that opening, you may then ask for follow-up examples of what they have achieved in the past under similar circumstances.
In fact, there are a handful of vulnerability issues that can be windows to what is now commonly called a job candidate’s “emotional intelligence.”
The following are some of those issues, distilled into hypothetical questions that cannot be asked of job candidates. But you can ask yourself these questions as you evaluate your conversations with applicants to better understand their level of emotional intelligence, whether they’re disabled or not.
Have the candidates grown beyond feeling inferior?
Scenario: Katrina recalls that as a child and adolescent she always felt inferior to sighted people.
But, at about age 17, Katrina started feeling a lot better about herself as a person and writes, “Now I feel that my blindness is just part of my identity. And, I am happy to be able to say that, at the age of 31, I fully accept this and love myself for what I am.”
Have they gone beyond condescension and overcompensation?
Scenario: As a person with cerebral palsy, I noticed well-meaning people would tend to call me “Jimmy” instead of “Jim,” even though I was no five-year-old anymore. In fact, I was 49 and vice president of a Fortune 500 company.
I finally started reaffirming that “my name is Jim” to those “Jimmy” people who were automatically falling back on a common but incorrect perception that individuals with disabilities, even as adults, are really children to be protected.
Can they join others in laughing about themselves and put personal pride in perspective?
Scenario: When Brenda re-entered the workforce, she worked as a volunteer for a Congressional candidate. She folded, stuffed, and labeled envelopes for mailings and answered the phones.
“I had been around the campaign for several weeks before the candidate realized I did not see just like everyone else,” Brenda writes. “He won his race hands down and asked if I would consider working for him in the Congressional District Office. I was delighted! I started out answering the switchboard (what a hoot!)…”
Have they grown beyond being a victim?
Scenario: “I am a person first, who also happens to have low vision, wears glasses, is blond, middle aged, has blue eyes, a wicked wit, a curious nature, is educated and becoming a wise woman as she matures. I’m nobody’s victim of anything!”
Do they swim in the “mainstream”?
Scenario: Nancy, age 31, was an aerospace engineer. One Monday morning on her way to work, a van traveling in excess of 80 miles per hour struck the vehicle in which she was riding. She instantaneously became a C6–7 quadriplegic.
Nancy’s advice: “Let time carry you to a new place, a new reality.”
Nancy is back working full-time in the aerospace industry.
Adapted from Perfectly Able: How to Attract and Hire Talented People with Disabilities by Lighthouse International. Compiled and edited by Jim Hasse. Copyright © 2010 Lighthouse International. Published by AMACOM Books, a division of American Management Association, New York, NY. Used with permission. All rights reserved. amacombooks.org.
Jim Hasse, an Accredited Business Communicator and Global Career Development Facilitator, is the owner of Hasse Communication Counseling in Madison, WI, a company he founded that helps people with disabilities gain the confidence they need to develop meaningful careers for themselves and perform effectively in their jobs. See http://www.linkedin.com/in/jimhasse.