Focus on Ability: Interviewing Applicants with Disabilities (2023)

As employers well know, the job interview plays a critical role in the hiring process, allowing them the opportunity to identify the individual who possesses the best mix of knowledge, skills and abilities for the position available. Below is information that may assist employers in ensuring maximum benefit from an interview when the person being interviewed happens to have a disability.

Preparing for the Interview

  • Ensure that your company's application and interviewing procedures comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits asking disability-related questions before a job offer is made.
  • Check that your application forms, employment offices and interviewing locations are accessible to persons with a variety of disabilities.
  • Be willing to make appropriate and reasonable accommodations to enable an applicant with a disability to participate in the interview, explaining ahead of time what is involved in the process. For example, if an applicant who is blind states that he or she will need help completing forms, provide that assistance. Provide an interpreter as an accommodation or other assistance that is reasonable for an applicant who is deaf, if he or she requests assistance in communicating. Provide details or specific instructions to applicants with cognitive disabilities, if this type of accommodation is required.
  • Inform applicants ahead of time if they will be required to take a test to demonstrate their ability to perform actual or simulated tasks so that they can request a reasonable accommodation, such as a different format for a written test, if necessary. (Such tests are permitted under the ADA as long as they are uniformly given to all applicants.)

Conducting the Interview

  • Relax and make the applicant feel relaxed. If the applicant has a visible disability or reveals a disability during the interview, concentrate on the individual, not the disability.
  • Treat the individual with the same respect you would treat any candidate whose skills you are seeking. Likewise, hold individuals with disabilities to the same standards as all applicants.
  • Ask only job-related questions that speak to the functions of the job for which the applicant is applying.
  • Concentrate on the applicant's technical and professional knowledge, skills, abilities, experiences and interests.

Do not try to imagine how you would perform a specific job if you had the applicant's disability. He or she has mastered alternate ways of living and working. If the applicant has a known disability, either because it is obvious or was revealed by the applicant, you may ask him or her to describe how he or she would perform the job.

It is important to note that medical examinations are prohibited under the ADA at the pre-employment offer stage. However, a job offer may be conditional based on the results of a medical examination if all employees entering similar jobs are also required to take an examination. If, after the medical examination, the employer decides not to hire an individual because of a disability, the employer must demonstrate that the reason for the rejection is job-related and consistent with business necessity.

Resources to Assist

A number of resources can assist employers in understanding their responsibilities relative to interviewing job applicants with disabilities.

Job Accommodation Network (JAN)
1-800-526-7234 (voice/TTY)

JAN is a free, confidential service from the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) that provides information on job accommodations for people with disabilities, the employment provisions of the ADA and other related legislation.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
1-800-669-4000 (voice); 1-800-669-6820 (TTY)

The EEOC enforces the ADA's employment provisions. The section of its Web site titled "Disability Discrimination" provides access to resources that can answer employers' questions about how to ensure their hiring process is inclusive of people with disabilities.

ADA National Network

Ten regional ADA Centers sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education's National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research provide ADA information, training and technical assistance across the nation.

Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN)

EARN is a free, confidential service from ODEP that connects employers seeking workers with qualified candidates with disabilities and offers technical assistance to employers on issues relating to hiring and employing individuals with disabilities.


Focus on Ability: Interviewing Applicants with Disabilities? ›

Concentrate on the applicant's technical and professional knowledge, skills, abilities, experiences, and interests. Do not try to imagine how you would perform a specific job if you had the applicant's disability. He or she has mastered alternate ways of living and working.

How do you interview a candidate with disabilities? ›

Likewise, hold individuals with disabilities to the same standards as all applicants. Ask only job-related questions that speak to the functions of the job for which the applicant is applying. Concentrate on the applicant's technical and professional knowledge, skills, abilities, experiences and interests.

What are some of your concerns in interviewing candidates with disabilities? ›

Considerations When Interviewing Candidates with Disabilities
  • Prepare and Educate: ...
  • Create an Accessible Environment: ...
  • Focus on Abilities and Qualifications: ...
  • Communicate Clearly: ...
  • Provide Flexibility: ...
  • Assess Accommodation Needs: ...
  • Foster an Inclusive Culture:
Jun 7, 2023

What is the ADA during the interview process? ›

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), covered employers must provide reasonable accommodations for qualified applicants and candidates with disabilities upon request, unless doing so would create an undue hardship.

Do you have to interview someone with a disability? ›

Do You Have To Interview Someone With A Disability? There is no legal obligation to automatically offer an interview to an applicant with a disability. However, if you fail to interview an applicant as a result of their disability, you could be faced with a claim for disability discrimination.

How do you ace a disability interview? ›

This article shares five tips to ace the job interview and makes sure your disability isn't affecting how you're received by the interviewer.
  1. Do your research. ...
  2. Consider disclosing your disability ahead of time. ...
  3. Don't associate your disability with your weakness. ...
  4. Explain gaps in your work history.

What makes you a great candidate to work with persons with special needs? ›

Many types of professionals get to work with children with special needs every day. While the jobs they perform and their personalities may differ, the best people in this field are organized, adaptable, calming, understanding, dedicated, and passionate.

What are the 3 critical issues to be aware of when planning an interview? ›

Things often don't go as you anticipate, but with planning, competence, and credibility, you will be prepared for the eventualities of the interview. You will be able to adjust and adapt to direct the interview toward successful completion.

What are your biggest concerns about conducting an interview? ›

6 Problems with Today's Job Interview Process
  • Lack of Training for Interviewers. Interviewers frequently lack interviewing skills and the resources to improve.
  • Lack of Organization. ...
  • Lack of Rapport Building. ...
  • Lack of Emphasis. ...
  • Unconscious Bias. ...
  • A Bad Candidate Experience.
Aug 3, 2022

What are the main objectives of problem interviews? ›

The main task is to find out how target consumers solve a particular problem, what experience they had in solving it, what difficulties they encountered. Questions should not push the consumer to evaluate the product or contain its advertising.

What five steps should be taken to comply with ADA? ›

5 Steps to Meet ADA Requirements for Office Buildings
  1. 1) Familiarize Yourself with ADA Rules.
  2. 2) Audit Your Building for Noncompliance Issues.
  3. 3) Determine Who Is Responsible for Renovations.
  4. 4) Find Specialists Who Can Provide the Products and Services You Need.
  5. 5) Ensure All New Features Are Installed Correctly.
Jan 7, 2020

What are the five steps of the ADA process? ›

As a general rule, you can expect to follow these five steps for each case that falls under ADA requirements.
  • Request relevant medical information. ...
  • Review the job description. ...
  • Identify possible accommodations. ...
  • Select an accommodation. ...
  • Follow up with the employee.

What is a disability interview like? ›

These interviews may feel a bit like a job interview. The interviewer will ask you questions about basic personal information, your disability and medical history, your employment history over the last 15 years, your job duties, other sources of income, your household, and other resources you have access to.

Should you talk about disability in an interview? ›

Consider taking charge during the first interview to talk about your disability and how you would handle any impact on the job. You may want to describe any accommodation you use, how it helps your performance, or demonstrate how you would perform difficult functions.

How do you ask for disability questions? ›

Using matter-of-fact language is the best way to handle it. Ask about the specific thing (like "May I ask about your ADHD?") or use the word "disability." Questions like "What's wrong with you?" can come off as insensitive. Questions like "May I ask what your disability is?" is much more polite and neutral in tone.

What questions do you have about disabilities? ›

10 slightly awkward questions you might have about disability
  • Am I allowed to say someone with a disability is inspiring? ...
  • What is wrong with the 'r-word' or 'spastic'? ...
  • Can I use accessible parking or toilets if I don't have a disability? ...
  • Do I need to bend down to talk to someone in a wheelchair?

How do you interview a hearing impaired person? ›

Do not shout, but speak clearly and naturally. Focus on the candidate's abilities, not their hearing loss. difficult for lip readers to identify words. Ask the candidate what type of interpreting services they will require if your company will provide the interpreter.

How do you source candidates with disabilities? ›

Working with state and local service providers, such as vocational rehabilitation agencies, American Job Centers, Centers for Independent Living (CILs) and other community-based organizations, is key to helping you find candidates with disabilities with the skills, experiences and interests your organization needs.


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