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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Job-Seeking Strategy for Differently-abled Candidates

The single biggest barrier to full employment for the differently abled is the "fear of the unknown" of hiring/working with someone different. Employers know and generally comply with the law, but little is being done to educate co-workers in effective strategies for coping with their apprehension. I believe that hiring committees composed of co-workers/superiors/subordinates may often be the derailing factor in a differently-abled person's job search process. Peer committees may simply not know how working with a differently-abled individual will work. I've often heard comments from potential co-workers that range from "well, how can she talk to us if she's deaf?" to "well, there's not enough room in here for a wheelchair.”

As differently-abled job searchers go through the process of interviewing, a good strategy may be to address potential concerns directly. This strategy is not required on the searcher's part, but in my professional opinion, it is a technique to counterbalance the prejudice that people may feel -- whether or not they express it. Remember, technically, employers are limited by law to asking if the candidate can accomplish the job (and in some cases, ask the candidate for an illustration of how). What I would argue, however, is that the real questions are the ones that a coworker would be afraid to ask. I think that the best defense, if you will, is an effective offense -- putting people at ease.

For example, I recently had a deaf person as a client. She was concerned that the company where she was interviewing would be afraid she could not communicate with co-workers. As an excellent lip reader who also is verbally articulate, this client brought this issue up at the interview in the following way: "I want to let you know that I'm able to read lips, so understanding what is being said should not be a problem as long as I can see everyone's face. If you need to get my attention, just wave or give me a tap on the arm. Likewise, if you don't understand something I say, please ask me to repeat myself -- no need to be embarrassed -- communication is the key."

READ: Job-Seeking Strategy for Differently-abled Candidates: Address Employers’ Fears Head-On

Comments: Post a Comment

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