So you landed an interview; you read up about the company beforehand … now it’s face-to-face time
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the interview stage of your employment journey. But there is still a way to go. How you present yourself in the interview could mean receiving a job offer – or starting the process of looking for a job all over again.
The first stage of the interview takes place before you even get to the appointment. It should start the moment you receive the invitation to attend an interview – if not before. Remember that first impressions last, so ensure you have something appropriate to wear and that you won’t be late. You need to let the interviewer know that despite your disability, you are reliable, presentable and punctual.
Find out exactly where the interview is going to take place and do your research on how to get there. If you can, actually go to the location a day or two beforehand. If you are using public transport, find out where to get off; if you are driving or getting a lift, check on parking availability and how long it will take you to get from the parking into the building.
Plan on getting to the interview 15 or 20 minutes early, to give yourself time to go to the toilet if you need to, to freshen up, or just to have some leeway in case of traffic hold-ups.
The second part of your preparation involves researching the sector and company itself – corporate brochures, websites, and industry magazines are starting points. You should also try and find out more about the job itself so that during the interview, you are able to place emphasis on your skills that match that job. While you won’t be able to source all the information on the type of job before the interview, you could do research on similar types of jobs. This will help you better explain or clarify your understanding of the job and why you know you are suitably qualified for it.
Where possible, do some research (via LinkedIn, or other tools) to learn about the people who will be interviewing you. It makes a good impression if you demonstrate that you know about some of their accomplishments – for example, the school or college or university they went to. Use this information appropriately during the interview.
This will also assist you to anticipate and think about your answers to the types of possible questions you are likely to be asked and give practical examples to demonstrate your competence or aptitude for the job.
At the interview you will face a range of questions, some of which will relate to your education and experience, as well as your strengths and weaknesses, and your ambitions or goals. Also be ready to talk about some of the failures you have encountered and what you learnt.
You also need to be prepared with questions you would like to ask: this could be as simple as “How does this company make money?”, “What kind of future (or growth areas) do you see for this company?” and “What type of people are you as a manager happy to have in your team?”
Make copies of your CV and take one with you, even if you have sent it in an email beforehand. If you have examples of your work, or a portfolio, take that too.
When you meet the interviewer, offer a firm and positive greeting: a friendly and audible “Good morning (or afternoon)”, with a handshake and eye contact (if you are able) and address him/her by their surname.
The first few questions might be “ice-breakers” – aimed at allowing you to calm your nerves. This could include things like whether you found your way easily, what the weather’s doing or whether you would like something to drink. Keep your answers brief but friendly. When the interviewer requires you to elaborate, he/she will tell you to do so. Avoid rambling. Remember time is money – even in an interview.
There are certain personal questions an interviewer is not allowed or supposed to ask. These include whether you are married and/or have children. An interviewer may not question you about your religious beliefs or ask whether you are HIV-positive. In addition, you cannot be asked whether you have any disabilities.
However, an interviewer is entitled to ask if there is anything that may interfere with your ability to do the job or be present at the office during standard working hours.
The interviewer may also ask what special or reasonable accommodation you would need to be able to do your job. It is important that you respond as honestly as possible. The business will not be able to accommodate you if it does not know what your needs are. If you get the job, your evasiveness could result in misunderstandings and unrealistic expectations on both sides. The majority of employers and/or managers give people the benefit of doubt if they come across as professional and genuine.
SAE4D is a non-profit employer organisation that was set up to promote the recruitment, retention and development of people with disabilities in the workplace. It enables organisations to share experiences, develop best practices, and develop ways of effectively confronting and tackling prejudices that act as barriers to the integration of people with disabilities in the workplace.
Jerry Gule also contributed to another article written about career guidance for people with disabilities. Read more here.
Dr Jerry Gule is chairman of South African Employers for Disability (SAE4D) and general manager: Total Marketing Services Competency Centre (Pty) Ltd.