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Rehearsing for the Interview

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There are a few things you should do before you actually enter your job interview, all of which should help prepare you and eliminate some of your anxieties. If possible, take a drive to the interview site. See if there isn't a place nearby where you will be able to relax before the interview, like a coffee shop, fast food restaurant, or even one of those bookstores with comfortable chairs. See how long it takes you to get there, and then plan to arrive 45 minute6 early on the day of the interview and spend a little time at the coffee shop composing your thoughts and relaxing. This way, if you run into a little bit of traffic, you will know that you have a cushion, and you can relax.

The same is true if you are going to use public transportation. Get a copy of the schedules for the trains or buses you will need to take. Plan your schedule so that if each train or bus you need to take is one behind, you will still make it there thirty minutes ahead of time. Make sure that para transit is available if appropriate.

The last thing that you want is to go into an interview frazzled, and nothing will upset you more than waiting in construction traffic as you watch the seconds tick away, knowing that you are going to be late. It starts you out on the wrong foot, and it puts you in a frame of mind that doesn't come across well in an interview.

Practice, Practice, Practice

If you have done all of your research into the company, the field, and the recruiter, and if you took seriously the challenge of assessing your own skills and abilities, you will be able to go into the interview knowing that you would be a great fit for this position. The next most important thing you can do to increase your chances of doing well in a job interview is to practice your skills ahead of time. Know what it is that makes you a great candidate for this position, and be prepared to state that in as many ways as possible. Remember, everyone who is interviewing is presumably qualified to do the job. The question on the interviewer's mind is going to be twofold: Who can do the job best, and who is the best fit?

Of course, if your disability is visible to the interviewer, there is an additional question, which puts you at a disadvantage. Quite often, the interviewer will begin to question our first assumption that everyone who is interviewing is qualified for the position. Consciously or subconsciously, the interviewer may begin to wonder how you can do the job. You will definitely need to perform much better than the other candidates just to be considered at par with them. We don't have to look far for inspiration, however. Spud Webb was a great NBA player at 5'7". Jim Abbott is a great Major League Baseball pitcher with one arm. And heck, Lyle Lovett was married to Julia Roberts! Chances are, however, that you don't have to look too far past yourself, and to the obstacles you may have already overcome, to get yourself where you are today. Focus on giving examples of how you have already performed many or all the functions that will be required of you in this position either in past positions, internships, or in other settings.

In addition to the ability question, a person with a visible disability will also have to deal with a magnified version of the second overarching question: Will this person fit in? Your ability to put the interviewer at ease quickly and to focus on you rather than on your disability will be the key to your success. This is no small challenge, and it is why it's imperative that you perform extremely well in the interview.

With that in mind, you have to prepare yourself to answer questions that you can anticipate being asked. Write out responses if it helps you, but be ready to use each question as an opportunity to sell yourself to the employer. When you are actually in the interview, just as important as your answers to the questions will be how much you really understand what the questioner is asking. While some questions may seem fairly straightforward, most questions have at least a couple of sub questions built into them. As you shape your answer, pay as much attention to addressing the sub question(s) as you do to the question itself.

The best way to practice is in front of a video camera in the presence of either a career planning professional or a person who conducts interviews on a regular basis. This is particularly helpful the nearer you are to the interview. Prior to this, you can practice on your own with a tape recorder. The earlier practice sessions will give you the opportunity to hone your answers. The videotaped session will give you a feeling for how you appear during the interview.

This objective viewpoint can help you determine whether you appear relaxed, confident, and engaging, or whether you appear nervous, introverted, and bashful. You can then repeat the exercise, this time being conscious of your mannerisms and nonverbal cues. As you practice your interviewing skills, your confidence will become more and more evident, and you will be able to position yourself in the most positive way possible.

Disclosing Your Disability

If your disability is visible, your interviewer may have questions about your ability to do the job. You should be prepared for these questions, and you can do that by first making contact with the Job Accommodation Network. With information about the nature of the job and your disability, the professionals at the Job Accommodation Network can help you determine which accommodations will be helpful to you in performing the functions of the job.

If your disability is visible, it is best to address it directly early on in the interview. Because human nature is what it is, a failure to disclose the visible disability may result in the interviewer going through the motions, trying to be careful not to break any laws, but focusing less on your answers. It is better to address the disability up front, point out that it will not impact your ability to perform the functions of the job, or that it will require only minimal accommodations. Although there is no guarantee, this approach is your best bet at getting the interviewer's attention focused where you want it on your ability to do the job.

If your disability is not visible, it is up to you as to when or if you ever disclose it. In most cases, I have advised clients to wait until after an offer is extended to disclose any disability. After you have agreed upon the terms of employment and have established a starting date, you should mention any accommodations you may need so that the employer can have them in place for you when you start. If your disability is not visible and you do not need any accommodations at this point, there is no reason to discuss the disability at all. While some clients have felt "dishonest" about this approach, the truth is that, unfortunately, discrimination still exists, and the more you give the people around you the chance to get to know the real you, the less likely they will hold on to prejudicial attitudes when they do find out about your disability.
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By using Employment Crossing, I was able to find a job that I was qualified for and a place that I wanted to work at.
Madison Currin - Greenville, NC
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