What Can You Ask About Disability in Interviews?

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Conducting a job interview can be a tough, even without considering which questions you can and cannot ask as the employer! What if you think a candidate might have a disability? Is there a right and wrong way to ask questions and learn more? According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, an employer with 15 or more employees must provide equal opportunities to people with disabilities and can no longer ask questions directly related to a disability during the interview process. This means that reasonable accommodations for the employee must be made without asking personal questions, only appropriate job-related questions. Reasonable accommodations provided by the business do not always mean dollar signs though!

But how do you figure all that out during an interview?

First things first, as a business you can encourage candidates to self-identify during the application process. Typically employers do not like to know about employees personal lives, but if there is an Affirmative Action statement on an application, it may encourage candidates to self-identify as a person with a disability. If a business has an Affirmative Action statement on their application, there are a bunch of regulations on how that confidential information must be kept here.

What can you ask during an interview and what should you steer clear of asking?

What You Can’t Ask About Disability in Interviews

  • Do you have any disabilities or impairments that might affect your ability to do the job? This one might seem obvious, but it’s the most important question that you should not ask!
  • Have you ever been treated for any mental condition? Again, while it would be great to know about preexisting medical conditions as an employer, this question is out of bounds.
  • Have you ever been treated by a psychologist or psychiatrist? If so, for what? That’s a very personal question. Perhaps you shouldn’t even ask it to current co-workers, let alone a job applicant?
  • Do you suffer from any health-related condition that might prevent you from performing this job? Again, no questions to preexisting medical conditions, no matter how much you or your employer would like to know.
  • How many days were you absent from work because of illness or disability last year? You cannot directly ask this question, however, you can tell the applicant what your attendance requirements are and then ask whether it would be possible to meet those requirements.
  • Have you ever filed a worker’s compensation claim? It might be nice to know this information as the employer; it’s never appropriate to ask during an interview.

What You Can Ask About Disability in Interviews

  • Can you perform the job functions of this position? This question is safe, because, as an employer, you need to know if this candidate is qualified or will need reasonable accommodations.
  • How would you perform the job functions? This question is perfectly okay to ask, but you might want to start asking everyone you interview the same question so you are consistent.
  • What are your professional certifications and licenses? This question makes perfect sense to ask and it might even be listed on a resume, so that you can make note of before the interview!

If the candidate has self-identified as a person with a disability you can ask what type of reasonable accommodation he or she might need on-the-job. Always remember to remind the candidate that their personal information will be kept confidential. Another tip when interviewing a person with a disability is to always use person-focused language. Don’t focus on the disability when you are speaking, but the person. Be genuine while asking your interview questions and you’ll generate genuine responses from the employment candidate!

Above all, remember to follow the golden rule: do unto others as you would have done to you. If you’re asking a question that would make you feel uncomfortable, chances are it’s making your candidate feel uncomfortable! Treat others as you would like to be treated (and don’t ask any inappropriate questions, of course) and your interview will go smoothly!

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