Sharing information about your disability: Six options for when to do it

  1. In the CV – it’s unlikely this would be the best option. However, there are times when it might be. Perhaps you have decided that you just want to mention your disability in passing and you feel that there is a relevant section in your CV for you to do this.

It might also be necessary to do it in the CV because sometimes a CV is the only document the employer wants you to apply with. If you are keen to let them know at this stage of the application – and you can only submit a CV – you’d need to give some thought to where in your CV to include this.

Tip: Mentioning your disability in your CV might get missed by the employer and there are clearer ways of letting the employer know such as sending a short separate email, filling out the appropriate section of an application form (if there is one), or by having a conversation with the employer.

2. In an application form – usually there is a section which asks about disability. Hopefully there will be space on the form beyond just ticking a box, so you have the chance to provide more details about your disability. 

Tip:  You can’t be 100% sure that the employer / people interviewing you will know you have a disability just because you’ve completed that section. This is because the section in the application form may be kept separate from the rest of the application. This means the answers to disability and equal opportunity questions might be anonymised, or sent to HR.

3. Covering letter – this is often a good option. You could write about it in the context of meeting a specific criteria (e.g. they might be asking for strong time management skills and you are very well-organised because of your disability). Another option would be to write about your disability in stand-alone paragraph. I have seen this done well. Perhaps you are part of a student disability network or your disability gives you a natural affinity with the company.

4. At interview – it might be that the employer asks you about your motivation for joining the company or about your skills. This might be the ideal time to talk about your disability.

Tip: Don’t give an example about your disability for every interview answer. The employer will also be interested in hearing about your work experience, industry knowledge, and all-round suitability for the role.

Bonus tip: If you require adjustment/s at the interview, you would need to let the employer about your disability before the interview.

5. Another time during the recruitment process – you might have been initially wary of letting the employer know you are disabled, but your confidence in the company has grown during the application stages and you now feel comfortable to tell them.

Or, it might be that a presentation, psychometric test or other kind of assessment crops up during the application process and you feel these will be tricky for you to do without adjustments, so you need to let the employer know.

Tip: If this is the case, it’d be good to focus on what you need in terms of adjustments for the presentation/psychometric test/assessment, rather than changes you might need in the job itself.

6. Once in the job – perhaps you could let the employer know during the first few days of the job instead of during the application or interview stage. Usually you have an induction period at work once you start in which there will be opportunities to talk to your manager and meet your new colleagues.

Perhaps you haven’t shared anything about your disability with your employer previously because you didn’t think it was relevant but suddenly something unexpected happens e.g. you have been asked to return to the office when you anticipated you’d be working from home, or vice versa. Maybe new duties have been added to your responsibilities. These changes in circumstances might mean you now want to tell the employer.

Tip: The person you talk to might not end up being your work contact / line manager long-term so that’s something to be aware of. It might be you want them to relay the chat you’ve had to certain other people at work. If you get a new manager – or you start a role in a different team at work – they might not have been given the information you initially shared when starting the role.

Obviously, you might not want to let the employer know about your disability at all. It’s also the case that application forms and processes vary from employer to employer. For example, you might be intending to talk about your disability in a covering letter only to realise there isn’t one.  Or you might be prompted to mention your disability at a particular stage, for instance if applying as part of a certain scheme or initiative.  

Why not have a chat with your university Careers Service and check out other posts on this blog on the topic.

Edmund Lewis, AGCAS Disability Task Group, University of Westminster


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