Your life experiences make up who you are. You are a whole person with skills and abilities, education, work experience, and community involvement, regardless of a disability. You have value. Let this knowledge define you during your job search.
And if you need an extra bit of confidence, I’ve listed some things you can do before and during an interview to give you an advantage over the competition.
Pay attention to your appearance. If you take a few days before the interview to think about what you will wear, you can try clothes on, ask for opinions from others, polish your shoes, and the like. “Skypers” need to test their equipment and check their background environment to make sure it is not too “busy” in appearance. The bottom line is that you want to look like a person who cares about getting the job.
Review the job description. Review the kinds of software and other technology that are addressed in the job descritpion. Are they different or similar to what you used in your past work experiences? If there are more current versions that you previously used or if they are otherwise different, look for ways to brush up your skills. This can usually be done by using online resources. Review the rest of the job description. Note examples of past paid or volunteer work that you can use to illustrate your ability to fulfill each requirement of the job.
Take note of each interviewer’s name and contact information. If more than one person interviewed you, and you can get each interviewer’s business card, try to have a “thank you” card ready to handwrite for each interviewer. If more than one person interviewed you, but you were not able to get each interviewer’s business card, try to have a single “thank you” card ready to handwrite, and address it to all on the committee. This “thank you” card should cite a memorable comment or point that each of the interviewers made, which shows that you were listening. Thank them for their time and effort in reviewing your application materials for the position. Mail the “thank you” card or cards on the day you were interviewed.
Prepare ahead for questions. I am often told, “I know how to interview already” or “I do really well with answering questions.” Successful interviews are the result of forethought, research and practice. When you go into an interview unprepared, you run the risk of raising red flags for an interviewer, such as discussing your personal life or discussing past work experiences in a light that is less than flattering. Further, you run the risk of giving overly long answers because you are anxious and are wanting to fully answer each question. You must practice knowing when to stop answering each question and start waiting for the next question.
Also, people often avoid thinking about what their answers would be to what they deem to be “obvious” questions. These questions, however, are the ones that produce the highest level of anxiety. They tend to be more personal in nature. Here is a list of some questions that could be asked that you need to know how to answer in order to have a good interview.
1. Tell me a little about yourself.
This is not an invitation to talk about your hobbies, your pets, where you live, or anything personal. This is your opportunity to describe yourself in the context of the position you are interviewing for.
2. What are your strengths?
State a few of your strengths that are relevant to the position, and tie each one into what the position requires and how that strength will benefit the company in that role. Avoid citing “perfectionism” or “attention to detail” as they are overused by job seekers.
3. What are your weaknesses?
State a couple of weakness and explain how each weakness is remedied through actions on your part. If you can further frame your answer in the context of the job or if you can suggest a solution involving the team at the job, all the better!
4. Tell me a time when you had a conflict with your supervisor.
Do not choose your most emotionally charged example. Pick something moderate that you can briefly describe, such as a conflict over your schedule, and briefly address how you resolved the conflict.
5. Why did you leave your last job?
This is a tricky one. The answer depends on many variables. If you left because of a disability, you can say that you experienced a life-altering illness or injury from which you have since recovered and are now ready to go back to work (and then stop). You may have left work due to a bad economy. Be brief and positive. Do not make apologies for who you are and what has happened to you. You are stating the facts.