Landing a good job, fitting into a new workplace, and successfully advocating for yourself to ensure you are a productive and valued employee, while never easy, are even more complicated when you have hearing loss. Even the first steps of applying for a job and navigating an interview can be a challenge. To meet your career goals, you need the right tools, an understanding of your own hearing loss and the accommodations that work best for you, as well as the skills to successfully advocate for the necessary accommodations at work. Take note of the following tips to help you better manage the job application process.
APPLYING FOR A JOB
- Only apply for jobs for which you are qualified.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (and the Rehabilitation Act for federal government jobs and government contractor jobs) prohibit discrimination against qualified employees with disabilities. Learn more at www.ada.gov.
- Qualified employees are those who can perform the essential functions of the job. If you feel that you need more experience, consider doing some volunteer work.
- What are the “essential functions” of the job?
- These details should be found on the job vacancy announcement and discussed further at the initial interview. If the essential functions are not obvious, don't hesitate to ask the job poster, recruiter, or Human Resource officer.
- The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) determines on a case-by-case basis whether a function is essential by evaluating if the employee(s) doing the job can actually perform the function.
- Does the position exist only to perform a particular function? For example, if an individual is hired to be a court reporter, the ability to transcribe spoken words into a written format would be an essential function, since that is the only reason the position exists.
- What degree of expertise or skill is required to perform the function? If an employee is hired for his or her expertise or ability to perform a particular function, the performance of that task would be an essential function. A person hired with the credentials of an attorney may be asked to draft contracts as an essential function of the job.
- The term “essential functions” does not include the marginal functions of the position. For example, if someone hired as an accountant was also asked to answer the phone, depending on the situation, it could be considered a marginal function.
WHEN DO YOU REVEAL YOUR HEARING LOSS?
How and when to inform a prospective employer about your hearing loss is entirely up to you. There is no need to insert your hearing loss into your resume or letter of inquiry. Many employers have little understanding about hearing loss, so it's best to not allow any misguided assumptions get in the way of landing an interview.
Any potential employer is not permitted to ask about your medical condition or require you to take a medical exam before making a job offer. An employer cannot ask whether you have a hearing loss or if you have had a hearing evaluation. However, an employer can ask if you can perform the duties of the job with or without reasonable accommodation. You are the one who determines how and when to reveal your hearing loss. Some considerations:
- Does the employer use phone interviews to screen prospective employees? If you have trouble hearing on the phone and need the assistance of Telecommunications Relay Services (for example, you use a captioned phone service), consider advising the interviewer/employer that any delay in response is a result of the nature of the technology that you are using to accommodate your hearing loss. You are also entitled to request remote Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) services when notifying a potential employer about your hearing loss.
- Do you need an accommodation for your in-person interview? If you plan to request a CART or sign language interpreter for your interview or at any point in the hiring process, you must disclose your hearing loss.
- How many people will be at the interview? While you may be able to handle a one-to-one interview without any accommodation and without revealing your hearing loss, you may be at a disadvantage without any accommodation if the interview is conducted in a large room with several people, unknown acoustics, and poor lighting.
- Do you use an assistive listening device (ALD)? If you own and/or depend on a personal ALD, plan to bring it along. Explain the device briefly and then move on to the interview. Don't dwell on the accommodation. This shows your ability to take charge of the situation and manage your hearing loss.
- Will you need accommodations on the job? If you think you will need accommodations to participate in meetings, phone calls, or other tasks, consider informing the employer of your hearing loss at the interview. This gives the employer some time to fully understand your request and how the accommodation will fit in the workplace.
- How comfortable are you with your hearing loss? If you are comfortable with informing your prospective employer about your hearing loss and the accommodations that work best for you, do so at the interview. Showing a can-do attitude and a positive approach to your hearing loss will work to your advantage in the interview and on the job.
IF YOU REVEAL YOUR HEARING LOSS
- When you arrive at the interview, be prepared to make changes on the spot. You might need to ask people to change seats, face windows, or pull down blinds.
- Don't apologize for your hearing loss and don't dwell on it. Inform employers that you are fully aware of the workplace accommodations that work best for you.
- Focus on what you can do for the employer. Let them know what an asset you will be to their organization.
CONSIDER THE EMPLOYER'S PERSPECTIVE
- Put yourself in the interviewers’ shoes. They don't know you and your hearing loss and want to be sure they hire the right person for the job. Put them at ease with you as a person who has hearing loss and a potential employee with the skills they need.
- The interviewers might wonder if your hearing loss will get in the way of your ability to perform your job. Your goal at the interview is to convince them that you can do the job, regardless of your hearing loss. Sell your skills, experience, demonstrated competence, self-assurance, and personality.
GET COMFORTABLE WITH THE PROCESS
Your attitude is important. Don't bluff. If you pretend you heard something when you actually didn't, the interviewer may think that you have poor communication skills or that you cannot answer the question appropriately. Remember, even people with normal hearing ask others to speak up and/or repeat themselves from time to time. Put your energy into careful planning of your job application and advancing your skills. This will boost your confidence throughout the application process.
- List your strengths. Don't just think about them, actually make a list.
- Be ready with concrete examples of your accomplishments, both on the job, as a volunteer, and in other areas of your life.
- Focus on why you could be valuable to the organization.
- Practice stress-relieving activities such as relaxation, meditation, exercise, positive thinking–whatever works for you.
- List your fears about the interview and how you would handle each one. “What's the worst thing that could happen?”
- If you plan to reveal your hearing loss, practice ways to address the subject succinctly.
APPLICATION KEY POINTS
- Only apply for jobs you are qualified for.
- If you need experience, volunteer.
- Focus on your skills and experience, not on your hearing loss.
- Plan for your interview, including possible accomodations.
- Be positive. Face and control your fears.
For more information about employment for people with hearing loss, visit https://www.hearingloss.org/hearing-help/communities/employees/
Thoughts on something you read here? Write to us at HJ@wolterskluwer.com