When we are offered the opportunity to present ourselves at a job interview our minds can go into ‘overdrive’ with all sorts of questions coming into our heads. The excitement and sudden adrenline rush can of course work in our favour to encourage us to consider all possible questions that might come up in the interview. However for a dyslexic person even the thought of attending an interview can cause extreme anxiety.
For people with specific learning difficulties there are a whole host of additional issues related to their disability or learning difference. If these additional questions and concerns are not worked through carefully beforehand this could seriously affect the outcome of this potentially valuable meeting.
I would suggest the following questions DO need to be considered by the dyslexic interviewee;
- What does the employing organisation know about dyslexia and specific learning difficulties?
- How can I ensure the interview panel know that my dyslexia comes with strengths as well as challenges?
- How can I talk about reasonable adjustments and ensure this is received positively?
So now let’s look at these and consider how best to proceed:
Q1. What does this company know about dyslexia and specific learning difficulties?
It should not be taken for granted that the organisation actually understands dyslexia and specific learning difficulties – even if you have volunteered this information to them pre. interview. Whilst dyslexia (mild, moderate or severe) is covered under the Equality Act 2010 the changes in legislation related to dyslexia are still only relatively new. Unfortunately many people still think dyslexia is simply about weaknesses with literacy and numeracy. If the company carry the ‘two ticks’ symbol you will know they have a positive attitude towards disability – however it still does not necessarily mean they really understand dyslexia and specific learning difficulties. However, if the company has the British Dyslexia Association’s Dyslexia Friendly Quality Mark then you can be reassured the organisation IS ‘dyslexia friendly’ as this accreditation looks at the internal processes of the organisation as well as staff awareness. However, I believe we need to manage your expectations here ….. whilst an increasing number of organisations are showing an interest in this accreditation there are currently only a few trail blazer employers who hold this at the present time.
Q2. How can I ensure the interview panel know that my dyslexia comes with strengths as well as challenges?
To ensure you have the opportunity to really showcase your dyslexia-related strengths which may include; problem solving, big picture thinking, creativity, determination, being innovative and having good verbal communication skills I would suggest you reflect on situations when these have helped you in your previous jobs etc. These examples make things ‘real’ and as you are recalling things you have actually experienced yourself you should be able to recall them fairly easily even in an interview situation. If you can imagine yourself in the position of the potential line manager, or one of the other people interviewing you, you will understand the importance of highlighting all the ‘good stuff’ and ensuring they understand that with coping strategies in place you can be a valuable asset to the organisation. (If you were a line manager would you been keen to employ someone who you think is going to be a problem?). This is your opportunity to really sell yourself!
Q3. How can I talk about reasonable adjustments and ensure this is received positively?
If you visit the Department of Work and Pensions website when you first start looking for new jobs and certainly before an interview you can apply to see if you would qualify for the Access to Work Scheme. By contacting them and making a formal application you will find out whether you will be able to have a Worplace Needs Assessment when you get offered a job. (As dyslexia is recognised as a disability this is covered by the DWP Access to Work Scheme and although they say each application is decided on a ‘case by case’ basis at the present time most dyslexic applicants are able to qualify). If you do get a positive response – you can print off a letter from Department of Work and Pensions stating that you qualify and you can take this along to your interview.
If you’ve had a Workplace Needs Assessment in the past you can explain how it works to those interviewing you – as this may be completely new to some people on the panel. If this is going to be your first Workplace Needs Assessment – I suggest you just do your homework on it so you can explain it with confidence. One thing the employer will be keen to know is that if a Workplace Needs Assessment is arranged in the first 4 weeks of employment through Access to Work then DWP will usually cover the costs of majority of the recommended reasonable adjustments.
Doing your research on the organisation, their disability policy and their disability related accreditations can give you a good ‘baseline’ from which to prepare for your interview. Remember there will probably be at least one person on the interview panel who doesn’t fully understand dyslexia – so consider how you can inform them in a way that is helpful to them and to you.
Having ‘to hand’ the names of famous dyslexic people could be useful in your conversations – especially if they are famous for something related to the type of work you are applying for. Also, whilst they will be interested to hear about how your dyslexic-strengths and your coping strategies that have helped in the workplace in the past, if you are coming direct from education I would suggest you have a think about how these have been useful in your studies or in your leisure activities etc.
All of the things covered here should help reduce anxiety and help you to perform at your best in the interview. Low self esteem and confidence issues so often go ‘hand in hand’ with dyslexia and specific learning difficulties and it is hoped that this article will be useful in reducing pre interview stress and help you perform at your best for a successful outcome at interview. Good luck …..and please let us know if you have found this helpful.
Workplace Dyslexia Consultant, Trainer and Coach/Associate British Dyslexia Association