how to ask for a disability accommodation for a job interview

A reader writes:

I hoped you could answer a question –– ideally with a disability/employment lawyer or other specialist –– about disclosing disabilities at the interview stage.

Your site is emphatic that disabilities should not be disclosed until an offer is received, due to the possibility for (unconscious) discrimination.

This makes sense, but it leaves out folks who have invisible disabilities which may need to be addressed for the interview to go well –– among other disabilities, these may include autism and ADHD, which may affect how people process and respond to interview questions or information shared during the interview; learning disabilities such as dyslexia or dyscalculia, which may affect how people complete asked-for tasks during the interview process; and learning/movement disabilities which may affect how someone moves through a space during an interview.

What guidance or considerations should folks with such disabilities take into consideration, in deciding when to disclose during the interview stage, who to disclose to (the search chair or HR), what information is necessary, and how such disclosures should be framed? What documentation, if any, is legally allowable for an accommodation request during the interview stage?

Ask and you shall receive! I spoke with staff at the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) about these questions. Our conversation is below.

I sometimes hear from people that they feel comfortable asking for accommodations for physical disabilities, but feel awkward and uncertain asking for accommodations for cognitive disabilities or neurodiversity — for example,  receiving the interview questions in advance. They worry that employers won’t be as amenable to those requests (regardless of their legal obligation to accommodate them) and/or that even if the request is granted, it will count against them in the hiring process (even though legally it can’t). What advice do you have for people who worry about that?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), job applicants, interviewees and employees never have to disclose a disability until an accommodation is needed. Deciding whether to disclose and request an accommodation is a personal decision. Some feel strongly that a disability should be disclosed as early into the hiring process as possible, while others only disclose a disability when a need for an accommodation arises.

Applicants should develop a strategy ahead of time, which may include initially asking for the questions in a way that does not reveal a disability and seeing if that is something the employer is willing to do. However, when there is no indication the request is related to a disability, this approach may not work for a number of reasons. For example, if the employer is assessing a basic job qualification, such as an applicant’s ability to assess a problem and communicate clear solutions under time constraints, they may be unwilling to provide the questions in advance. Role playing is often a successful way for applicants in this scenario to prepare, develop interview instincts, and in turn build confidence.

If the applicant needs the interview questions ahead of time in order to have an equal opportunity to participate in the application process, then requesting an accommodation for a reason related to a medical condition may be the best option.

With something like receiving the questions in advance, what’s the best way to make it clear that this is a legitimate medical accommodation and not just someone who gets nervous in interviews and wants to come in extra prepared (which we might also be sympathetic to, but which the law doesn’t cover)?

If an applicant chooses to disclose a disability and make an accommodation request, they should have a plan. This includes determining how much information they are comfortable disclosing, understanding their options and the potential benefits, and then formulating a clear strategy.

To help alleviate potential skepticism by the employer, it may be helpful for the applicant to be forthcoming about the nature of their disability, the functional limitations involved, and how the disability impacts their equitable participation in the interview process.

The selection process often moves rapidly during the interview phase. To prevent delays, the applicant may want to consider providing supporting medical information (limited to the specific condition necessitating the accommodation) from their doctor or health care provider when they make the accommodation request, rather than waiting to see if the employer requests that information. This proactive approach by the applicant could help assure the employer that the disclosure of a disability and the need for accommodation is substantiated with facts. It may also be advantageous to be transparent and clearly explain the need for accommodation as the request is made. When the employer understands the intention is to allow the applicant equal opportunity to participate in the interview and give the employer a more accurate representation of their abilities and qualifications, this too can help alleviate employer skepticism. In the end, it’s up to the applicant to decide what approach aligns with their comfort level.

Formulating the best strategy to request a reasonable accommodation during the interview process can be overwhelming for some applicants. That is where JAN can assist. JAN provides free one-on-one practical guidance and technical assistance on job accommodation solutions and Title I of the ADA, including what to do during the pre-employment phase.

What documentation can an employer legally request when someone asks for an interview accommodation?

In its Enforcement Guidance, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that when the disability and/or the need for accommodation is not obvious, the employer may ask the individual who has requested an accommodation for reasonable documentation about their disability and functional limitations. The employer is entitled to know that the individual has a covered disability for which they need a reasonable accommodation.

Reasonable documentation means that the employer may require only the documentation that is needed to establish that a person has an ADA disability and that the disability necessitates a reasonable accommodation. The employer may further require that the documentation about the disability and the functional limitations come from an appropriate health care, rehabilitation, or vocational professional. An employer may also ask the applicant to sign a limited release allowing the employer to submit a list of specific questions to the health care, rehabilitation, or vocational professional.

The EEOC advises that an employer cannot ask for documentation when: (1) both the disability and the need for reasonable accommodation are obvious, or (2) the individual has already provided the employer with sufficient information to substantiate that they have an ADA disability and need the reasonable accommodation requested.

If a job seeker asks for an accommodation and is denied, what should they do? For instance, using the example of wanting to see the questions ahead of time, what if the employer responds, “We don’t do that, in order to keep a level playing field for all candidates?” Obviously in that situation they would be missing the point that this is an official request for accommodation — but what’s the best way for the job candidate to respond?

The best response may be one that helps the employer fully understand the need for the questions in advance (if the candidate has not already thoroughly explained) and that providing them is leveling the playing field, not giving the candidate an advantage.

However, employers may still deny a request for an accommodation and that can be frustrating. It might seem like there’s no option. Just like any situation when someone says no, you might be curious about why your request was denied. While there’s no requirement under Title I of the ADA for covered employers to provide a written explanation for why a request for accommodation was denied, nothing prohibits an applicant from asking for a reason.

If you believe the employer’s refusal to provide an accommodation is not reasonable, it might be possible to appeal the accommodation decision. This process might include completing a form to be submitted to and reviewed by HR or an accommodation appeals committee, for example. I recommend contacting someone in HR to see if the employer has a policy in relation to this type of process. If the employer doesn’t have a formal appeal process, you might try going up the chain of command to ask for a formal appeal of the decision (e.g., send an email to the hiring manager and/or HR requesting reconsideration of the decision).

Ideally, asking for information about why an accommodation was denied and/or appealing an accommodation denial should lead to further engagement in the interactive process under the ADA and a fair outcome. But sometimes it doesn’t. If this is true, you should consider filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. The relevant laws enforced by the EEOC require you to file a charge before a lawsuit for unlawful discrimination can be filed. Be aware, there are strict time limits for filing a charge. You also may benefit from advocacy or legal support to resolve the situation. Consider reaching out to your state fair employment practice agency or an advocacy agency for assistance. Many state protection and advocacy agencies have the authority to provide legal representation and other advocacy services to people with disabilities under federal and state laws. JAN offers a state protection and advocacy directory where you can search for contact information for agencies in your state.

Here are a few publications that might be useful resources:

{ 156 comments… read them below }

  1. PlainJane*

    Couldn’t employers avoid the possibility of this kind of discrimination by providing the questions to all interviewees ahead of time? It seems like it would save interview time if applicant wasn’t surprised by having to come up with “three times you handled an interpersonal conflict” or “your biggest work mistake and how you fixed it.” Everyone could have the answers ready to go, and those who are neurodivergent wouldn’t have to ask for accommodations.

    1. cktc*

      I’ve had one job interview where the employer provided the questions ahead of time. I didn’t ask for them – they just sent them to me when they confirmed the interview time with me, so it must have been SOP for them. This occurred within the last ten years.

    2. HR-adjacent*

      This is becoming relatively common in nonprofit/local government roles, at least in my area (urban, west coast US)! I saw it several times in my last job search (2021), and my current company uses that practice too, sending out questions 1 day in advance. I think it makes the interview process feel much less like a “gotcha” for all candidates, not just ones with neurodivergences or disabilities. I’m hoping it will become a more common practice across all sectors in the next few years.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I work for state government, and it’s standard.

        How far in advance is dependent on the agency, but you always have time to gather your thoughts and make notes.

    3. B*

      I’d wager employers think they are measuring something important by asking employees to answer off the cuff. As the JAN staff note in the interview, there are some jobs where the ability to answer some questions without preparation might actually relate to the candidate’s fitness for the job. But that’s probably not a well-considered view most of the time. For many jobs, it would actually be better to measure how well an employee prepares for and performs on a task given a reasonable amount of time, since few workplaces purely operate on a pop-quiz basis.

      1. B*

        Oh, also, sending questions ahead of time means you have to have actual prepared questions. And they have to be unassailable questions that don’t give the slightest whiff of discrimination. Many employers can’t pass one or both of those tests.

        1. Orv*

          This may be why you see it more with government employers. I work for one and we’re required to come up with a list of questions ahead of time and ask every applicant the same questions, for anti-discrimination reasons.

        2. TechWorker*

          A lot of the questions I ask in interviews will depend on earlier answers! I interview mostly grads with not much work experience, so will ask about their projects. But I don’t want a canned paragraph long answer about what they worked on that’s a repeat of their CV, I want to be able to ask in detail to get a sense of whether they really understood what they were doing/what went well/what went badly & why. So I’d be able to provide a top level list of questions but would expect to then want more detail for some of them (depending on how much the candidate gives in their initial response). If you can’t ask follow up questions I don’t really see the point of a live interview.

          1. Username Lost to Time*

            Just a suggestion:
            1) Tell us about a project or part of a project that went badly. What happened, what are some reasons that it went badly? How did you react and would you change your approach?

            2) Tell us about a project or part of a project that went well. What happened…

            Follow up questions definitely have a place, but the detailed questions you’ve described could be provided ahead of time.

          2. Nebula*

            Fwiw, I think mostly when we’re talking about providing questions in advance, it doesn’t mean you’re then not allowed to ask follow up questions. Interviewers provide the top-level questions, and then can follow up on specific points in the moment at the interview.

            1. Glitsy Gus*

              Yeah, I would have no problem providing my base questions to anyone who asks. I don’t want to make this a “gotcha!” or to have people feel unnecessarily intimidated. I would also include, though, that I will most likely have follow up questions to some answers that I can’t provide because they will be based on the conversation and the answer. I think that is fair enough disclosure.

              The tricky part comes in where, like at many places I have worked, I get thrown on to a hiring committee a day or even a couple hours before the interview. I hate that because I feel incredibly underprepared and feel like I’m scrambling the whole time.

          3. I'm just here for the cats!*

            So I work for a state university and we have to have our questions preapproved by HR before interviews. We give the person a copy of the questions at the time of the interview, but if they requested them earlier I don’t think there would be a problem.
            At least at my job it doesn’t mean that you can’t ask follow up questions. Things like “You just mentioned your role with past company, can you ellaborate on your roll” “or can you tell us more about X”

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Agreed, since most interview questions are the same every dang time. Which is how Alison can anticipate them in her interview guide. ;)

        1. B*

          Right! If you are interviewing for one of those jobs where thinking on your feet is really important, then your questions also should be somewhat unpredictable. When you refuse to tell someone ahead of time you’re going to ask them “talk about a time you had a conflict at work and how you handled it,” well, what are we doing here, exactly? You’re largely assessing someone on how savvy they are about generic hiring processes. That’s a nice advantage for readers of this blog, but not the most equitable or effective way to choose an employee.

          1. Glitsy Gus*

            I do think you could provide some context such as, “this position does require quick decision making. There will be a question where we will provide a theoretical product failure situation and ask what your immediate mitigating action would be.” That way the person can at least have that in mind while they prepare, and you can still have a chance to see their real-time thinking.

            Someone in the job would know that this is something that would be under their purview, even if they can’t see the future, so you are basically putting the applicant in as close to a real situation as you can- you know it will happen, you just don’t know the details yet.

            1. Glitsy Gus*

              Oh, but yeah, not wanting to share, “Tell me about why this position is interesting to you?” is silly. There is no reason not to, and while it should be expected, newer job seekers don’t have the advantages that more experienced folks do. It never hurts to try to keep things level.

      3. Prof*

        exactly- for example, it makes sense in academia when you’re interviewing to be a professor. But even then…that’s what the questions during your teaching and/or research presentation do. Normal interview questions are just…different.

      4. Toodloo*

        100% this. I work in a field that rarely, if ever, requires snap judgement. For the last 3 positions I’ve recruited, I’ve provided the questions in advance because I really want to get thoughtful answers about how people would approach different facets of the work, and I want to give people an opportunity to have as much of an edge as possible in a situation where the power dynamic is stacked against them. It has been a revelation to me — both in terms of the increased clarity and cogency of the answers folks are providing, the increased confidence and enthusiasm of the candidates… and the number of people who actually DO NOT take advantage of the opportunity to prepare in advance! That last bit really blows me away every time.

      5. Nebula*

        Yes, this is what I think. I’ve only had questions provided to me prior to an interview once, which was for an internal position. I asked why they had done that, and the lead interviewer said “We know what questions we want to ask you, it’s a waste of your time getting you to prepare for questions we won’t ask, and it’s a waste of ours if we have to ask lots of follow up questions to get the information we want if you haven’t prepared for something and you’re answering off the cuff.” It made so much sense to me!

      6. Questions not available*

        In my (government) job, we specifically ask questions of interviewees that we don’t expect them to know the full answer to. The job involves being a subject matter expert answering questions for government officials- often asked orally (i.e. like in an interview format), and being honest enough and low-ego enough to say “I don’t know, but I’ll find out” is a crucial thing for us to screen for. Too many times government officials have gotten burned because they relied on “information” they got because an SME bluffed an answer they thought was right, but wasn’t 100% sure, or was “sure” was right, but was wrong. Handing out questions in advance would mess that up. (Notably, having a disability where you need questions in advance would be…problematic in our role.)

    4. m2*

      We do this, but the issue is you sometimes don’t get all the questions. Sometimes based on the applicants answer we then ask another question. I usually send along the few main questions and then have a couple extra if I need that aren’t sent or ask some based off of answers.

      It is pretty shocking though what some people say even with prepared answers!

      I know of a friend and an accommodation was asked of the employer to send questions ahead of time because of the ADA, so she said the employer had to send the questions to everyone who was at that stage.

      For what I do though there is one section that is time sensitive and if someone asked for it in advance first off you can’t because even though it is sort of “fake” (not a real world one), we don’t want that out there in the wild for other places to get. We also have time limits on stuff, so if it takes me 10-15 minutes to finish one but the average person 15-20 and we need a certain # done by a certain time, we can’t give someone an hour or a day to get one of them done. 20 minutes is really cutting it close to be honest. But it is explained and I had someone who needed more time so they were sent some of them first (they come out in batches), so they might have a little more time to get it done, but not usually by much and you have to get a certain # done so not to make others do more work.

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        I do think that is a place where you can give a general expectation of the question/task without having to spell it all out. So, for example, “there will be a timed section related to processing incoming IT requests. The task is intended to see how many real-time requests you can handle within a given time and how accurate your processing is. This position does require an ability to process a certain number per day.” Or whatever.

        That way, you are letting them know what to expect, why you need it, but not giving away the pieces that you are trying to sample for. Also, if there is a situation where an applicant doesn’t think they would pass the test well as-is, but could with a reasonable accommodation, they could mention that prior to taking the test and you can see if you think it would work.

        So, for example, you can’t let them batch a bunch beforehand because that wouldn’t give a good idea of how they would do in a day-to-day situation. But if they asked if they could take twice as long to do as many as they can and you then take the average of the two time periods; because they do have times where they will be slower and others faster (especially when they are nervous), but it will generally average out, that might be a more acceptable adjustment.

    5. Evelyn Karnate*

      My employer (a large state university) sends questions to each candidate 30 minutes prior. Having interviewed for several internal openings recently, I find it tremendously helpful. Universal design is a great inclusion tactic!

      1. Claire*

        Genuine question- how is getting the questions 30 minutes prior helpful to the candidates? Aren’t they on their way to the interview by then? Would t most of them not even see the email? 30 minutes doesn’t really give any time to prepare- in fact I think it might make me even more flustered.

        1. nnn*

          When I’ve had interviews that work that way, they give you the list of questions and leave you in a room for 30 minutes with the list of questions and pen and paper to take notes with. So you get 30 minutes to think about it and organize your thoughts, then they come into the room and ask you about it.

    6. nnn*

      This is what I was thinking.

      In general, if something is requested as an accommodation, it’s worth giving serious consideration to routinely making it available to everyone.

      Sometimes it’s useful to more people than you originally thought (e.g. proofreading with a screen reader catches typos that even sighted people sometimes miss), sometimes it’s simply irrelevant (e.g. I find that described video on TV doesn’t add anything to my user experience).

      Sometimes it’s not possible to make it available to everyone, or it would be disruptive to do so without adding value (e.g. hiring a sign language interpreter for a Deaf person in a predominantly hearing environment – or vice versa – would make sense. But it would be silly to hire interpreters every single person whether they need it or not.)

      But when doing so is feasible, making an accommodation available to everyone takes away any stigma of “advantage” or “special treatment”, and might enrich the results you get from everyone in ways you don’t initially expect.

      1. Inkhorn*

        Like making the process less of a struggle for people who have *some* traits of neurodivergence, but not enough to qualify for a diagnosis. Or the people who might well get a diagnosis, but don’t have the resources to obtain it. (Or who belong to a demographic less likely to be diagnosed.)

        I’m in the first camp, and the prospect of facing a horribly difficult recruitment process which I’m not officially “allowed” to make easier is a very strong motivation to stay put, no matter how unspeakably bored I get sometimes.

    7. H3llifiknow*

      For Federal Civilians, this is standard, with one caveat. Although the questions are provided in advance, and the candidates are told how long they have for the interview, there is always 1 question that is not provided ahead of time. Presumably so they can get at least some idea of how quickly/well one thinks on their feet, or how well they know their area of expertise w/o preparation, but it’s one of those things you learn the first time you interview for a next level position, and from then on you know to leave a little extra time for the pop quiz!

      1. Username Lost to Time*

        Hmm, I don’t entirely hate this single surprise question situation. I wonder what its measurable merits are. A lot of people have already mentioned that “thinking on your feet” is not the thing to test in interviews for most jobs.

        Regardless, people in an interviewer position love being able to do the pop quiz, gotcha thing and have “freedom” to follow their gut. If the compromise is allowing one surprise question, then maybe that’s the best solution.

    8. Mimmy*

      100%! As someone said below, this is a good Universal Design strategy. I do understand that this may not be an appropriate option for all jobs. There are some occupations where thinking on your feet is crucial, and not knowing interview questions ahead of time would definitely assess this ability.

    9. JubJubtheIguana*

      Yes, providing interview questions ahead of time is standard in my industry/country. It’s a real shame that it’s not standard everywhere.

  2. Abe Froman*

    This is one of the best things I have read on this site. Thank so much for doing this interview and providing such an excellent resource!

  3. ArchivesPony*

    I know in my industry, it’s changing (albeit slowly) and that for the last 8-9 interviews I’ve had (both in person and zoom/phone) I’ve received the questions ahead of time. And in my current position, it’s my dean’s policy that no matter the position from student worker to librarian, questions are sent ahead of time. It doesn’t mean off the cuff questions won’t happen but my dean feels that sending questions ahead of time makes a candidate a little more relaxed.

    1. Consonance*

      I’ve interviewed at one library that sent the questions ahead of time, but only 10 minutes ahead of time. To me, that was the worst possible outcome. Now I get to sit there waiting for interview questions, and then frantically think about them in time to log in to the interview. I would rather either have them at least a day in advance so I can actually prepare, or in the moment.

      1. uncivil servant*

        It’s the norm in my organization (large public sector employer). I’ve received the questions 15, 30 and 60 minutes in advance. I find 30 minutes was the sweet spot – enough time to actually reflect on each one and take some notes without having to time yourself per question. An hour was long enough that I was twiddling my thumbs and overthinking.

        We have a separate part of selection processes that usually give applicants between a day and a week to complete a written assessment, so we don’t do multiple days for interview questions. Research is allowed for the written assessment, but the interview is supposed to be based on your own knowledge.

    2. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

      My library used to give candidates a copy of the questions at the start of the interview (we tend to ask convoluted questions so this helped candidates remember all parts of the questions), then switched to sending them the day before a few years ago. I don’t if that was based on an accommodation request that they decided to provide to all candidates, but the candidates all seemed to benefit from it. I can only think of one phone interview where it was clear the candidate had written their answers in advance and were just reading what they wrote. That didn’t eliminate them from the pool, but the search committee did ask more followup questions once it was clear they were reading their responses.

  4. MrsPookie*

    Ive had to do this BEFORE and interview because where they were having me park was almost a half mile away from the building where I was to be interviewed.
    When I asked for a handicap parking spot -the response from Big CRM company HR manager was ‘ oh I dont know if we have them for you to use- no one here needs a wheelchair’ (I do not use one but have mobility issues)
    Needless to say the response made me feel like working there with said disability wouldn’t be positive and I withdrew my application.

    1. Brain the Brian*

      Yes, I got the sense reading this interview that disability accommodation requests during an interview can be a great way to screen out employers who would not willingly accommodate a disability.

      1. Nebula*

        A question came up in an open thread once about what to say to a recruiter about a disability, given that the person asking had left their previous job due to issues with their employer providing accommodations for said disability. I was really surprised that most commenters still stuck to ‘No don’t mention your disability at all if you can possibly avoid it’. I understand that the person asking might be discriminated against by some potential employers, but given that they were specifically looking for a job that would better accommodate their disability, any employer that would take them out of the running because of it would be doing them a favour!

      1. MrsPookie*

        The company is a well known proprietary system you purchase to use for logging tickets and issues. (Customer Relationship Management) Rhymes with ‘Bubs Lot’. :)

  5. Mini*

    I feel like while this is useful practical info it doesn’t get at the core of what the difficulty really is in this scenario which is how to navigate the human side of the request – the subconscious bias even if they acquiesce. Same goes for something like an appeal to HR committee in case of denial, I can’t help but feel that would untimely be perceived as just too much when you haven’t been hired yet.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I agree, actually. That’s really what I was hoping to learn from question #1, but reading between the lines it seems like their advice is “calculate the risks of the individual situation and make a plan accordingly.” Coincidentally, this was an interview where they asked me to submit questions to them all at once (how apropos!) and I couldn’t do real back and forth or I would have tried to drill more into that in follow-up.

      1. Mini*

        Interesting it’s validating to hear it’s not just me – it feels like a catch 22 because on one hand normalising these requests is probably what would help shift things in the direction where this becomes standard… But then it means you’re putting your own personal chance on the line to hopefully help this broader shift. This gets at the heart of my issue of DEI issues broadly: inevitably the people invested and pushing for changes are the ones most directly impacted negatively by the problems, while those not affected are able to continue focusing on their own professional development.

        1. Random Dice*

          Yeah. I’m disabled and navigating job applications, and this response just made my gut clench with MORE worry than I already had. I’m going to have to hide my physical and neurological difficulties as hard as I can.

      2. Minimal Pear*

        I’d be interested in a follow-up post talking more about the bias end of things, or stuff where you REALLY can’t hide that it’s an accomodation like, I dunno, having to ask if the location is wheelchair accessible or something.

    2. Sal*

      I agree! This discussion of the process left me feeling hard-pressed to think of a time when I would ever want to request this kind of an accommodation. Imagine trying to appeal to a company’s committee when they haven’t even hired you–and then succeeding, and having an interview? Like…how would that go?

      I also wonder whether I’m in a particularly weird industry but a ton of my recent interviews (both sides) have been improvisational–the questions arise naturally from the conversation, and I feel like someone asking for qs in advance would look unrealistic for not knowing that.

      I also wonder if “being able to improvise and think on your feet is a quality we are evaluating applicants for” is an adequate reason to e.g. deny an accommodation of advance access to the qs.

      1. SoloKid*

        I agree – I can’t think of a role where you aren’t expected to have conversations with people on the fly. Also, interviews are for more than question asking. Otherwise we would just be filling out online forms for jobs.

        1. Helewise*

          Government interviews can be like this. Some places are more strict than others, but I had one where every question was read from the script with no follow-up or back-and-forth. I understand the practice but wasn’t a fan.

        2. metadata minion*

          I’m a library cataloger and while yes, I obviously have conversations on the fly all the time with coworkers, supervisors, etc., it’s vanishingly rare that I have to do so in any kind of formal situation. While it’s *better* in any job to be able to phrase things clearly and succinctly, if I’m a little longwinded or suddenly forget the word “label” because my brain did a thing, it’s not a big deal. I almost never talk to vendors or patrons or anyone else that I could be said to need to impress. If I’m giving a presentation in an all-staff meeting or conference, I have time to prepare ahead of time and again, it’s not the end of the world if I’m a bit awkward in the Q&A afterward so long as I’m not completely incomprehensible.

          1. allathian*

            Sure, but I’ve certainly never been to an interview where I felt I had to give smooth, off the cuff answers, and where I’d be judged harshly for stumbling a bit or hemming and hawing in my answers. Every interviewer I’ve ever seen seemed to accept some verbal processing and backtracking as I thought through my answers, and I can be a bit longwinded, too.

            I don’t have to do presentations in my current job (I’ve done exactly one in almost 17 years), but I have done them in my previous career, and I’ve certainly never approached an interview like a presentation!

            Yes, I was nervous, but not paralyzed by anxiety, and I feel that like in any performance, the nerves just served to sharpen my wits a bit.

            The actual interview went well and I felt that it was a mutual discussion rather than a Q&A. It was the first time I interviewed when I wasn’t desperate to get a new job, and I think that showed. I certainly interviewed the interviewers nearly as much as they interviewed me.

            I was on their shortlist of two or three candidates, but ultimately they went with someone else. Even if I’d been offered the job, I might’ve turned it down because I interviewed in June 2021 when my employer was still keeping all employees WFH whose jobs could be done remotely, but the hiring manager wanted the new employee to go to the office every day for the first 6 months and the others were required to go to the office every other day (they had a set of two-person offices where the employees who shared an office were expected to come in on alternate days).

      2. Fitz*

        It’s a balancing act, in my opinion. I definitely prefer conversational interviews, but I do think that even giving general guidelines for questions can help massively ease interview-specific anxiety/nervousness/etc that wouldn’t necessarily show up in real working life. But ultimately, that change would have to come from the company side to be effective. I just don’t know that there’s a way to avoid that subconscious bias in hiring when you’re an unknown entity.

      3. Mini*

        I agree completely I can’t help but feel it’d become an ass-covering exercise from the company. Of course they’ll legally comply but really how are you not come across as a liability in the process?

        I’m in the same boat as you did rather deal with the unequal playing field than this lol.

      4. Lenora Rose*

        In our industry there are definite set main questions. This doesn’t disallow the opportunities for follow up questions, or drilling down into the answers if the answers are too brief, and all that, and of course some off the cuff conversation is expected, especially when the interviewee gets their chance to ask questions. Indeed, I think Alison’s own article from 2019 mentions passing one some of the bigger questions, not even all the planned questions.

        (I can think of a case recently where I pointed out a gap in the planned questions, and my boss agreed, but considered that because the nature of the role involved directly addressing gaps in that aspect of the workplace, thought it was an appropriate test to see if the candidates themselves caught it and referenced it. I know for sure the successful candidate did, and I wasn’t in on the interviews.)

      5. Zephy*

        I also wonder whether I’m in a particularly weird industry but a ton of my recent interviews (both sides) have been improvisational–the questions arise naturally from the conversation, and I feel like someone asking for qs in advance would look unrealistic for not knowing that.

        Sure, but your interviewers surely walked into the interview with some idea of what they wanted to know about the candidate, it wasn’t a ~fun spontaneous mystery~ to all involved. No one is asking for a full script of the interview ahead of time, but asking for the questions in advance to me is more akin to having an agenda with action items sent ahead of time for any other kind of business meeting.

    3. Anxious hirer*

      i’m also curious how people manage their own subconscious bias. i interviewed someone with a profound stutter who notified me of it ahead of time since her interview might take longer because of this. so we set aside more time, no problem.

      i did not end up hiring her and have always worried i factored in the stutter without meaning to even though i used a candidate rubric to chart how each person scored for all the relevant areas of the job.

      1. Anxious hirer*

        i guess we could have just done the interview via chat?? would that have been a good solution or just weird?

      2. Silver Robin*

        There is no way to 100% guarantee the elimination of subconscious bias. After all…we are not conscious of it!

        That said, rubrics are very helpful there because you have to make a conscious decision. So does having a small panel so that you can check your assessment against that of your colleagues. They might pick up something you do not.

        Lastly, somebody this worried about it is probably doing their best; do not stop challenging yourself but balance that with some grace.

        1. anonymous anteater*

          Agreed. I constantly worry that I subconsciously prefer people with better English skills. But if you have a rubric that you design ahead of time based on the work needs, it’s easier to say ‘this candidate checks all of our boxes’ and feel confident about your decision.

      3. MsSolo (UK)*

        Knowing what you’re scoring on ahead of time, so you’re listening for the content rather than the delivery, can help, and having a diverse panel asking and scoring, so there’s a higher chance that one person’s unconscious bias is cancelled out (or called out) by the others.

    4. ecnaseener*

      I agree, it’s sort of a lot of “come up with a plan for X Y and Z” but not so much what those plans might look like.

      For example, is it better to say something conversational like “I have a disability that affects my ability to respond off-the-cuff in interviews, can you provide the questions ahead of time or should we discuss other accommodation options?” or clear and firm like “I am formally requesting to receive the questions 30 minutes in advance as a legally-required accommodation under the ADA,” or a middle ground like “I have a disability that means I need to have at least 30 minutes to review the questions ahead of time” or…?

  6. azvlr*

    My organization will provide a place on the application for people to request interview accommodations. If you have any say-so at your company, please proactively do this!

    1. Pretty as a Princess*

      We don’t do this in the application materials, but it is in the prep materials when we have agreed to bring the candidate in for an interview. The candidate gets a form or email with logistics and one of the items is a request that the candidate identify any accommodations necessary for them in the interview process. If they do ask for something, the recruiter brings it back to the hiring manager to work.

      I’ve never received a request, but we do prep ahead of time with our core/first order questions so they would be easy enough to supply. Or probably topics instead of specific questions – because their required presentation might answer a *specific* question but leave more room for additional discussion on that topic.

      (We require all candidates give a presentation to our team and a group of stakeholders, because being able to present technical information effectively to non-experts of varying levels is a critical part of the job. We also, though, tell them to speak on something they are comfortable with, and encourage them to re-use things like external conference presentations they may have given. This presentation is the first order of the day after a meet & greet and position review with me and the team lead. Everyone who participates in interviews is required to attend the candidate presentation as well.)

    2. Justin*

      Yeah mine explicitly says this when invited for interviews (it’s not on the application itself, you have to be selected to interview first, but, well, if it’s for the interviews that is fine)

  7. Scarlet ribbons in her hair*

    Now I don’t know if a company that I used to work for practiced discrimination.

    We had an office on an upper floor of a high-rise. A woman came in for an interview. About twenty minutes after her interview ended, I noticed that she was still waiting for the elevator. I asked her if there was a problem with the elevators, and she said that she was afraid to ride in an elevator by herself. She said that every time an elevator stopped at our floor, it was empty, and she was waiting and waiting for an elevator with at least one person in it to stop at our floor. And of course, if the elevator held one person, and she got on, and that person got off at the next floor, she would have to get off too and wait for another elevator to come by with at least one person in it.

    And if when she arrived in the morning, and there was no one waiting for an elevator, she would have to wait until someone else showed up. And if that person got off the elevator before it reached our floor, she would get off too and wait for another elevator to show up (and hope that there was at least one person on it). So there would be no way of knowing how long it would take her to reach our floor if she had to keep getting off the elevator and waiting for another one. She said that the same thing would happen at lunch time. It would take her longer to reach the ground floor than any of us (because none of us cared if the elevator was occupied or not), and she would have no way of knowing how long it would take her to get to our floor after lunch.

    The company’s PTB immediately decided that they didn’t want to hire her, but now I’m wondering if that decision was illegal, if they should have found a way to accommodate her.

    1. Hiring Mgr*

      I wonder how could they have acommodated that.- you can’t ensure elevators are populated at all times. I guess she could have taken the stairs

    2. Lisa*

      I don’t think that decision would be illegal if it isn’t a documented disability? The ethical question of what’s the right thing to do is a separate one though.

      1. ecnaseener*

        ADA also bars discrimination on the basis of perceived disability, not just real/documented disability.

    3. Sal*

      I don’t know that that’s an ADA-eligible disability. If it’s not (and she wasn’t incorrectly perceived by PTB as having one), it can’t be disability discrimination.

      That said, having someone ride in the elevator with her doesn’t seem insanely onerous as an accommodation. Letting her regularly be, e.g., an hour late getting back to her desk after lunch seems like a more reasonable choice not to provide as an accommodation. (Hence the interactive process!)

      1. TechWorker*

        Really? It probably depends on how busy the office is but if someone who otherwise isn’t leaving the office has to spend 5minutes twice a day riding down to meet her so she can make it to the office I’d say that actually is pretty onerous and not necessarily a reasonable accommodation.

        1. Sal*

          One person’s 10 minutes of work time (under 1 hour per week), likely a low-paid person, so … what, maybe $20 a week? That is a pretty minimal cost of doing business compared to, e.g., some specialty chairs.

        2. a raging ball of distinction*

          In large high-rises it’s not unusual for security staff to use their badges to give visitors access to certain floors. Confirming with building security that one of their staff members could escort her up and down the elevator doesn’t seem that onerous to me.

    4. tabloidtainted*

      As far as I know, fear isn’t considered a disability. Plus, even if we assume that this would be covered under disability protections, what “reasonable” accommodation would solve that person’s dilemma?

      1. Starbuck*

        An anxiety disorder that leads to fear of elevators could be something that would require an ADA accommodation process; but I think the company saying that ‘it’s an undue burden for us to provide the staff time $$$ to give you an elevator buddy every time you need it’ would be a reasonable response. And then you could go back and forth and request WFH, or a ground floor office, or… etc. And maybe something will work, and maybe not.

        1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

          Yup! I actually had one of these a number of years ago! It was pre-COVID so, at the time, we did not have a formal telecommuting policy in place. Long story short we had a unit undergo an office move to a high rise floor. We ulitmately determined that the only accommodation that would not be an undue burden would be to reassign her to a different, but equivalent (in pay/responsibility, but not duties, though they were related) position in an office on a ground floor.

      2. Link*

        IIRC most phobias aren’t covered under the ADA, but some are as fear is considered an anxiety disability, but said phobia has to severely limit daily life. The only one I can think of off the top of my head is claustrophobia, and even that one can vary wildly in the size of space for triggering it and most doctors will only give you side eye if you request documentation for that.

        As for reasonable accommodation, it’s called stairs, and that’s what the ADA will be looking for. But in this woman’s case, if she has mobility disabilities as well, she has competing disabilities in the case of that building. Stairs for claustrophobia, elevator for mobility. If she can’t use either, it’s passed reasonable accommodation.

        That said this woman sounds like she’s just afraid of being alone in an elevator. And there was no mention of mobility issues. So illegal? No. Ethical? Could be debated but I’m leaning to it’s fine, just a mismatch of job location to applicant.

        1. Jen*

          Is there a certain floor after which stairs would no longer be considered a reasonable accommodation? I can’t imagine having to do 20+ flights of stairs every day.

          1. Banana Pyjamas*

            I might say four. The last high rise I worked in obviously had fire stairs to all levels, but the main stair case only went to the 4th floor.

      3. PK*

        IANAL or a doctor but fear of being in an elevator alone could be considered a phobia and/or anxiety disorder, which are ADA qualifying if they are considered to be substantially life disrupting. I imagine that being unable to ride an elevator alone could be life disrupting enough to qualify for the ADA, especially if someone lives/works in an area like Manhattan where buildings are extremely tall, where encountering elevators regularly in daily life activities would be very common, and where stairs would usually be exhausting and time consuming. So whether someone qualifies all depends on that individual’s circumstances and severity.

        Regarding trying to solve the accommodation dilemma, it’s not necessarily all on the employer (or you or me!) to figure out what the reasonable accommodation would be. The employee ideally should be asked first and foremost what they think would help them and what their accommodation preference would be (and someone’s doctor can weigh in as well if need be).

    5. L-squared*

      I wouldn’t call that discrimination, as her fear isn’t necessarily a disability.

      To me, this is a situation where she would probably need to look for fully remote jobs. I don’t know what a reasonable accommodation is, if the job is needed to be in person. Would you have someone assigned as her elevator buddy? That would seem excessive.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Or at least jobs where the location was all one or two-story (assuming she’s comfortable taking stairs)?

      2. PK*

        This is not necessarily correct and it’s not true that someone in this situation should only look for remote only jobs. The reason that we have the ADA is so that people with disabilities have access to as many employment opportunities as possible, and it’s a legally protected right to have an employer provide accommodations if it’s not an undue hardship to the business, even if that business doesn’t really want to. And it’s not unethical for an employee to make an employer follow the law.

        A fear could be ADA qualifying if it substantially limits a major life activity and whether this elevator phobia qualifies is entirely dependent on this person’s individual circumstances. So it could be that they don’t qualify for ADA protection. But the employer in question did not hire the person because they assumed that hiring this person would be more costly than someone else otherwise equally qualified and that’s discriminatory because the employer “perceived” that they had a disability, regardless of whether they do or not.

        And yes, remote work might be the easiest thing for a person with an elevator phobia to do, and maybe they could voluntarily choose to narrow their job search in that way. But finding a remote job isn’t always that easy for everyone! Maybe they tried to find a remote-only job, but haven’t been successful. And so let’s say working remotely is the employee’s preferred accommodation to their elevator phobia. And maybe the company would have no problem with that and the accommodation would be granted without much difficulty. But let’s say that this company wants all of their employees to work in the office on the 20th floor and does not offer remote work to anyone. If there are no feasible solutions that allow the employee to work in the office (and there might be of course, just because you or I don’t have any elevator accommodation ideas doesn’t mean the employee, their doctor, or other private and public resources do not), the employer should have a good legitimate business reason to deny remote work. Just preferring everyone be in the office is not enough to deny them employment if working remotely is genuinely not an undue hardship to the company. And what exactly an undue hardship is can get into very tricky legal nuances that are sometimes escalated to judges in lawsuits.

    6. nnn*

      This is all academic at this point, but I’m wondering if a solution could be found based on what the underlying root of that fear is.

      Is it that she’s afraid of being trapped in the elevator alone if something goes wrong? Is it some kind of claustrophobia where she feels like the walls will close in on her but having someone else present keeps her from panicking? Or is it something else?

      If it’s fear of being trapped alone, I wonder if some kind of line of communication could help? (Texting or calling someone when she gets in the elevator?)

  8. Lisa*

    I’m curious if there is a situation where providing the questions, or at least some of the questions, in advance, is not reasonable. I’m thinking for example of a technical interview for a job where the ability to think on one’s feet and/or deal with unexpected or unplanned information was considered a core requirement. I could see giving the “tell me about a time when” questions ahead of time so people can be prepared with examples, or perhaps offering the technical topics one would be expected to be prepared to discuss but not the exact questions themselves.

    1. Sal*

      This was also my thought. My sub-industry has a lot of “think on your feet moments” and I would be surprised if this weren’t how such a request could be handled.

    2. Fitz*

      There are surprisingly few jobs where “thinking on your feet” is a core requirement, in my opinion. I happen to be pretty good at it, and I think I was hired because of that, but it’s not something I look for in hiring because it’s just not necessary. Even though I deal with unexpected events in my (technical) work all the time, there are sooo many things I do to prepare for unexpected events. Being flexible in the face of changing circumstances is very different to responding to x specific prompt in a 30 second answer (yes, this happened to me, no, I would never ask this).

      1. Sunny*

        I think you’d be surprised! It definitely depends on industry. This site also skews toward topics related to office jobs but don’t forget there are tons of jobs in customer service, healthcare, education, etc that require lots of spontaneous interaction and responding to difficult questions on your feet.

        1. TechWorker*

          Plus in basically all industries management and decision making do require ‘thinking on your feet’

    3. Insert Pun Here*

      Any job that involves speaking to the media would certainly qualify. And a lot of jobs that involve interacting with people outside your own company. Though in the former case the standard is probably higher than the latter. (“Don’t say anything that’ll get us sued” is a good, reasonable baseline expectation that some people simply cannot achieve.)

      1. Random Dice*

        Oh gosh no, anyone talking to the media had better NOT be thinking on their feet! They need to be following rigorous PR training and methodologies. It maybe looks like thinking on their feet, but it had better not be!

        1. Longtime Reader*

          Agreed! It seems to me that almost any job where “thinking on your feet” is a real requirement, the way that you’re *able* to think on your feet competently and responsibly is by being well-prepared. So it really goes against logic that interviewers would want to have candidates answer without any prep, rather than asking about how they prepared and factoring that in.

          1. TechWorker*

            Er, what? No-ones saying candidates shouldn’t be prepared, they should (and in many cases ‘understanding the industry & having related experience’ is totally fine as preparation). In media/PR you really get all the questions you’re going to be asked in advance? Or is it (like an interview…) a case of applying your training and experience to the question in hand?

          2. Insert Pun Here*

            Sure, but most journalists will say “would you be willing to be interviewed about X” but not necessarily specify the questions. When I’ve spoken to the media (and I want to stress that the topics were not scandalous, urgent, breaking news, or anything like that — basically the most boring stuff imaginable) I’ve been prepared to talk about X, but still had to speak extemporaneously, because I didn’t get the questions in advance. So even with training (which I agree is good and necessary), you still have to be able to think on your feet.

    4. Magpie*

      This was my thought. I work in a technical field and most of the questions we ask candidates during interviews are meant to determine their knowledge of the various programming languages and other technologies we use. If we gave them the questions ahead of time, they could Google all the answers and possibly come off as much more proficient than they actually are in some aspects of the job.

      1. TW*

        Are those same programming languages/technologies mentioned in the job listing? Or do you just bring them up in the interview? If the former, a good interviewee will probably have brushed up on their knowledge ahead of time anyway. If the latter, doesn’t that result in spending a lot of time going through applicants without knowledge of those tools that could have been weeded out ahead of time?

        I feel like there’s a middle ground of giving the exact question vs “we’ll ask you some questions to assess your familiary with Ruby and some about how you would solve a particular problem in a Kubernetes deployment.” But I’m not sure if that would meet the accessibility requirements.

        1. Magpie*

          We mention all programming languages and technologies in the job description so candidates should have a good idea of potential topics going in, and we do screen ahead of time by picking out resumes that show experience in what we’re looking for. The problem we sometimes run into is that people will put something on their resume claiming experience when all they’ve done is read a book on the topic or maybe written a very basic application. We need to make sure the depth of knowledge in that topic is what we would need for the candidate to be successful in the job, so we ask a series of questions to determine how knowledgeable they are about the topic and then usually follow that up with white boarding some coding exercises so we can see them using the languages. We could tell them ahead of time to be ready for questions about the things listed in the job description but we couldn’t give them more detailed questions or coding exercises without giving less qualified candidates the opportunity to brush up on those questions just enough to make it look like they know more than they do.

          1. Orv*

            I went to an interview like that once and it caught me completely off guard. Writing code on a whiteboard, without any references, while people stare impatiently at me, is not anything like the process I’d normally use. I froze up.

            1. Don't Call Me Shirley*

              Well, what we want to know is how you approach solving a problem, ideally one you haven’t googled. You can’t google the answer to the algorithms I want you to work on, because there isn’t one that’s standard. I can’t have you work on that with my team, because it will take hours to understand. So we put out a toy problem and talk about how you solved it and then ask you if you’d change it with another constraint.

              I can’t have it be offline, because we have had people not do it. I could give it ahead, but I’d rather figure out which of my 5 or 10 favorites fits your knowledge so far.

              I see a lot of suggestions that boil down to ‘just assume people can code’ but I’ve had interviews where someone talks a great game about past work and then can’t write basic stuff out – not looking for error free but the basic concepts.

              1. PK*

                I’m curious by what you mean by that you’ve had people not do it? If they’re not doing a take-home part of an interview process, wouldn’t you want that to disqualify them anyway?

                Obviously you don’t want to give really long and onerous assignments to interviewees, but in my artistic profession, I’ve been asked to work on short custom work samples that tested my hard skills and only took maybe 20-30 minutes and I was fine with that.

              2. Orv*

                I came to the conclusion that to some extent they were testing for culture fit — specifically extroverts — and I wasn’t what they were looking for. It sort of brought back all my old “having to go to the front of the class” bad experiences from school.

      2. Zephy*

        Implying that people actually in tech roles don’t Google the answers all the damn time. Knowing how to find the information you need is as important, if not moreso, than just having it on deck ready to go on command.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I’m a manager of medical coders, and yes — I don’t need you to have the codes memorized, and I don’t even necessarily care how you’re used to finding the right codes, whether using software or a hard copy book reference or google or whatever. What I care is that you can -a- read the documentation and understand what’s going on well enough to be able to extrapolate the meaning from it, and then -b- appropriately use whatever your reference of choice is to take that meaning and codify it.

        2. TechWorker*

          Whilst I agree with this (I’d be totally fine if people I’m interviewing had access to Google during problems because that’s representative of the work environment) there’s still a difference between someone who can use Google/other tools to get to the answer quickly and understand how to make any changes to apply to the problem in hand, and someone who can do that but it’ll take them 4 hours and they need to iteratively test the code to make any changes. I think it’s reasonable to want to hire the person who can do it in 15 minutes not 4 hours, but how do you know that if they get the full problem in advance?

        3. uncivil servant*

          Googling the answers is the best case scenario, though. Getting someone else to give them the answers is the more concerning.

          I think that a short period of time before the interview with the questions is a sweet spot. Not long enough to get your buddy who actually works with the language to spoon feed you a good answer, not long enough to ask Reddit to come up with a great example of how you worked well in a team to solve a problem, but long enough to reflect on the examples you prepared and decide which one works best and how to frame it to actually answer the question.

    5. AcademicLibrarian*

      I annually interview for a job – reference librarian – where answering spontaneous questions is literally the core fuction. Like, we’re hiring you to sit here and answer whatever questions people come up with in person or on chat.
      I still provide interview questions in advance. This works well for questions like “Tell me about a challenging reference or customer service interaction and how you handled it.”
      For the part where I want to see how they think on their feet, what I provide in advance is two examples of typical library reference questions we’ve gotten from real patrons. Then, at the interview, I give them a similar question with new content, and watch how they research and answer it.
      There are a lot of jobs where people have to think on their feet, but you almost always at least prepare people for the scope or type of question.

      1. mztery120e0e*

        This. Provide the basic questions that anyone would have to answer, but then give them spontaneous questions that really relate to the job.

    6. Analyst*

      Data Analyst interviews often have technical tests with time limits. Part of the point is that you don’t have time to prepare/see the questions and look things up ahead of the time. But, these are often different than an interview in that they aren’t “live”- you do the test and send it (I had one emailed to me at a time and I had to email it back by a certain time- which meant I could look things up, I was just time limited and no one watched me do it).

    7. LinesInTheSand*

      I’ve been through technical interviews that relied on information and context protected by an NDA (which I signed before going through the interview). I could see a company making an argument that they’d be unable to distribute those questions ahead of time for security reasons.

    8. 2e asteroid*

      I think my biggest issue with it is that a lot of our interview consists of asking people to expand on specific pieces of their resume. You could tell them this ahead of time (“we will be asking you to discuss your llama-wrangling responsibilities at Teapots Ltd. in more detail”) and maybe we should, but if you have to do it separately for each candidate it becomes $n$ times as much work.

    9. ChurchOfDietCoke*

      I’m in learning and development.

      When recruiting for trainers (to deliver in-house / online training workshops) I am definitely looking for someone who will thrive on being able to think on their feet. Yes, of course we have detailed course plans – but literally every course has a curveball, and someone who would freak out or freeze when the session went off-plan would absolutely NOT be a suitable candidate, and while I am supportive of providing accommodations under the UK’s Equality Act, I wouldn’t be able to effectively test a candidate if they had seen all of the questions in advance.

      OTOH, for learning designers, course creators it’s the opposite – I want people who stick to plans, and REALLY stick to plans!

  9. Justin*

    I just feel very lucky that my company asked if I needed any accomodations before the (zoom) interviews and I decided to be bold and say, “I am neurodivergent, which means if I get excited – as I expect to* – I don’t always look at the screen or the camera.” (It’s true overall but that was the only impression they were going to get.

    *I feel like this little phrase helped

    From what I later learned the people who interviewed me were given the “may look around” info but not the neurodivergent info (though I told them all after I was hired).

    But most companies aren’t like mine.

    1. allathian*

      Congrats, I’m glad you found a great company to work for that seems to genuinely care about DEIJ and isn’t just going through the motions.

      I look around/down when I’m doing video meetings with coworkers I’ve known for years. Quite frankly, I think that the standard of staring at the camera in meetings is uncomfortable for most people and an utterly unreasonable expectation for some, and I’m so glad that it’s never been an expectation at my job. I have enough trouble with auditory processing as it is, and if cameras are on I prefer to look at the speaker and read their lips. I don’t have significant hearing loss (yet) but I emphatically have trouble processing and retaining information that I hear, and lip-reading helps somewhat, at least when the video and audio are in sync (yikes the start of the pandemic when our VPN had limited bandwidth was something else again).

      I also think that it’s a completely unnecessary expectation for interviews unless you’re interviewing to be a TV journalist and even for TV journalists what you say is generally scripted and you get to read from a teleprompter.

      Sure, if you’re in a high-profile job where you can reasonably expect to be interviewed by the media pretty regularly, having a professional demeanor in front of the camera is important. Or if your job involves hosting video meetings and webinars in front of fairly large audiences, whether internal or external.

      But the ability to look at the camera while speaking, or worse, listening, shouldn’t matter when you’re a specialist, individual contributor, or a non-executive manager whose description doesn’t include dealing with the media under any circumstances, and mainly deal with internal customers, your teammates, your direct-line supervisors, and/or reports in meetings.

  10. La Triviata*

    This isn’t really employment related, but the Department of Transportation is proposing new rules about how airlines handle wheelchairs for passengers who use them. There have been a number of instances in which airline or airport employees have mishandled wheelchairs and there was no provision for repairing them. I’m hoping this is good news and it actually works.

  11. Mop*

    I wear hearing aids but they are fairly discrete unless you are looking at me pretty closely. I’m also not in a demographic where using hearing aids is common. Anyway, I just interviewed for, was offered, and accepted a position with a public agency. I asked the admin who was scheduling the interview to please let the hiring committee know I had hearing loss, wear hearing aids, and didn’t require any accommodations other than not being seated under/in front of noisy ventilation equipment during the interview. I have done this for a couple of interviews (offered both positions) because I once had a phone interview where the I asked the interviewer to repeat themselves and they got snotty with me because they thought I didn’t understand a really basic term used in our field…until I firmly clarified that I had hearing loss, used hearing aids, and occasionally needed things repeated especially on the phone(phone use was not part of the job & I withdrew for unrelated reasons).

  12. But not the Hippopotamus*

    can anyone speak t I how UT might actually work out trying to give questions out ahead of time? Alison often says things about following up on a response or digging for more details in certain circumstances. In that case, the interviewer may not know ahead of time.

    1. Lenora Rose*

      A couple of specific citations from the AAM article from 2019 Alison links in one of the early comments. The gist is, prepare the big questions in advance then do follow-up on the spot:

      “…giving them a heads-up in advance would help them prepare more thoughtful answers and give me better information about them. And they couldn’t really “cheat” by making up fantastic but false answers ahead of time, because I responded to their initial answer with tons of follow-up questions about their initial answer….”

      “… I received better-thought-out answers that made it easier for me to assess each person’s fit for the role, since they weren’t scrambling to think of examples on the spot. Plus, I was able to see how well they did or didn’t use the chance to think through the questions ahead of time…”

      “… To be clear, I didn’t prep candidates for every question I would ask, or even for most of them — just for a few specific situations that I really wanted to probe into and where having some time to come up with strong examples would help (and wouldn’t hurt).”

  13. Anon in Canada*

    “They worry that employers won’t be as amenable to those requests (regardless of their legal obligation to accommodate them) and/or that even if the request is granted, it will count against them in the hiring process (even though legally it can’t).”

    That’s because candidates know very well that 99+% of the time, anti-discrimination laws aren’t worth the paper they’re written on, because there is no way for the employer to get caught or for the candidate to prove that they have been discriminated against.

    This isn’t limited to being discriminated against for having requested a disability accommodation pre-hire; we’re in 2024 and employers are still screening candidates out on the basis of having “ethnic” names, or because their work history isn’t in Canada, or because English isn’t their mother tongue, etc. No matter how much laws say that “you may not factor X in an employment decision”, as long as the employer doesn’t give a reason for rejections, there is a 0% chance they will get caught. And this is why employers either don’t send rejections at all (common in small employers without an ATS), or reject candidates by form email that doesn’t give a reason (common when there is an ATS).

    From the candidate side, there is no way of proving the discrimination. Since the candidate doesn’t have access to the resumes of other applicants, for all you know, the reason you were rejected was “someone else was better qualified”. Therefore, candidates do not trust companies not to illegally discriminate, and shy away from volunteering any information that could be used against them, legally or not.

    1. HonorBox*

      I was thinking along these same lines. If someone is requesting accommodation, they’ve put something out into the world that now may factor into the decision a company makes about them. They’ve showed a couple cards in their hand while the company still has their cards face down on the table. Should it factor in? No. But I absolutely believe it happens.

  14. Maple Leaf*

    I am in Canada and work with provincial governments, all the interview invites have a line right in them that states if you require disability accommodations for the interview to advise them when you confirm the interview date/time. There is no shame, blame, or judgements, and the accommodation requests are always fulfilled for the interview. I also feel very confident that disclosing the need for accommodations does not colour or create unconscious bias in the interviewer/panel.

    As a person with 2 invisible disabilities and who presents as a “very healthy, typical presenting” person, I have never had any judgements or been questioned asked when I request accommodations and show up to the interview. I mostly have to ask for an accommodation to use a computer with an ergonomic keyboard to answer the written questions, I just state that I have limited ability to write/use a pen due to limited functionality of my right/dominant hand. This has never been an issue and I have been accommodated 100% of the time (and gotten job offers with each interview). My other disability is type 1 diabetes that occasionally makes me ask for a pause to treat a high or low blood sugar, luckily I have not had a wonky blood sugar during any interviews but have had them during the first week at a new job. I just use this as a learning opportunity for my new manager/unit and roll with the punches.

    PS – I have never had to request formal accommodations for my type 1 diabetes, my employers have always given me the flexibility to manage my blood sugar as needed on my own. I have had to make many requests for specialty keyboards/mice/other assistive devices due to limited use of my right hand; and it has been a fight every step of the way with my old employer, which is why I left.

  15. DivergentStitches*

    I actually just wrote in to Alison today about a related question! I applied for a job that asks for an “energetic” person and idk how to navigate that with multiple medical issues that cause me to be low energy.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Oh I hate that term! A lot of the time I think its used to describe someone peppy and friendly. But it could mean a whole lot of things, like they are going to need someone who can work long hours and survive on little sleep.

  16. Grace*

    FYI, I’m in a different situation but trying to file an EEOC complaint — I first filed an “inquiry” with EEOC but every evening when I log on to look for an appointment slot (a necessary step in the process) the new dates are already booked. Still trying every evening but am now reaching out to lawyers who specialize in employment law from the employee’s side of things as a possible alternative.

  17. Timothy*

    It’s interesting that some companies are reluctant to reveal the interview questions ahead of time, but that shouldn’t really be an issue, because the answers to those questions are really just the start of a conversation. The interviewer can then grab on to some part of the answer, and ask the candidate to elaborate.

    1. NotThatEasy*

      I’ve never worked anywhere that set interview questions in advance, and most of the interviews I conducted were 20-30% questions I had about their resume, ~10% standard questions, and 60-70% followup. I’ve had coworkers who go into interviews and haven’t even looked at the resume or planned anything in advance. I can’t imagine how much more stilted/time consuming interviewing candidates would be if we had to plan it all out ahead of time.

  18. Dan*

    I’m disabled and I’ve worked in the DEI space for years. I’m also a people manager who hires people.

    I feel like I’m stating the obvious, but accommodations and workplace adjustments that are put in place for one worker tend to help every worker. Here’s some basic examples. Flexible hours, remote and hybrid work, flexible working in general, ramps and elevators instead of stairs, sending interview questions ahead of time, not expecting STAR formatted responses as a default, deadlines being provided in writing, no moving goalposts, and SOPs and other instructions and communications being provided in clear, plain English with no missing steps or assumed knowledge.

    Another really important one is ensuring that people in positions of power are adequately trained in how to be effective managers, and have also been trained in DEI, neurodiversity, communication, and so on. Also ensuring that people who misuse or abuse managerial power are demoted or fired, or better yet, not promoted or hired into those roles in the first place.

    Accommodations aren’t about someone ‘gaining an advantage’, but about leveling the playing field for everyone, and employers are the ones who benefit the most.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      I feel like I’m stating the obvious, but accommodations and workplace adjustments that are put in place for one worker tend to help every worker.

      ^^ THIS. Also, just because you don’t need a specific accommodation now doesn’t mean you won’t in the future!

      1. Willow Sunstar*

        This is very true. As we age, sometimes things crop up that you wouldn’t have expected. For example, menopause for a woman can have issues that are biologically-based that aren’t her fault, and sometimes all the supplements won’t do anything about that. What’s left might be expensive treatments insurance may not cover or may have too expensive of a co-pay.

  19. Jane*

    I am trying to understand the implications for the employer. So, say I’m hiring for a job that needs the ability to quickly go back and forth with a customer in the moment, so my interview reflects that. I think that it is not a ‘reasonable accommodation’ to hire somebody who would find the immediacy of the situation too anxiety-inducing, even if it is a certifiable disability, right? This would be directly related to the role. Whereas, say I’m hiring for some research position and it doesn’t matter if somebody takes a long time to think about problems, then the interview should reflect that for all candidates (hand out problems ahead of time).

    What I am saying is, I can’t see why there ever should be a time to give the questions ahead of time to a candidate with a disability. Either immediate responses are important to the role, you are testing for that in the interview, and there’s no way somebody who has that particular disability can do that job well (so no, they shouldn’t get the interview), or the immediate response is not important for the job, and it shouldn’t be part of the interview.
    Is there something wrong with my logic? Have a son who is neurodivergent but also have done some hiring myself, so trying to see this from both sides.

    1. C Baker*

      What if your question is something like “What is a mistake you’ve made in the past, and how did you recover from it?”

      That’s obviously a reasonable question for anybody to ask in an interview, but there’s hardly a need to expect an extemporaneous answer from it! The sort of person who will reply “I can’t answer that because I’m a professional, unlike you, so I don’t make mistakes” is probably not going to benefit from extra time to think it over.

    2. BubbleTea*

      It’s not necessarily about being anxiety-inducing. Stress (of the interview) can make processing speeds slower, which if you’re already someone who takes a bit longer processing due to neurodivergence can be a major issue. The one time I requested questions in advance, it was because I struggled to retain the information of the question while being bombarded with all the new information of new place, new people, physiological overwhelm. It didn’t go brilliantly (the interviewers weren’t told it was an accommodation for a disability, and assumed it was nerves) and I’ve never done it again because people just assume it’s anxiety.

    3. I'm just here for the cats!*

      This is assuming that you are giving the questions because of anxiety but that’s not usually the reason. Sometimes its because the person is hard of hearing, so seeing the questions is better. Or they have auditory process issues.

    4. Kathenus*

      I’ve started giving the questions in advance for interviews, because what I really want to know is the person’s response to it, not how well they think in the moment. While there may be questions that answering in the moment is important for, for many it does not. I wanted to try to even the playing field for applicants, so that those who may take longer to reflect, or may be more nervous (understandably) in an interview are weighed more evenly against those who just happen to be ‘good interviewers’.

  20. Elsa*

    I work in education, which involves a huge amount of thinking on your feet, since students always do unexpected things. A candidate who needs questions in advance probably shouldn’t be a classroom teacher.

    But this accommodation also makes me curious about the point of an interview. If you ask everyone the same questions and provide them in advance, why not just have an application form which applicants could answer at their leisure? When I interview candidates I’m mainly just looking to get a sense of their personality and motivation level. I’ll ask them about things on their resume and follow up about interesting things they tell me and just try to make it a friendly conversation.

    I do have an accommodation I always offer before the model lesson stage. I tell applicants that before the model lesson they are welcome to run ideas by me or send me a draft lesson plan so I can provide feedback to help them give us what we’re looking for. I wish more people would take me up on the offer – very few do.

    1. Annie*

      The reason for why not is to keep demands on applicants’ time early in the process as low as possible – anything more than a resume and cover letter risks wasting applicants’ time.

      One way to address this without asking too much of early-stage applicants is to ask them to incorporate answers to the questions in their cover letter or, “In place of a cover letter, please answer the following questions”. That way, the interview can be spent discussing the answers.

    2. PK*

      I’m not a teacher, but interview questions are different than the questions students ask, no? Students don’t usually ask you, “tell me about 3 times you had an issue with a parent and how you resolved it”. They’re going to be more like “hey teacher, why do we have to have a pop quiz tomorrow” or “hey teacher, why is the sky blue?”

      So maybe you can provide your usual interview questions in advance, the kind that are only really asked in interviews, but then role play a classroom scenario to see how they would react as a teacher to a student asking student kinds of questions?

  21. Treena*

    Oh, this is such an interesting topic for me as I have recently received a disability status that I’ll need to disclose very early on in the process, likely with my application.

    (Obviously, I’m not in the US. The status reduces my work hours to .70 FTE and compensates me for the .3 that I do not work, but it means the employer will only pay for/get .70 FTE, and there’s nothing to stop them from discriminating, even though it’s illegal and in my field, there’s no real reason someone needs to work 1.0 FTE.)

    So while I won’t be job hunting for a couple of years, I am starting to think about how to go about this. JAN’s input would have been so interesting had it not been a regurgitation of standard legal requirements. We all know we need to make a personal calculation. But how?

    I only need documentation for one of my three invisible disabilities, but I have physical, sensory, and neurological disabilities. It would have also been an interesting conversation about how to balance the disclosure of multiple disabilities.

  22. Dr Liseuse*

    I’m in higher ed in the UK (professional services not academic) and I try to send out interview questions in advance as much as I can when I’m the recruiting manager. One issue we have been hitting up on is the increased use of AI in the form of ChatGPT to answer application questions, and we were concerned about it in the case of interview questions which had been sent out ahead of time. But because it gives a better opportunity to really dig down into people’s answers it actually hasn’t turned out to be that much of a problem. It’s particularly useful for roles where applicants might never have worked in the sector before, because the scenario questions always throw people for a loop.

    My wording for other reasonable adjustments (the UK terminology) is to ask candidates in their interview offer to tell me what they will need to give themselves the best chance of success in the interview process. I figure that I’m not the person who needs the adjustment and they shouldn’t be lumbered with my best guess as to what it is. Our HR team send out a bunch of information ahead of time which includes information about our very limited Blue Badge parking spaces, and how to get to campus, and there is a box on the application process for information about needing level access/a sign language interpreter etc., but it’s helpful for me to know, for example, if we need to do a standing interview because the usual meeting chairs won’t work.

  23. Willow Sunstar*

    In my last interview which was before COVID, they did send us the questions before the interview. But I remember when that was not a standard practice, and you had to hunt on the Internet for lists of most common interview questions, write up your answers, and memorize them, in the hopes that 99% of your questions would be common. Generally they were, but I got thrown a few curve balls in the realm of ok here’s a video-game like quest problem and how do you solve it, and it was for an office job. Luckily, I played video games, but not everyone does.

  24. Ellis*

    Is there a reason this is so USA-centric? It’s kind of disappointing to continually get workplace-related advice that is only actionable in one specific country.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Because Alison is in the US and only has experience in the US. It would be impossible for her to give advice for every country, especially when it comes to legalities like disabilities and harassment.

      She has gotten letters from those in the UK and other countries and has said that she cannot speak directly about regulations in that country.

    2. annonie*

      It’s written by an American with a mostly American audience and labor laws are different in every country. Weird complaint.

    3. Treena*

      Agreed, this is very disappointing, especially since the crux of this isn’t really about laws but personal calculation and word choice.

  25. Day Job Haver*

    I do find myself wondering how someone would hold a potential employer to account. If you need, ask for, and receive an accommodation for an interview, what prevents a bad faith employer from behaving normally in the interview, and just deciding, pointedly not in writing, that the candidate who “is a hassle” is by default not at the top of the candidate pool/unlikely to be their choice?

    It seems quite possible to be on the receiving end of an entirely plausible “very strong candidate pool” rejection email, suspect discrimination, and not be able to make a case for it.

    As a (occasional) hiring manager, I and my company ABSOLUTELY don’t operate that way, but I assume this just further illustrates the difficulty of job seeking with a disability?

  26. Dealbreaker*

    Until very recently someone who is on the ball could find evidence of my primary/first disability on my resume but I didn’t disclose even once employed because people have a tendency to drop 100 pts off my IQ if they know. Every single time an interviewer figured it out (either by asking illegal questions or, in only one case ever, by reading and understanding the relevant resume entry) there was a clear shift in the tone of the interview where I was basically mentally dismissed and I got cut at that stage of the process.

    I only need accommodation at an interview if I’m asked to do something unexpected – fill in a paper form, use stairs, read tiny print, use someone else’s computer without being able to configure it, or a few other things – and I will bring it up then if needed. Again, that is universally the end of the road.

    I have some secondary disabilities now, ones that are way more visible but less likely to cause problems (among other things, I use a walker). It doesn’t come with the IQ drop, but it’s still interesting to see how various people react. It’s also interesting to see the assumptions people make about what you can and cannot do.

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