Interviewing Disabled Applicants: What NOT to Ask

negative-42774_1280You always want to be careful when interviewing job applicants so you don’t ask questions which can lead to legal trouble.  For example, here’s a question you should avoid: “Have you ever been injured on the job?”

Due to laws which protect disabled individuals from discrimination, you may want to brush up on interviewing etiquette to make sure you’re not discriminating against persons with disabilities.

The important thing to remember when interviewing applicants is to ask questions which focus on their ability to perform the essential functions of the job, and what accommodations may be necessary.

There are some questions you should NOT ask an applicant during a job interview.  Here are a few:

  • What is the nature or severity of your disability (if the disability is visible)?
  • What is the condition which causes your disability?
  • What is your prognosis?
  • Does your disability require you to take special leaves of absence?
  • Will you need to undergo special medical treatment?

If you are interviewing applicants with a known disability which may interfere with job performance, you may describe or demonstrate specific functions of the job and ask the applicant if they can perform those functions with or without reasonable accommodation.  You may even ask the applicant to demonstrate how he or she will perform the job functions.

If you are interviewing an applicant who has a visible disability which will not interfere with the job, you cannot ask the applicant to demonstrate performance of specific job duties unless you ask all the applicants to demonstrate performing those same job duties.

For example: An applicant with only one leg applies for a job which involves taking phone messages.  The position requires sitting at a desk answering phones and taking messages.  You cannot require the applicant to demonstrate how they will perform the task, unless you ask all other applicants to do the same.

Note: If disabled applicants say they cannot perform the essential functions of a job with or without accommodation, they are not qualified for the job.  Laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act do not require the employer to provide the best possible accommodation or to provide personal use items such as hearing aids or eye glasses.

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