To disclose or not? Julia Gilchrist on disclosing her hearing loss during a job interview

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WHEN JULIA GILCHRIST’S processor batteries died in the middle of a job interview, it could have been a negative experience.

Instead, the 37-year-old corporate communications specialist seized the opportunity to show the interview panel how well she works under pressure.

‘I pulled the new batteries out of my handbag, kept giving the answer I was giving them, changed the batteries, put the processor back on and asked “Do you have any more questions?”.’

This opened a discussion about the possible impact of Julia’s hearing loss on her ability to do the job. Julia has been living with a cochlear implant since the age of 20 and is about to upgrade to a Cochlear™ Nucleus® Kanso® Sound Processor.

Julia was born profoundly deaf and diagnosed at age 18 months with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. After completing high school, she graduated from university with a double major in communications and politics.

The battery incident in the job interview allowed Julia to reassure the panel that, flat batteries aside, her hearing loss would not affect her performance. The panel was impressed by how she handled the situation.

‘You need to package yourself as strong and sell your resilience,’ says Julia.

For many recipients, Julia’s experience prompts several questions: when should you disclose your hearing loss when applying for a new job? Is it ok to ask interviewers to repeat questions? Is it reasonable to ask if the interview can be conducted in a quiet place? Will the interview involve a panel of people asking questions?

Recruitment expert Nina Mapson Bone from Beaumont People, a recruitment company in Australia, and Julia give their seven top tips for job seekers with a hearing loss apply for a job:

1 Before applying for a role, question if it’s right for you
Nina recommends avoiding the temptation to apply for too many jobs at once to maximise your chances of success. Find out about the company culture, if the job will suit your skill set, and whether the office is a noisy, open-plan environment.

‘If you don’t know what you want you’ll end up in a job you don’t really like.’

Also, find out the essential tasks of the role and make sure you can fulfil the role without interference from your hearing loss.

2 Disclose your hearing loss in the interview – not the application
Job applicants are often competing against a lot of candidates and employers look for ways to vet a high volume of applications. For this reason, Nina suggests disclosing your hearing loss during the interview where you can build a relationship, rather than the initial written application. ‘Give yourself as much opportunity as possible.’ She adds there is often no legal obligation to disclose hearing loss unless it will affect your ability to do the job, though check local laws as part of your job research. Julia agrees that it is best to wait until the interview stage before disclosing your hearing loss unless hearing ability is critical to the role. That way employers are focused on your abilities and not whether employing a person with hearing loss will be good for the company and its image, she says. Nina recommends a brief disclosure during the interview that you have an implant is all that’s needed. ‘That’s probably all the vast majority of people need to say.’ And encourage interviewers to ask any questions about cochlear implants so they don’t make incorrect assumptions, she adds.

‘If you, as a job candidate, make it okay for people to ask questions you’ll actually move very quickly to a point where it’s irrelevant. And that’s the point – it’s all about how good you are for the role.’

If you do decide to disclose a hearing loss ahead of a job interview, consider these tips, says Nina:
• Request the interview questions in writing before the interview.
• Ask for a written agenda of the interview so you can prepare.
• Ask for any relevant company literature and a written job description.
• If you lip read, ask to be seated in a room with good lighting.
• At the interview, advise the organisation of any adjustments they may or may not need to make for you – they may assume too much.

3 Prepare for the interview
There is no such thing as too much research or preparation for an interview, Nina says.
Being informed about the company and having good questions prepared ahead of an interview will help you succeed, she says.

4 Don’t be afraid to ask questions that highlight your hearing loss
Never hesitate to ask the interviewer to repeat the question or let them know you didn’t quite understand, and ask the interviewer to look at you when they ask you a question, says Nina. In a panel interview, where people might talk simultaneously, don’t be afraid to say you didn’t quite hear or understand the questions. Also try to make eye contact with everyone in the room, which can be challenging if you lip read.

5 Transparency: be open and up front
Feel confident to ask the interviewer if they have any concerns about your application or your ability to perform the role, Nina says.

‘I’ve never met anyone who isn’t impressed when asked questions and it’s a really good way to finish the interview.’

6 The simple things count
Arriving on time for a job interview with a positive attitude and a smile, and looking smart are winning tactics, Nina says. Most candidates don’t do this very well. Make yourself stand out with good, general preparation. ‘That will automatically put you ahead of 90 to 95% of people who apply for a role.’

7 Be confident
Nina’s most important tip is to remember that confidence is contagious.

‘Being confident in your ability to do the role and being a personable, friendly, well-prepared candidate is actually the best thing you can be,’ she says.

Typically, candidates who are dealing with a disability have more resilience, empathy and are better at team work because these skills have helped them overcome hurdles, she says. Julia agrees and reminds candidates to stay focused on the job, not your disability. ‘That took me a really long time to learn.’

 

This article was featured in Issue 01 April 2019 Cochlear Family eNews. Want to receive stories like these? Simply visit https://www.cochlear.com/au/home/connect/cochlear-family and follow the steps.

Please seek advice from your health professional about treatments for hearing loss. Outcomes may vary, and your health professional will advise you about the factors which could affect your outcome. Always read the instructions for use for use. Not all products are available in all countries. Please contact your local Cochlear representative for product information. Views expressed are those of the individual. Consult your hearing professional to determine if you are a candidate for Cochlear technology. Cochlear, Hear now. And always, Kanso, myCochlear, Nucleus, SmartSound, True Wireless and the elliptical logo, and marks bearing an ® or ™ symbol, are either trademarks or registered trademarks of Cochlear Limited (unless otherwise noted). Cochlear Nucleus 7 and Baha 5 sound processors are compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. The Cochlear Nucleus Smart App and Baha 5 Smart App are available on App Store and Google Play. For compatibility information visit http://www.cochlear.com/compatibility. iPhone, iPad and iPod touch are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the US and other countries. © Cochlear Limited 2019.

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