Applying for jobs when you have a visible difference

Are you concerned that your appearance might affect your chances when applying for jobs? We answer some of the most common questions.

Looking for a job is a challenge for everyone, but when you are also thinking about how a potential employer might react to your scar, mark or condition, it can feel particularly stressful.

We often hear from people who are concerned that their appearance might affect their chances when applying for jobs.

On this page, we answer some of the most common questions about applying for jobs if you have a visible difference or disfigurement.

Should I mention my visible difference on an application form?

It is better not to mention your visible difference or disfigurement when initially applying for jobs. This includes on your covering letter, CV or application form. The focus should be on your qualifications, skills and suitability for the job.

What if the job application form asks for a photo?

Under the Equality Act 2010, employers cannot ask you to supply a photo unless it is essential.

Applicants should not be asked to provide photographs, unless it is essential for selection purposes, for example for an acting job; or for security purposes, such as to confirm that a person who attends for an assessment or interview is the applicant.

Equality Act 2010 Codes of Practice, Chapter 16.42: Avoiding discrimination in recruitment

If you are asked to provide a photo, you have a few options. You could:

  • Contact the employer and ask why they need the photograph and how it is relevant to the application.
  • Send the application without a photo and include a note referencing Equality Act above.
  • Attach a large photograph of yourself looking smart and confident but also include a note stating the above.

What about “visumés” (video CVs)?

Visumés – CVs in video form – are becoming more and more popular when applying for jobs, particularly in the creative industries. They are not mentioned in the Equality Act. However, some believe that they allow for potential discrimination. This is because applicants will automatically be disclosing their age, ethnicity, gender and appearance if they apply in this format.

If you do have to create one when applying for jobs, view it as a chance to be in control. It is important that you script and practise what you want to say. You should also present yourself as you would at an interview. Make sure you’re smartly dressed and have paid attention to your hair, make-up and so on. If you can, ask someone else to watch it too, so they can give you honest feedback.

What if I have to attend a video interview?

Alongside a visumé, it is essential to be well-prepared for a Skype, Zoom or video interview. Make sure you are happy with the sound, lighting and whatever background can be seen in the shot. Have a practice call in the location you have chosen to make sure you can use the technology and appear as you would like to.

Again, you should present yourself as you would at a face-to-face interview – even if they cannot see your bottom half!

Does my condition count as a “disability”?

The Equality Act 2010 deems “severe disfigurement” a disability. This means you do not need to prove that it has a “long-term adverse effect” on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities in order to be protected under the Act.

However, the word “severe” is not defined in the Act. This makes it hard to establish what is and isn’t covered. Legally, the decision about whether or not someone has a disability can only be decided by a court hearing through a tribunal.

If you feel that your condition is severe and therefore “disabling”, it is worth bearing in mind that some employers offer guaranteed interviews to disabled applicants under the “Two Ticks scheme”. If you meet all the minimum criteria for the job, this scheme could help get you to interview stage.

Should I declare my condition or injury on the monitoring form?

The monitoring form collects personal data alongside your application. The reason for collecting this data is to build up a picture of the workforce so employers can spot unfairness or gaps in their recruitment process.

It is a legal requirement for organisations to separate the application and monitoring forms. This is to make sure recruiters do not select (or eliminate) candidates based on the information they give in the monitoring form. It is obviously down to your personal judgement, but you should be able to complete this section with confidence that it will not affect your application.

What if I need to ask for specific arrangements to enable me to attend an interview?

Employers have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to enable candidates with a disability to attend interviews wherever possible. This may mean making a “reasonable” adjustment to their interview practice or location.

You may never have thought of your visible difference or disfigurement as “disabling”. However, it may be worth considering whether there are certain things you need as a matter of course to live with it. If so, it’s a good idea to contact the employer to make sure they can make those adjustments for you before the interview. It is a good opportunity to give them information on your condition and let them know that you are willing to share your expertise with them about how to handle it.

I suspect recruitment consultants won’t want to pass someone like me to their clients, so what’s the point?

If you are applying for jobs through a recruitment agency, you may be nervous about how you will be received by them or their clients. Remember, you have nothing to lose by being open with them about your concerns.

You could start the conversation by asking them whether they think it would be helpful for them to mention your appearance to the client in advance. This way, they can confirm that it does not impact on your ability to do the job before you have your interview.

If you decide to do this, we advise consultants to seek your advice on which words you would prefer to be used to describe your scar, mark or condition.

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