Going to a job interview

Everyone gets nervous about interviews. At Changing Faces, we hear further anxieties from people with a visible difference, who are often unsure if people will ask about their appearance in an interview, or worried about how to respond to questions about their condition, mark or scar. Here are some common questions and how you might respond.

Is the interviewer allowed to ask about my appearance?

Asking you directly about your condition, mark or scar is not acceptable. Interviewers are also not allowed to ask any questions about your physical or mental health (i.e. do you need to have treatment?). Legally, an interviewer can only ask questions that could be asked of any other candidate.

If an interviewer does ask you, ideally you can respond in a number of ways

  • Politely make the interviewer aware that this is not a question they can ask under the Equality Act 2010
  • Answer the question if you are comfortable doing so but remember you are not legally required to
  • Tell the interviewer that is not relevant

Should I talk about my visible difference at interview? What should I say?

It is entirely your decision if you want to bring up your condition, mark or scar. You do not have to. If you would like to mention your visible difference to the interviewer, it will really help if you can practise what you want to say before the interview, so you sound fluent and appear at ease. You should make sure they know:

  • You are bringing it up in case they are interested to know / for their benefit
  • It does not have a bearing on your ability to do the job.

There may be different opportunities to mention it. At the start of the interview or early on you might say something like, “I’m sure you’ve noticed my appearance. It can be a little distracting for people and I know that it often helps if I give a quick explanation. I have xyz or I had an accident, or I had treatment for xyz, which left/caused some scarring, paralysis, etc.. It doesn’t affect me and it becomes less noticeable after a few moments.”

Or you might talk about it as part of your response to questions, by incorporating it into your answers.  For example, if the interviewer asks you to give an example of how you have coped with an awkward situation or impressed a client, you could say something like:

  • “As you can see, my face is unusual / I have birthmark or scar as a result of xyz. I am very used to putting people at ease. When I worked at…”
  • “One of the advantages of having an unusual face is that people remember me…”

It is best not to mention your scar, mark or condition at the end of the interview. It should not be an afterthought and  you do not want to come across as being unconfident, uncertain or apologetic. If you mention it at the beginning or as part of an answer to a question where you are demonstrating a particular skill, you will sound assertive and in control.

What should I do if the interview is going badly (and I suspect it’s because of how I look)?

It can often be obvious when an interviewer is distracted by your visible difference. Signs might include staring the area affected by your condition, mark or scar, not making any eye contact, not responding to what you are saying, or they might be in a rush to end the conversation. You can handle this in a couple of ways:

  • You can take control and describe what you are seeing, such as saying: “I can see that you are having trouble meeting my eye and I’m not sure if you are hearing what I am saying. Is everything ok?” or, “I have noticed you are a bit preoccupied by my appearance and it is quite distracting when I’m answering your questions.” This is not easy and you would need to be feeling confident enough, but  these types of statements will send a strong message that you are aware of what is going on and you are giving the other person a chance to turn the interview around. Whatever the outcome, you will feel better for having taken control.
  • You might choose to say nothing during the interview, but decide you would rather not work for an organisation whose representatives struggle to hold a conversation with someone who looks different
  • You can say nothing during the interview, but you may wish to raise it afterwards by emailing the HR manager or speaking with your recruitment agency.

Preparing for a job interview

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Managing challenges in the workplace

Read

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