Our aim is to ensure that everyone feels confident during the application, interview and selection process

Applying for jobs and going for interviews


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

This guide explores your questions and enables you to think through how you could handle a job application and interview.

We have also produced a guide for employers which looks at similar questions and concerns from their perspective.

The aim is to ensure that everyone feels confident during the application, interview and selection process.

Changing Faces has been supporting and advising job seekers for over 20 years. We also provide expert training to employers to ensure that workplaces are fair and inclusive.

Part of this training enables employers to be more aware of how their unconscious attitudes around appearance may affect their policies and practice.

In 2014 we launched What Success Looks Like, a new campaign to transform everyone’s confidence around disfigurement* in the workplace.

We would like to thank all the organisations and individuals who have contributed their experiences and advice to this guide.

* We use ‘disfigurement’ as a semi-neutral collective word to refer to the visual effect of marks, scarring, asymmetry or an unusual functioning of a person’s face or body caused by many different conditions, injuries or illnesses.

Disfigurement is a word which is clearly understood and is used in the Equality Act 2010 which protects people with ‘severe’ disfigurements from discrimination.

Most people prefer to use the name of their condition or illness or a description of their illness.

Applying for a job

Q. Should I mention my face on an application form?

It is better not to mention your condition or injury on your CV or application form. Keep the focus on your qualifications, skills and suitability for the job. We know that regardless of the type of job, appearances should be irrelevant but unfortunately this is not always the case.

Q. What if the application form asks for a photo and I’d rather not send one?

The Equality Act 2010 Codes of Practice, Chapter 16.42; Avoiding discrimination in Recruitment states:  “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.”

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 stating the above
  • Attach a large photograph of yourself looking smart and confident, and include a note stating the above.

Q. What about ‘Visumés’ (video CVs)?

Visumés are becoming popular in the creative industries. Although they are not mentioned in the Equality Act 2010, some believe they allow for potential discrimination, as applicants will automatically be disclosing their age, ethnicity, gender and visible disabilities if they apply in this format.

If you choose to create one, view it as an opportunity to be in control. It is essential that you script and practise what you want to say and that you present yourself as you would at an interview (in terms of hair, make-up and clothing). Ask someone else to watch it too, so they can give you honest feedback.

As with a Visumé, it is essential to be well prepared for a Skype interview. Make sure you are happy with the sound, lighting and the background that can be seen in the camera shot and have a practice call in the location you have chosen. You should present yourself as you would at a face-to-face interview – even if they cannot see your bottom half!

Q. Does my disfigurement 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 by the Act.

Unfortunately, the word ‘severe’ is not defined in the Act, so it is hard to decide where to draw the line about what is and what is not covered.

If you feel that your mark or condition is severe or ‘disabling’, it is worth bearing in mind that some employers offer guaranteed interviews to disabled applicants under the ‘Two Ticks scheme’. Providing you meet all the minimum criteria for the job, this scheme could allow you to get your foot in the door.

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

This is the form that collects personal data alongside the application. The reason for collecting the data is to build up a picture of the workforce and to enable employers to spot unfairness in their recruitment process.

It is a legal requirement for organisations to separate the application and monitoring forms so there will be no possibility of anyone selecting (or avoiding) candidates based on the information that they give. 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.

Q. What if I need to ask for specific assistance/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 might never have thought of your visible difference as ‘disabling’. However, if there are certain things you need as a matter of course to live with it, then it is a good idea to contact the employer to make sure they can make those adjustments for you in advance of 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.

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

If you are seeking work through a recruitment agency and you are nervous about how you will be received by them or their clients, 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 and confirm that it does not impact on your ability to do the job.

If you both decide it would be in your best interests to let the client know in advance, we advise consultants to seek your advice on which words you would prefer to be used to describe your scar, mark or condition.

Before your interview

Q. Should I give the interviewer a ‘heads up’ about my hands?

Once an interview has been arranged, you could consider letting the interviewer know about your scar, mark or condition in advance if you feel anxious about how they might react or if you think it might put them at ease.

Once you have the contact details for the relevant person you could email or phone with the following information:

  • The interview you will be attending
  • The fact that you have a condition, scar or mark – also let them know what it is called or how you refer to it (keep your description factual and non-judgemental)
  • Why you wanted to mention it (i.e. so that you did not have to spend time explaining during the interview or to prevent the interviewer from being taken by surprise at first)

Reassurance that it has no impact on your knowledge, skills or ability to do the job.

The interview

Q. Is the interviewer allowed to ask about my appearance?

Asking you directly about your condition or mark is not acceptable. Legally an interviewer can only ask questions that could be asked of any other candidate. (This includes questions about treatments, hospital visits and time off as the Equality Act 2010 prevents employers from asking any questions about someone’s health or medical history before they have made an offer of employment).

If an interviewer does ask you, ideally you should politely tell them this. However, you may also decide to answer their question in the interests of putting them at ease. You could add that you would rather not discuss it as you do not think it is relevant.

It is worth thinking about responses you feel comfortable with and their possible outcomes in advance so you do not get caught off guard.

Q. Should I talk about it at interview? What should I say?

If you would like to mention your scar, mark or condition 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, for example:

1. At the start of the interview:

“I’m sure you’ve noticed that my face is unusual. 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, asymmetry, paralysis, etc.. It doesn’t affect me and it becomes less noticeable after a few moments.”

2. As part of your response to questions:

There may be an opportunity to incorporate 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 as you do not want to come across as being unsure, 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.

We recognise that there will be very different views on what you should say at an interview and whose responsibility it is to ‘break the ice’.  However if you sense that the other person feels awkward, and that it may affect the outcome of the conversation, being reluctant to say something “because you shouldn’t have to” is not going to help. A brief explanation or reference to your condition or mark can defuse the tension on both sides and help the interviewer to focus on what you are saying.

Q. 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 scar, mark or condition. Signs might include 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?” It 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 raise it afterwards by emailing the HR manager. You probably will not know on the spot whether or not you have been successful so make sure that you maintain a polite and professional tone. You could write something like:

“Thank you very much for the opportunity to be interviewed today. I would like to give you some feedback from my perspective about how the interview went. I have xyz (your condition, injury or illness).  I noticed that the interviewer was uncomfortable and seemed distracted by my appearance. I could see she found it hard to concentrate to the point where I am concerned it will impact on her assessment of my interview.

I hope this is not the case but I thought it was important to bring it to your attention and to mention that a charity called Changing Faces offers advice and guidance for interviewers in overcoming this sort of discomfort. For more information, please contact Sally Mbewe, its Face Equality at Work Adviser at: sally.mbewe@changingfaces.org.uk or visit whatsuccesslookslike.org.uk. I look forward to hearing from you…”

After the interview

When we were gathering information from people who have personal experiences in order to write this guide, the overwhelming response was that confidence was the key to success. It sounds clichéd but maintaining a positive frame of mind, regardless of the decision is essential.

If you are unsuccessful at an interview, ask for personal feedback on what the interviewer believes to be your strengths and what they were specifically looking for in this role.

If you think the interviewer could benefit from specific training or if you think the assessment process may have been unfair, go to the previous question for guidance on what to do.

Further support

You may find it helpful to download Changing Faces’ self-help guides.

These include:
Living with confidence
Communicating with confidence. Part 1: Join the conversation
Communicating with confidence. Part 2: Handling other people’s reactions

You can also call our helpline 0300 012 0275 or email support@changingfaces.org.uk for confidential advice, information and support.