All interviews should be objective and non-biased and all applicants should be allowed an opportunity to provide evidence of their abilities and skills in relation to the job. When interviewing a disabled person, do not let any misconceptions or assumptions about disability influence your view on whether a person can do the job.

Asking about a disability should only be done in a positive manner, in relation to the effect on someone’s ability to do the job and focusing on what adjustments might remove any barriers.

Planning reasonable adjustments

If you know in advance that a candidate will need some reasonable adjustments to take part in a selection interview, you will need to arrange these. If you do not know in advance, you should try to accommodate any needs a disabled person might have when they arrive.

Encouraging applicants to discuss any requirements early in the application process can help make the interview process easier for both candidate and interviewers. It may be useful to insert the following paragraph in your invitation for interview letters:

“If you require assistance to attend this interview, for example, use of a signer or interpreter, mini-loop induction facility or car parking within close proximity to the interview venue – or if your disability affects your access to or mobility within buildings, please contact [named individual] at the above address/number, who will be happy to provide you with assistance”.

Reasonable adjustments during an interview

These can include:

  • Making changes to the location of the interview.
  • Adapting the environment, for example to enable wheelchair access or to dim down the lights for someone with epilepsy.
  • Providing an interpreter, for example for a candidate who communicates using sign language.
  • Changing the planned interview time. Some candidates may benefit from having the interview at a particular time, for example if they have a condition that causes tiredness at certain times of the day, they need to take medication or eat at specific times, or they have difficulty using public transport during rush hour.

A company is recruiting a new software engineer. After reviewing applications, the shortlisting panel invites five candidates to interview. Each candidate is asked if they need reasonable adjustments or additional assistance in order to attend.

The recruiting manager receives an email from a candidate who discloses they have autism. The candidate feels they may struggle in a traditional interview which relies heavily on social and communication skills. Additionally, they are concerned they may struggle with any hypothetical or abstract questions asked. They make the following requests:

  • To be accompanied at the interview by a companion, who will rephrase or interpret any questions they struggle to understand.
  • To see the interview questions before the interview, if possible.

The recruiting manager is unsure; they feel that by honouring these requests they may put the other candidates at a disadvantage. After speaking with a member of the HR department, they are advised that the changes requested amount to ‘reasonable adjustments’.

The recruiting manager responds to the candidate agreeing that they may be accompanied by a support worker and shares with them the proposed interview questions.

They also:

  • Give the candidate as much information about what to expect from the interview as possible, including who will be on the interview panel.
  • Adjust the interview questions so that they contain no hypothetical or abstract questions or language.

Selection tests

Care must be taken when selection tests are used as these can discriminate unfairly against disabled people. Employers may need to make reasonable adjustments to enable disabled candidates to properly demonstrate their skills.

If a selection test is to be completed online, the employer must make sure the website and software used are accessible and that alternative options are available if required. Find out more about digital barriers to recruitment.

In some cases practical working interview or tests can be more appropriate for some people with learning disabilities, especially when a person finds it difficult to articulate their skills in a job interview. The employer could consider a Job Taster or Work Experience Placement or even a short practical test.

  • Provide more time to complete the test.
  • Do not make the test time limited.
  • Provide a personal reader/writer.
  • Provide a signer/communicator.
  • Provide support equipment, e.g. induction loops, adapted keyboards.
  • Allow a break in a long test.
  • Adjust how the test is scored.

Medical Examinations / health screening

Some employers require all successful candidates for employment to have a medical examination and it would be appropriate for an employer to include a disabled candidate in this process.

However, it is not appropriate for an employer to insist on a medical check for a disabled person and not for others, without justification. Having a disability needs not affect a person’s general health.

Occasionally it may be appropriate on health and safety grounds to complete a medical check with a view to implementing reasonable adjustments.

If after you have offered somebody a job, a health condition is brought to your attention, it must be treated as a disability. In asking medical questions, you should make it clear that individuals are welcome to discuss any health-related matters in person and in confidence with an appropriate member of your staff, either in addition to or as an alternative to filling in a questionnaire. Some people living with certain conditions prefer to be able to explain in more detail how they are successfully managing their condition and be on hand to answer any questions, rather than rely on a form.

It is not unlawful for you to offer an applicant a job that is conditional upon them passing an occupational health check. In this situation, if the results are that the successful candidate has a disability that affects their ability to do the job, the question will then be whether a reasonable adjustment can be made to deal with that. If a reasonable adjustment cannot be made, it would then be legitimate to withdraw the job offer on the grounds that the applicant has not met the required condition.

Throughout the recruitment and selection process it is advisable, and general good practice, to retain all data used and notes made with regards to selection decisions and the reasoning for selecting one candidate over another within the selection process. This would include original application forms, interview notes and selection test results, which should be kept after the interview for a period of 3-6 months.

This will be of great assistance if an applicant wishes feedback or to appeal against your decision.