If you have a disability you may find it hard to know at which stage of the application process you should inform a prospective employer of this or whether you should tell them at all.
The most important thing to know is that there are no set rules – it's up to you if and when you tell them. A lot of it comes down to personal preference: how comfortable you feel disclosing and how open you are about your disability. However, there are also practical things to consider, such as your potentially needing them to make certain accommodations in order to be able to attend the assessment day or interview.
Here are some of the different stages at which you may want to disclose your disability and some key considerations to keep in mind for each.
1. Cover letter
Many candidates fear that talking about their disability in their cover letter may cause them to be disqualified early on in the process. If a company were to discriminate against you they would firstly be breaking the law, but you would also have to ask yourself: do you want to work for such a company anyway?
A reason to disclose early on is if, for example, you have gaps on your CV or perhaps a lower grade because of your disability. Discussing your disability will keep the employer from drawing their own, possibly negative, conclusions, while it is also a chance for you to discuss what you've achieved despite that disability. Focus on the positives: has your disability made you stronger in certain aspects for example? Which skills and strengths do you have because of your disability? And in which way does that make you perfect for the job?
2. Application form
At the beginning of the process you may also be asked to fill in an application form which may ask questions about any serious health conditions or disabilities. These usually refer to any adjustments you may need during the selection process and beyond. It's important that you consider the impact of not making them aware of your situation; do you perhaps have a disability that impacts on your communication skills and that could make it harder for you to perform well in an assessment centre or interview? If the employer is aware of this they can then make the appropriate adjustments to help create a level playing field, allowing you to perform to the best of your abilities.
You may feel more comfortable discussing your disability face-to-face, in which case the interview might be the right time to bring it up. Again, make sure you focus on the positives: emphasise your skills and strengths and talk about what you think you can bring to the company. Be ready for questions from the interviewer, and perhaps take any useful information with you on accommodations they will have to make for you, but don't let the discussion surrounding your disability dominate the interview.
4. After you've received an offer
If you don't need any adjustments during the recruitment process you may be more inclined not to disclose until after you have received an offer: that's totally fine. Know that even at this stage, you're not legally obliged to tell your employer about your disability, but if you do require any accommodations or specific arrangements this is probably the time to make that known so that both you and your future boss are satisfied that you'll go into your new job feeling confident and able to perform your best.
When it comes to disclosing your disability, first and foremost consider your needs and don't let a fear of what might happen stop you from doing what you want to do. Go with the approach that you feel most comfortable with and remember, there are plenty of great companies out there that are looking for someone with your exact skill set and experience. Don't hold yourself back from these opportunities: if you think you can do it, apply.