by Neil Bauman, Ph.D. with Linda Grasmick
Getting a job is typically more difficult when you have a hearing loss. Linda, herself hard of hearing, has some important words of wisdom for people with hearing loss when applying for a new job. She explains:
You don’t want to approach your prospective employer with an attitude of “this is what I need because I have a hearing loss. Are you willing to give me these things/accommodations if I take this job?”
[Yes the American’s With Disabilities (ADA) law requires employers of a given size to accommodate your needs, but shoving that down their throats at the beginning of an interview is NOT the way to make a good impression that results in them offering you a job!]
Rather, approach your prospective employer from the opposite perspective with an attitude of, “This is why I will be a great employee for you. These are the special skills and knowledge that I will bring to your company. This is what I can do for your business.” Then, somewhere near the end of the interview you say something like, “This is why granting my hearing loss accommodation requests will be so worthwhile for you.”
Always consider the situation from the employer’s point of view. Answer the question, “Why should they grant you your requests?” Answer it for them. If you don’t answer it, they might not see it for themselves. Practice explaining those reasons prior to the interview.
With so many qualified people out of work right now and competing for every available job, anybody wanting a job needs to be flexible, and be able to meet the employer’s needs. Anyone who wants special treatment needs to be able to show why they are worth that special treatment. Your best chance lies in identifying your strengths as a employee and “selling” the idea that your experience, knowledge and character are valuable assets that they don’t want to lose.
It’s hard to know what to say at job interviews. Put the odds in your favor right at the beginning. Put a smile on your face, hold out your hand, and say something like, “Hi. I’m Jim. I’m very excited about this job possibility. It’s the type of work I want to do, and I think I have the skills to do it very well. I’d like the chance to show you what a good employee I can be for you.”
If you’re not doing that sort of thing when you interview for a job, then you are unlikely to be taken seriously. When you apply for a job, you are asking the employer to give you some of their money. You need to “sell” yourself by giving them reasons to spend their hard-earned money on you.
You do not need to beat around the bush and/or play games. Just tell them in a straightforward way what your skills are, and why you would be a better employee for them to hire than most other people. Be prepared to answer questions about your skills and about your performance on previous jobs.
It’s also great if you can show them some evidence of your skills—such as past performance reviews that have been positive, letters of recommendation, certificates of accomplishments, etc. You can’t expect a stranger to automatically know why they should hire you. You have to both tell them and show them.
Save all this “evidence” of your accomplishments in a special folder. Include things like performance reviews, letters to your personnel file that are positive, certificates of educational programs attended, examples of your best work, etc. Save those things throughout your career, then you will have them handy when you want to show evidence of your good work. Sometimes, you can organize those materials neatly in a folder. That’s called a “portfolio”.
I always keep my resume current and have a box where I keep all of my career-related materials and examples of my important projects. I keep that collection of materials up-to-date even though I have had the same employer for 12 years. I never know when I might need it.
Prepare for the interview by identifying your strengths. Next, practice how you would talk about those strengths with others. Identify what evidence you would talk about or show that would illustrate those strengths to a potential employer. If you discover that you don’t have evidence, or that your skills need a little work, then work on developing those skills and evidence to show.
Avoid emphasizing your weaknesses in an interview. You want to focus on all your positive qualities and skills—not on your problems and weak areas. At the same time, you need to be prepared to talk about your weaknesses if the interviewer asks. A common question would be something like, “What would you say is your greatest weakness on the job?” The trick is to discuss your weaknesses (learning needs) in ways that still make you look attractive to an employer.
When discussing your weaknesses, be honest, but present your weak areas as challenges that do not hurt your ability to do the job well. Yes, like everyone else you have learning needs (weak areas) and challenges in your life. Just remember, the employer is looking to hire people who can be successful. You want the employer to respect you and consider you an attractive employee who will contribute to the company’s financial health. Therefore, present any weaknesses as areas that you are in the process of mastering so they should pose no problems for your performance on the job.
When you follow the principles that Linda has laid out here, you are well on your way to a successful interview, and hopefully you will walk out with a job offer that will make all the time and effort you put into the interview worthwhile.
Thanks for you insight Linda. You’ve helped a lot of hard of hearing job seekers today.