Guest post: Diary of a job hunter with cerebral palsy: interviews
Growing up with unclear speech
I used to filter friends according to whether they took the time to listen that bit more carefully to what I wanted to say. Children do everything at 100 miles an hour, so I never blamed the ones who wanted to move on to the next game. Now, my partner understands every word, and I realise that I took people not understanding the odd mutter for granted, because he knows when I’m being rude - it's very unfair!
Preparing companies ahead of my interview
I don’t need an understanding friend when I go for a job interview; I just need a person who sees enthusiasm, intellect and commitment. As I mentioned in my last blog, I’m a bit of a stalker. In my experience, it’s better to email companies directly to offer assistance and to explain about my disability. If they want to meet, I clearly reiterate that my speech is unclear, and that I need an assistant to accompany me in case they struggle to understand at first. It's important it shows I care about making it easier for them, and not that I’m special and need some kind of entourage. My dad or stepmum help out on these occasions - they are both professionals and are really supportive. I try to keep it from the company they are my mum and dad, but dad sometimes slips! Besides, the chances of me having a 60-year-old male carer are quite slim, so I’m sure they guess.
Getting ready to impress
My voice is negatively affected by fatigue, anxiety and stress. Interviews clearly stir up the latter two to a great degree if I’m not careful. And if I'm anxious and stressed I don't get much sleep, so it's really important I keep calm. The day before the interview is about relaxing; I try to do all preparation before then and get a lot of rest and sleep.
You learn tricks over the years when you have speaking problems; if people don’t understand something, you re-phrase the statement or use more simple words. In an interview, ideally you don’t want to simplify things, as you want to demonstrate you know the technical language of the business
I tend to brief my dad on words or concepts that I might want to bring up, but sometimes even he finds it hard if it’s a word unfamiliar to him. One time I was determined to ask an intelligent question using various buzz words, but was forced to simplify due to the interviewers knowing the word, but not understanding my voice, and dad knowing my voice but not the word!
Be flexible and resourceful
Each interview is different. Some ask about the practicalities of you working with them, so it's important to know what you’ll need and where to get it. Reassure them it'll all be possible and their company will take on you, not a headache of sorting support out for you.
If luck isn’t on my side and I don't get the job, I ask for feedback and make it clear I'd still be available for work. This takes a little bit of cheek, but I’m so glad my step-mum encouraged me, as it got me two short-term contracts this year. It's good to take the feedback and brush up on skills they feel you lack, as it shows you’ve listened.
My four month contract that just ended was great. Lots of people worked from home, so practicalities were never an issue. I could take part in conferences and meetings via phone or messenger. Yes calls were hard but being so junior didn't really need to speak up at meetings! Over time my colleagues got used to my voice and were good at using email rather than the phone when communicating with me. Once my foot was in the door, my work spoke for me and I was just another colleague. In fact, due to staff leaving, I pretty much had my own project.
Above all, enjoy it! I love what I do, so I get in the zone and show them Jess the mathematician, not Jess with cerebral palsy and dad in the corner.If you would like to chat to Jess, you can join her on our online community. And if you’re disabled and looking for work, check out these great employment tips.