Interviewing people with a disability

If an applicant has disclosed or it is apparent they have a disability, it is important for the selection committee to look beyond any stereotypes or commonly-held assumptions about the capacities of that person.

The job of the selection committee is to make a finding about the relative merits of the applicants and this includes an assessment of their capacity to perform the inherent requirements of the job. If there is any doubt about an applicant's ability to meet the inherent requirements of the job because of an apparent or disclosed disability it is essential that you discuss with them any reasonable adjustments they may need in order to perform these particular elements of the job.

This can often be a difficult discussion for both you as the interviewer and the applicant, and if possible,should generally be at the end of the assessment so as not to disturb the presentation of the applicant's claims.

The chair of the committee should make it clear that where the person can perform the inherent requirements of the position with reasonable adjustment having been made, their disability is not relevant to the selection process.

What you can ask about a disability or injury relate to:

  • any adjustments required to ensure the interview/selection process is fair and equitable
  • what impact the disability will have on the capacity of the applicant to meet the inherent requirements of the position, with reasonable adjustments being made
  • any adjustments that may be required to complete the inherent requirements of the job.

Any other questions about an individual's disability are inappropriate, including questions about:

  • how the individual acquired their disability
  • specific details of the individuals disability
  • whether the individual is taking any medication.

For more specific information on interviewing people with different types of disability, refer to the guide under Reference documents.

Inappropriate questions:

Inappropriate Appropriate

I notice that you have some difficulty walking and I wonder how you get around. What caused it? Did you have an accident or is this a congenital condition?

This position will require the staff member to drive a university vehicle on a regular basis. This is one of the inherent requirements of the position that we need to check with all applicants. Do you have a current driver's licence and are you able to meet this criterion?

How will the pressure of tight deadlines affect your disability?

This job involves working to multiple, competing deadlines. Tell us about a situation where you have had to assess priorities and manage a number of competing deadlines.

Describing the tasks involved in the job and asking the candidate what they won't be able to do because of their disability.

Describing the inherent requirements of the job and asking if the candidate will need any adjustments to perform them.

Dealing with concerns about reasonable adjustments

The candidate has discussed with you reasonable adjustments they would require in order to meet all the inherent requirements of the role. The questions you may be wondering are: how much would this cost the University and who is responsible for this cost?

It is important to understand that this should not be a factor in your decision making process and this would be regarded as discrimination as you have not focused on the person's ability to perform the inherent requirements of the job regardless of the adjustments put in place which would be deemed reasonably practicable.

The majority of adjustments that will be made will cost less that $500 and there are a number of different avenues to arrange for these to happen. Information about this can be found in the University's Reasonable Adjustment Procedure.

The use of medical examinations in the selection process

Unless medical information is volunteered by an applicant, the requirement that applicants undertake a medical examination during the pre-employment stage may give rise to a complaint under the Disability Discrimination Act unless:

  • it is relevant to assessing an applicant's ability to meet the inherent requirements of the job
  • it is effective for this purpose; and
  • all applicants for similar jobs are required to undertake it.

Similarly, a job offer to a successful applicant may be conditional on the results of a medical examination if all employees entering similar jobs have been required to undertake a medical examination.

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