Thursday, March 25, 2010

A reader wants your opinion on job interviews

As much as this is a surprise to you, but I am actually getting a lot of emails asking me for advice, and I always reply and people seem to appreciate my efforts. I am not just destructive, only to those with grandiose theories on stuttering, treatment and outcome studies. I always accept your experience, but rarely your interpretation of them! A reader writes:
First of all, thanks for your advice I think will be useful for further interviews, anyway I´d like to ask you whether you always tell them about your stuttering in advance, before the interview, and whether you tell that in all the interviews you have. My point is that at the first interview with you, without telling them anything about the problem, they see you stutter, so if the process continues with further interviews I think they´re assuming that. I´ve been thinking on it and they could think you suffer a sort of depression/mental problem because the stuttering, I mean, I think that the greater the importance you give the stuttering the greater the importance they will give too. In the other hand talk openly about it should be seen as a proof of self acceptance, really I don´t know the best way for doing this.
I´d appreciate it if you could post in your blog something about this in order someone else could also give me advice, but I´d prefer do not appear the name of the company, the actuarial world is really small in this country.
My advice is:

1) Never write about your stuttering in your C.V., because they might reject you because they have so many applications and they have to reject some.
2) If you are invited for a job or phone interview, let them know that you stutter so that they don't feel duped, and say that it is of neurobiological origin, and that you are able to communicate but maybe with a bit more time.
3) In the interview, don't mention your stuttering on purpose, but openly talk about your stuttering if they ask.
4) Make a strong point and use to your advantage: Despite my stuttering, I have achieved a lot. I told myself that this job is what I really want to do, and so I did it. Some people might be more fluent but I have seen many fluent people who are less qualified and importantly less motivated than myself. Because of my stuttering, I am a better team player, because I understand people better and cater for their weaknesses.
4) If you feel they discriminate you, fuck them. Do you really what to work for such a company? ;-)


Anonymous said...

Very good advice Tom, i have used them myself in the past. I do tell the interviewer's up front that i have "a speach problem" only because i stutter badly on the word stutter! I find it helps myself relax now that they know, and my stuttering improves. And like you said i used stuttering as advantage, i'm a good listener because of it. It worked i got the job, they were impressed with my openess, honesty and upbeat attitude. Which really all that matter's.

Satyendra said...

Good advise, John. Yes, who cares for a company which is more concerned by the appearances than the real stuff? the total person?

ac said...

Yeah, all good advice. Never mention anything negative before you have an interview!

Most of the time your stutter is simply not relevant to your ability to do the job. Focus on the things that qualify you for the role: your training, experience and talent.

Eric said...

NEVER mention anything beforehand? Some people prefer "disclosing" in writing, and find it way less stressful than doing it in person or over the phone. Granted, many employers are not educated and do discriminate--but this is not always the case, especially when some thought is put into how to bring up stuttering, where it is not perceived as something negative but rather an experience that makes you a more attractive candidate (e.g. stating you are a member of the NSA or BSA or something that shows you have been constructive with regards to this problem).

Tom, I couldn't disagree more with your third suggestion. Don't mention your stuttering on purpose? What? A great thing about advertising, for many people, is that it allows them to bring up stuttering on their own terms. When a person waits for someone else to bring it up, it could have the adverse effect of making them feel like they’re being backed into a corner. Also, many interviewers won't bring stuttering up at all, because they "feel bad," or are uncomfortable, or they just don't know how to do so without feeling like they are offending PWS. People should do what they're comfortable with. Not everybody feels the need to disclose. But if someone is worried about being perceived negatively because of stuttering, why not bring it up voluntarily to make it easier to talk about why they're at the interview in the first place?

I agree with point four!

Tom Weidig said...

It is better to play on the safe side, and don't mention on your CV. You are applying for a job and not for a job as a stutterer. But you could mention BSA or NSA but I would only do this if you have held a senior position and not just membership.

Applications are like talking to girls. It is NOT important what you say, but that you don't say ANYTHING wrong that might make them suspicious of your character!

UNLESS you apply for a job where stuttering might be of use like a charity or as a social worker.

I think it is not wise to talk about stuttering on purpose. Talk about what you can bring to the company and ask questions to know more about them and the job. It is not to do "Now I want to talk about stuttering", but rather mention in another context.

If you email them before the interview, you have talked about it anyway, so no need to insist if they don't want to insist.

Anonymous said...

Tom -

Just wondering - Is there evidenced based research to support your opinion on job interviews?

If so, what is it and if not, should there be? Is your offered opinion your own experience?

Have you ever just "fuck them"?

Mike said...

I don't put it on my CV, but I do disclose it in the additional information/disability portion of any application I do.

What is the point of hiding it when they will inevitably find out later on? Also, I find I don't stutter as much if I'm not trying to hide it.

Also, if you do have an interview and do begin to stutter I would then use the stutter to your advantage. Use it to sell why you need the job. Why does it make you unique? Your application so interesting? So appealing for the company?

Interviews are about selling yourself, and stuttering is a great way to positively sell yourself.

ac said...

I don't think anyone is suggesting people should try to hide the fact that they stutter.

The point is that for most jobs it's neither a positive or a negative, it's simply irrelevant. Are you going to mention your peanut allergy, your irritable bowel or your knee injury?

When I am applying for a programming job, I know the selection panel want to hear about what an awesome knowledge of computer programming and software engineering I have. If they are true professionals, they don't want to hear about my hair colour, what I like to do on the weekend, or whether or not I stutter.

That said, you should do what gives you the best chance of success. If bringing up your stutter makes you more relaxed and perform better, then you should do that!

Mike said...

You raise some good points ac, but what about if you apply for a customer service job?

It would be silly not to mention the stutter in my opinion.

It's perfectly fine not highlighting the fact you stutter if it will have little to zero effect on your job duties. However, if it will have an effect, like customer service, I think it would be dishonest to not bring the issue up.

Einar said...

In my job interviews it has helped me to mention stuttering rather early in the interview, as it just helps me to relax if the other person knows why I talk in a slightly "different" way, and then it helped me to become much more fluent during the rest of the interview... I think it's important not to make a big deal out of it, but it still needs to be mentions in a few well prepared and consistent sentences. The best way is to present it as a strength, and to explain that in some situations the stuttering can be more than usually (for instance job interviews).

Chris D said...

I tend to disclose both on job applications and at the start of interviews. I tell interviewers that I am mentioning my stutter because I want them to feel comfortable. I say, 'its not something that causes me any embarassment, and I hope that it won't cause any of you any embarassment either'.

In the past I have encounted direct discrimination from employers, where an interviewer once said, 'I don't see why you have even bothered turning up to this interview...' (I was having a bad speech day) I was furious, and these days I would be more inclined to take this issue up with personnel and said that this attitude was totally inappropriate.

Even if you tick all the right boxes and say things that are funny and charming, I sense that some people can still be suspicious as to who you are and what you are able to do. Its very frustrating and its a constant battle, and we have to do our bit to educate others every day.