How to properly apply

Rejection letter (Picture: MyH)
Convince with positive aggression and turn off the pity bonus. (Picture: MyH)

People with disabilities need to be very convincing when applying for a job. With knowledge, sympathy and positivism.

After his business education, Matt M. decided to take up training for a social worker. The 27-year-old man has cerebral palsy and is a wheelchair user. He has completed his training two years ago. Since then, Matt is on job hunt. "More or less intense," as he says himself.

Matt has already completed two internships in assisted living facilities. "But that never turned into a permanent position," the young man says a bit desperate.

Carefull job selection - a prerequisite for success

Matt has lived in an assisted living facility, before he moved with his wife in their own apartment three years ago. "I know the system, the needs of people with disabilities," says Matt and wonders why he does not find a job as a social worker in an assisted living facility despite his expert knowledge.

Michael Graus, coordinator for the professional integration of people with disabilities, has an answer: "You should only apply where the limitation is not too relevant."

Matt does have great theoretical and surely also practical knowledge about supervised living facilities for people with disabilities. However, because of his own handicap, he cannot fully support his colleagues in everyday work.

To successfully apply for a job, Matt needs to put his focus on positions where his handicap has no relevance and he still can use his special knowledge.

puzzle with a missing piece in the middle (Pauline/pixelio.de)
Show your future employer that you are exactly that missing puzzle piece the company needs. (Pauline/pixelio.de)

Crucial question: mentioning disability - yes or no?

Constance A. wants to apply for a job as an administrative assistant. She has a hearing impairment but can make phone calls with her hearing aids. After the birth of her two children, the 41-year-old wants to pick up again her professional career. She has taken a long break and now wants work part-time. She has experience and a solid education. In addition, Constance A. has kept herself up to date during her time off with trainings for computer use. However, she is uncertain whether she should mention her disability in the application or during the interview, or better leave it out.

"This question cannot be answered generally," says Michael Graus. "The more obvious a handicap is, the more the candidate should include it in the written application," advises Michael Graus. Constance A. for instance can leave out her disability in the application letter. However, Graus advises that she explains her handicap at the job interview. "It is best to face the disability subject in a quiet phase of the interview. It is important that the handicap is not just mentioned without explanation. It is wise to present it in a way that the employer can see what to do with it, "says Graus.

Michael Graus does not recommend concealing the disability – even if it is not relevant to the current job. "You never know what you are going to meet in your work life. A job profile can be changed over the years. There may be relocations," says Graus.

cord spiral (Pauline/pixelio.de)
To prevent rejection letters: turn your “disadvantages” into advantages! (Pauline/pixelio.de)

Goodbye pity bonus and hello abilities!

Cindy E. has applied for a job in the public service. The job description states that people with severe disabilities are given priority among equally qualified. The 21-year-old, who is a wheelchair user since a car accident in her childhood, has just completed her training as a secretary. The young woman was sure to get the job. She assumed that not many people in her small hometown would apply for this very postions. In her application, she stated her disability several times and eventually, she was invited for an interview.

At the interview, Cindy E. explained her disability in detail. She stated clearly what she cannot do, where she needs conservation, what accommodations are required and which financial benefit she would bring as a person with a disability. In the end, Cindy E. did not get the job. What went wrong?

Quite a lot went wrong. "People with a disabilities are not hired for their financial benefits," states Michael Graus: "People with disabilities are first of all - from the perspective of the employers - a disadvantage. If an applicant can convince the employer of his/her qualities and put the seeming disadvantages into special abilities, then there is a good chance to get the job. “Positive aggression is in demand! An employer only hires someone who gives him the best possible performance”, says Graus.

Win with skills and positivism

"The most important decision needs to happen in the mind of the candidate," says Michael Graus. “Convince with knowledge, sympathy and toughness. An applicant needs to be a positive person."

And what if the problem is already the application letter? If every one of them is answered with a no? "Then the self-marketing plan does not work!" says Graus. He advises to have reviewed the application by a competent person. Also individual counselling can often work wonders.

Increase your market value! Improve your marketing plan and become positive! You apply in competition with others. They might be fitter or younger but you have your advantages! Make sure your future employer learns about them.


Text: MHA - 8/2010

Translation MPL - 05/2012

Pictures: pixelio.de