When you have a disability, a well-crafted resume should highlight your abilities and help a future employer understand why you’re the best person for the job. A resume is a springboard for you to give details about your skills, experience and the unique perspectives you bring to the table.
To help you put your best foot forward, we designed a sample resume and responses to three typical interview questions. (Download a Word version here.)
The Village Voice, New York, N.Y., July-August 2011Intern
• Prepared news briefings for staff reporters and coordinated in-person and phone interviews
• Fact-checked city sources for the business and metro desk
• Wrote an article about disabled homeless veterans living in the Bowery
Columbia University, College of Journalism
Bachelor of Science in Journalism, May 2012
World Disability Day, New York, NY 2009-2011
• Made signs to raise awareness of global disability issues at the NYC chapter’s annual event
• Served as a youth delegate to the World Health Organization at a conference in DC
• Wrote blog posts for the World Disability Day websites on pressing poverty and disability issues in the developing countries
Columbia University Student Writers Association, Secretary
American Association of People with Disabilities, Student Member
National Merit Scholar
First place, AAPD writer’s contest, 2009
Social media, travel, politics, disability rights advocacy, blogging, psychology, photography, cooking
Advanced proficiency in MS Office (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook), social and new media, conversant in Spanish
Once you’ve got your foot in the door, you’ll want to have thoughtful answers to the questions typically asked by interviewers. Using the sample resume, here are some ways you might considering crafting your responses.
Question No. 1: “Tell me about your extracurricular activities.”
Tip: Weave in professional, and then personal, experience with a disability.
Jessica’s volunteer work with World Disability Day presents an opportunity to talk up her professional experience and break the ice about her disability, if she desires. A sample response: “I enjoyed this activity because it allowed me to utilize my professional skills to help others and promote a cause that is dear to my heart.” Jessica could also follow up with personal experience: “I have faced some uphill battles with my own disability.” The finesse lies in the transition.
Question No. 2: “Why should we hire you over someone else?”>
Tip: Demonstrate your unique perspective and its value to the traditional workplace.
Jessica’s article for The Village Voice on disabled homeless veterans might have a distinctive angle because the writer also has a disability, though she doesn’t explicitly state so in her resume. A sample response: “Any other reporter might have asked the standard 5W’s, but I was able to bring my unique experience into the role and craft questions accordingly.” Many employers seek ‘out of the box’ thinking in today’s workplace, and this gives Jessica a chance to prove the value of having a different perspective.
Question No. 3: “Tell me about one of your achievements and the challenges you faced in the process.”
Tip: Demonstrate intellectual contributions and achievements that show you view disability as a positive integrator.
Jessica’s award for the American Association of People with Disabilities’ writing contest lets her segue into a discussion of her strengths, including self-motivation and versatility. A sample response: “That essay was a test of my skills as a journalist and my ability to balance a series of interviews on deadline. I believe that my hard work and the Association’s recognition highlights my versatility and go-getter attitude, and it makes me proud to represent people with disabilities.”
What not to put on your resume
While a resume is a great place to highlight your good work and experience, there are some things you’ll want to avoid this early in the job-seeking process. The “Don’ts” for your resume include:
• Don’t detail your disability on your resume. You don’t want to disqualify yourself or put the spotlight on it this early in the interview.
• Don’t put anything on your resume that will make you less confident in the job interview.
• Don’t show gaps in your work experience, even if you were collecting benefits. Instead, discuss volunteer efforts or other productive activities that demonstrate your self-motivation. Here’s a great article from Harvard Business Review that talks about what hiring managers want to hear from job seekers who have been unemployed for a long period of time.
Remember, every question an employer throws at you is an opportunity to promote yourself. Think about your greatest assets and how your disability provides you with a unique way of succeeding in the workplace. For more resume help, check out these articles, too!