You’ve polished your resume, conquered your cover letter and sent off your application. Next comes the most nerve-wracking step of the job search: the interview.
Regardless of your age or profession, job interviews are stressful. Having hearing loss can add extra pressure to the process. You may wonder: When should I bring up my hearing loss—or should I bring it up at all? What should I say if I’m asked about my hearing aids?
While it’s normal to feel a bit nervous, remember that you bring unique skills and strengths to the position. Hearing loss is not a weakness; in fact, learning to adapt to hearing difficulties demonstrates good problem-solving and communication skills—and that’s exactly what employers look for. Showing up prepared, communicating confidently and drawing on your experience will help you ace your interviews and impress prospective employers. Use these interview tips to set yourself up for success.
Prior to the interview, make sure you have a clear understanding of the position requirements and responsibilities. Knowing the type of environment you’ll be working in and whether you’ll be making presentations, participating in conference calls, traveling frequently or attending large events will help you identify where you may need accommodations.
You should also learn as much as you can about the organization you’ve applied to work for. Not only will you impress potential employers with your company knowledge, but you may also discover programs, resources and other support available for hard-of-hearing employees.
As a job applicant with a hearing impairment, it’s important to understand your rights in case you ever need to advocate for yourself. Read up on laws regarding hearing loss in the workplace at EEOC.gov, and find answers to common questions below.
If you wear hearing aids, use them to your advantage. Hearing aids have multiple listening programs that can be adjusted to help you hear speech clearly in small or large groups, noisy or echoing environments, etc. Many are equipped with technology that can isolate the most prominent speaker’s voice from background noise so it’s easier to understand. Find out ahead of time where your interview will be conducted and how many people will be attending; fielding questions from three people will present different listening challenges than a one-on-one conversation. Whether your interview will be conducted over the phone, at a coffee shop or in an office conference room, take time beforehand to program your hearing aids accordingly.
If it’s been more than a few months since you’ve had your hearing aids professionally cleaned and checked, consider scheduling an appointment with your hearing care provider. You’ll feel more at ease knowing you can confidently rely on them to help you hear your best.
Study up on interview questions specific to the job or field and prepare a few answers that will help you stand out. Spend a few hours rehearsing to sharpen up your interviewing skills and boost your confidence before the big day.
If and when you discuss your hearing loss, be specific and provide context. Don’t just say “I’m hard-of-hearing” or “I wear hearing aids” and move on—it may make your interviewer feel uncomfortable or unsure of your ability to succeed on the job. Instead, briefly explain how you use hearing aids to help you hear better. Consider providing examples of how you’ve successfully coped with hearing loss at work. Being open and transparent can go a long way to improve communication during the interview and help both you and the interviewer feel at ease. The more relaxed and confident you are about your hearing loss, the more confident your interviewer will be, too.
Use these additional tips for a positive interview experience.
Create the optimal listening environment: Choose a convenient time and setting free from noises and distractions. If you’re using a cell phone, make sure you’re in an area with good reception, and turn off call-waiting to avoid interruptions.
Keep your notes handy: Have your resume, the job description, and your notes and questions in front of you to refer to as you go.
Use direct call streaming: If you wear Bluetooth®-capable hearing aids, stream the call directly from your phone or computer to your hearing aids for better sound quality and a seamless connection.
Test your connection: Double-check your audio, video and internet connection before the interview, and ensure no one else is sharing the connection during your call. Use a network cable to plug in to the router for the best connection.
Do a trial run: Have a friend or family member call you at least an hour before your interview to make sure all technology is in working order.
Adapt to your surroundings: Position yourself so that you are able to clearly see the speaker. If the room’s air conditioner running loudly or there’s construction going on right outside, politely request to move to a quieter area. If you wear hearing aids, double-check that they are set to the right program before the interview.
Take your time: Don’t panic if you miss something—simply ask the speaker to repeat what was said. Feel free to take notes and jot down questions as you go.
The interview is your time to showcase your strengths and qualifications—not focus on your limitations. Be confident in your abilities, stay positive and take full advantage of the tools and resources that will help you hear your best.