What to do if a job applicant discloses a mental health issue

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Interviewers need to know how to navigate the conversation appropriately, to avoid being discriminatory or disrespectful.

This article was written by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) in partnership with the National Council of Social Services (NCSS).

When a job applicant discloses a mental health issue at the interview stage, it is important for interviewers to know how to direct the conversation appropriately, to avoid being discriminatory or disrespectful.

Here are three simple steps interviewers can take to be respectful and sensitive when communicating with candidates who disclose a mental health issue during job interviews.

1. Thank the candidate for their openness

It takes a lot of courage and confidence to talk about your mental health condition because of the stigma associated with these conditions. How interviewers react is therefore critical and can represent an organization’s attitude towards hiring people with mental health issues. Avoid overreacting and making insensitive comments or asking questions such as: “You don’t seem to have (mental health disorder)”, “How did you become (mental health disorder)?” “, etc.

Assure candidates that the interview will focus on developing their abilities to do the job.

2. Be upfront about job expectations

It is important to reserve judgment and not disregard a candidate’s candidacy based on their disclosure.

Be clear about your expectations and allow the candidate to share how they have accomplished or would accomplish the tasks required for the position they applied for, and listen carefully to evidence of their abilities. To assess their abilities objectively, formulate questions directly related to the selection criteria that are applied consistently to all applicants using techniques such as competency-based questions.

Avoid making assumptions about their abilities based on their condition.

3. Share your organization’s inclusive corporate culture

Check first if the candidate needs accommodations or accommodations in the workplace. Not all people with mental health issues need accommodations to do the job. If workplace accommodations and adjustments (e.g., flexible work hours, employee assistance programs, and wellness ambassadors) are available, investigators might list them. This helps communicate the organization’s commitment to hiring people with mental health issues (and any other disabilities) and encourages candidates to share if they need accommodations.

If in doubt, let the candidate know that you need to check their workplace accommodation request first, and this can be discussed in more detail later.

If the request cannot be met, help the candidate understand the considerations and reasons for the organization (e.g. the accommodation/adjustment will incur excessive costs or fundamentally change the nature or operation of the business, etc.) and explore other options with him. .

In general, employers should exercise caution and diligence when collecting sensitive and/or personal information. Organizations should not ask job applicants to declare personal information such as their mental health condition, unless there is a job-related requirement.

If you need information that could be considered discriminatory, clearly state the reasons why you are collecting this information.


For more resources on how to conduct interviews in a non-discriminatory and respectful way, visittafep.sg.


Photo / Shutterstock

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