Disclosing MS during interviews

DISCLOSING MS DURING INTERVIEWS

Tips on job seeking with MS

This year I found myself back in the job market. After 7 years working remotely from home for a Department of Defense contracting firm, I suddenly had to start over. As I began my search, I reached out to family, friends, and acquaintances in hopes of landing a new job quickly. Much to my surprise, one of the most common questions I was asked was, “Will you disclose your MS during the job interview process?”

To be honest, that question had not crossed my mind. I was more concerned about my loss of income, getting my resume together, and figuring out how to land a job quickly and at a rate that would match my old salary—or at least come close.

I have always been very open about my multiple sclerosis (MS), but now I had to give this some serious thought. The overwhelming consensus, from most who offered opinions, was a resounding no. That response was a bit uncomfortable for me, as it contradicted the way I had approached my journey with MS since diagnosis in 2002. Now I had to think about how it could impact my job search.

I decided I needed a second opinion. Enter my “close friend” Google. Thinking a little bit of research could help me decide, I found myself more confused than ever! So I did what I always tell my kids: I asked myself some questions.

  1. Do I think my MS will affect my ability to do the job?
    Although everyone may have a different answer, for me it's a booming no! I am the mother of 6 children. I have juggled a household, a job, volunteering at my kids’ schools, getting my children through the college process. Oh yeah, and I have MS. MS at times has affected all of those tasks. I guess the question I should have asked was, “Will it affect my ability in the future to do the job?” The answer to that is I don’t know. I will cross that bridge if I come to it, but I have to get hired first!
  2. What purpose will it serve disclosing my MS to a potential employer during the interview process?
    This question was a little more tricky. It spurred more questions than answers. When I was first diagnosed, I had no clue about what MS was or the possible course of the disease.  How much does the potential employer know about MS? Will disclosing my MS raise questions in the interviewer’s mind as to whether or not I can do the job? Fear of the unknown can sometimes cloud people’s judgment.
  3. What do I want a potential employer to know about me that will make them want to hire me?
    This one is the trickiest of all. I always say MS does not define me, but in a way, it kind of does. My journey with MS has taught me how to be more resourceful, overcome obstacles, and persevere during tough times. It is a part of who I am, and I believe it has made me a better person and a better employee. But how do I convey that to a potential employer, and is it really appropriate? At the end of the day, the potential employer is looking to hire someone to do a specific job, and MS is not listed in the job description. However, you may still want to consider having the discussion with your potential employer.

All of these questions have made me think more than I probably wanted to about my MS. Going into my first interview, I was conflicted. I decided to play it by ear and opted not to disclose. As I have continued along the process, each interview I have tried to focus on my skill sets as they pertain to the job. If I feel it’s appropriate, I do mention my MS. Being honest in some cases may have hurt me in the process, but I can’t say for sure. How you handle disclosure is up to you. In time, we can all hope to find a role that focuses on our capabilities, not our disabilities.