Deborah Cochrane: Employers should show effective communication in interviews

Posted on March 7, 2016

Employers – when you are interviewing candidates for a post, chances are you have been given the compulsory interview skills training session, but just how much did you learn about how you actually communicate with a candidate?

Do you consider your body language, your use of written/oral language and how you effectively converse with a candidate? Or do you make little eye contact, talk to your notes and use horrible jargon?

I am discussing this from my personal perspective – I wear two hearing aids, have good speech, years of hated speech therapy, I lip-read and I like good eye contact.

debThe key points of effective communication, in an interview, regardless of the person’s disability/ability are; good eye contact, clear and concise questions, warm but professional body language and showing that you are genuinely interested in hearing what the candidate has to say even if they do babble a bit. They’re nervous, just listen out of the key things you want to hear. If they do have a disability, so what! It doesn’t define a person.

Some disasters I have personally experienced have included being totally thrown by this terrible eye contact from an Interviewer who kept looking at the interpreter next to me when I was answering questions,  as if they were the candidate and I was the interpreter, I didn’t get the job. Or, a time when I was interviewed and  was stared at like I was Cyclops.

“Do you…uh…*points at ears* are you, er, do you lipread?”

“Yes.” *smiles* (<- this is my attempt at trying to appear normal)

“Oh…um, it’s just, it doesn’t say on the form you have a *points at mouth and ears, and, whispers* hearing…loss.”

“No, I don’t require additional support at interviews, if I don’t understand, or if you don’t, just ask.” *still smiling, albeit, a bit forcefully*

You would have thought I’d just told them I was there to kill them.  The atmosphere was painful.

I started to feel rather awkward, every bit of confidence I normally have went out the window. I tried going down the reassurance route but it fell on, metaphorically, deaf ears. The interview became a farce, condescending; “No, I meant if you did this…”

I felt by then they’d written me off.  Maybe just paranoia but when you face this at interviews often who can blame me?  All my self-reassurance, qualifications, experiences, were forgotten.  I forgot that I am a knowledgeable, experienced person.

It took a lot for me to stop myself from standing up and giving a speech about lack of communication awareness for Deaf and hearing people, and that they should get their heads out of their ***** and stop being *****.  But I didn’t. What would that have achieved really? Unintentionally, reinforced, fear.

I don’t have a strong support network behind me to bolster deaf awareness, I am just one of thousands of people in the same situation, the little people with no big people to fight our cause.

The cause is very simple too, it boils down to communication awareness.  Effectively communicating with others, and by others I mean absolutely everybody else in the world. We can all communicate effectively if you just make that little extra effort and stop being so blinkered.

I haven’t received that, usually, dreaded rejection email yet, but I accepted another job where the interview went swimmingly.  I felt really welcomed and they even laughed when I babbled about quilting – pre-interview nerves.

To the Dragons of the Past – take note that it is the 21st Century, you’re the ones who are going to lose out in the end, innovation and creation are the future. If you can’t/won’t adapt, it’s time to go.

Please take five minutes to check out the Plain English Campaign and consider actively implementing it in all aspects of your lives.

Deborah Cochrane is a Belfast resident who immerses herself in literary, art and popular culture. She has worked at Deaf and hearing organisations and has firm opinions on both.  When she’s not reading the likes of Diana Athill and watching Asian cinema she spends her time tending to her allotment and quilting.

The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne. 

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