A guide for anyone who stammers on coping with job interviews. Find out how to get reasonable adjustments to make interviews easier.
Great, you nailed the job application and you've been invited to an interview. A time to start stressing for almost everyone. If you stammer, interviews can be even more stressful. There's the worry that interviewers will judge you on how you speak. Or that you won't be able to say all you want in the time provided. And should you mention your stammer?
Recruiters selected you because they think you'd be up to the job. Show them that you are and don't let anxiety about how you speak stop you. Here are some things you can think about and adjustments you can ask for.
Before the interview
Know your stuff. Practise your responses to questions based on the job description and person specification. Research the organisation. Go through its website and think of a couple of questions you can ask based on its activities and values. Being well prepared can help you feel more confident.
If you've got an interview coming up, why not call our free helpline? You can practise your answers with one of our volunteers or talk through any concerns. Call 0808 802 0002.
Check out scenariaid.com It has free video simulations for people who stammer. It lets you practise speaking in different situations including job interviews.
Before the day of the interview, you can ask recruiters to make 'reasonable adjustments'. These are changes they can make to standard procedures so that they're inclusive and suit you. You're entitled to adjustments under the Equality Act and the Disability Discrimination Act. These are laws that protect you from poor or unfair treatment because you stammer.
If you didn't mention your stammer in the application form, you might decide to mention it now. Whether you tell them or not is up to you. However, you need to tell them if you want reasonable adjustments.
Think about what will help you with your stammer. Examples of reasonable adjustments you can ask for include:
- Giving you extra time for the interview.
- Getting interviewers to read through our information. Show them our Guides For Non-stammerers and About Stammering section.
- Letting you take notes into the interview.
- Letting you write some notes before you respond to each question.
- Letting you give written answers in advance.
- Letting you give written alternatives to oral tests or presentations.
- A face-to-face interview instead of a telephone or video interview. Some people who stammer find these easier.
These are just a few examples. Download our 'Reasonable adjustments in the workplace' guide below for more ideas. Are you unsure of what adjustments to ask for? If you'd like help asking for reasonable adjustments, contact our Employment Support Service. We can talk things through with you.
You might also find our Guide for people taking scenario-based oral assessments useful. The guidance is primarily for people in the healthcare sector. But, it could help for other job-based oral exams, assessments or interviews.
For more information on the legal position, download our 'Stammering, Discrimination & the Law' guide below. It's a bit dry but it sets out the law.
At the interview
Make a good first impression. Walk into the room with a smile. Make natural eye-contact and shake hands with your interviewers. Pause before answering a question. Ask to have a question repeated if you need it. Also, have those questions ready for the end of the interview.
Mentioning your stammer
Being nervous is OK. You may have decided to tell the interviewers that you stammer. If so, they might also be nervous about causing offence. Many people who don't stammer won't know how to respond to someone who does, so you can help them by talking about it.
Telling interviewers that you stammer could also take the pressure off you. Getting it out there might help you to focus on the questions, not your speech.
If you do mention your stammer, tell them matter-of-factly and don't apologise for it. Say something like, "I stammer sometimes, so it helps if you give me a bit more time" at the beginning. This addresses the 'elephant in the room' and can help put everyone at ease.
If you do choose to mention your stammer at an interview, talk positively about it. Highlight how having a stammer has:
- helped your self-development and determination
- expanded your vocabulary
- helped you become good at writing
- helped you become more empathetic and resilient
- made you an excellent listener
- made you want to develop public speaking or presentation skills.
An interview is a two-way process. Is this a company you'd like to work for? Are these people you'd like to work with? Are they an inclusive company that will help bring out the best in you? Is it a good fit with your values?
After the interview
You could ask interviewers for feedback. Review what went well and what you think you could have done differently. But try not to judge your performance on how fluent you were. Instead, did you say all you wanted to say? Did you get across how experienced and skilled you are? These are more important than how you think you spoke.
Have you been treated poorly or unfairly during the recruitment process because you stammer? Contact our Advocacy Service for help.
- As well as our Employment Support Service, you could join one of our occasional 'Your Next Job Application' workshops. They give guidance on applying for jobs and dealing with interviews when you stammer. See if there's one coming up on our Events page.
- Watch a webinar from the US-based National Stuttering Association. It gives job interview skills for people who stammer.
- Reach out to the community on our Facebook group, a brilliant source of support.
- You could also visit 50 Million Voices. It's a network that runs free interview practice events for people who stammer.
- Self-help For Stammering.
- Help For Speaking Situations.