Are you looking for work or thinking about moving on from your current job? Worried about how much speaking the new job might require? Want to know if, how and when to talk about your stammer? Worried that you don't have 'good communication skills'? We're here to help.
If you're applying for a job, look past your stammer and think about your wider skills and experience and make sure you bring these out in your CV and/or application.
If you are wondering whether to disclose your stammer on the application form, see the 'To Disclose or Not?' section below.
Employers often list 'Good or excellent communication skills' on the person specification of a job advert. Don't be put off by this. Good communication is not the same as fluency.
Potential employers will need skills like the ability to write, analyse and present data, create a trusting atmosphere with the public and customers, manage change, listening and interpretation skills, collaborate to problem-solve, the ability to manage staff and build teams. These are all communication skills. You may not be fluent, but have you got skills in these areas?
Many people who stammer communicate very well because communication involves far more than just speech. Good communication includes listening skills, body language, facial expression, and tone/volume of your voice. Good communication is the ability to share the right information at the right time, in the right way and with the right people. Not just the ability to make small talk.
You can choose to go through the whole application/interview process without mentioning your stammer to the employer, or you might decide to highlight it from the start. Whether you decide to disclose your stammer when applying for a job is up to you.
If you do choose to mention your stammer in an application form or at an interview, talk positively about it. Highlight how having a stammer has:
- helped your self-development and determination
- expanded your vocabulary and/or helped you become good at writing
- helped you become more empathetic, more resilient and made you an excellent listener
- propelled you into learning public presentation skills.
Maybe you have decided not to tell them anything until you get an interview. During an interview, telling them about your stammer at the beginning could take the pressure off and allow you to focus on the questions, not your speech. See the section below for tips for the interview itself.
Why not send the employer or HR department the link to our Resources for Employers and HR Professionals?
Before the interview
Be prepared. Research the organisation. Practise your responses to questions based on the job description and person specification. Being well prepared can help you feel more confident.
If you want to practise answering interview questions you can call our helpline on 0808 802 0002 (Mondays to Fridays, 10am-12noon and 6pm-8pm) and we'll practise with you. Or, reach out for help on our Facebook group, a brilliant source of support and information.
Check out the website www.scenariaid.com It has free video simulations to help people who stammer practise different speech situations, including job interviews.
If you are invited to an interview you can ask the employer for 'reasonable adjustments' to be made for the interview before it takes place. Under the Equality Act 2010 you are entitled to these by law. If you didn't mention your stammer in the application form, you might decide to mention it now.
Reasonable adjustments that you can ask for might include:
- Giving you extra time for the interview.
- Giving you permission to give written answers in advance.
- If you've been invited to a remote interview, eg by telephone or video call, and you've disclosed your stammer you can ask for an initial face-to-face interview instead. Some people who stammer find these easier than telephone or video calls.
*Update: because of the Covid-19 situation, with many employees working from home, an employer can argue that it is not reasonable to ask for a face-to-face interview. However you can still ask for extra time. Employers should also bear in mind that your speech in a remote interview is not a true reflection of how you will communicate in the job. Perhaps ask them if you can have a less informal pre-interview chat as well. For more information on job hunting during the pandemic, see the stammeringlaw.org.uk website.
See our page on Reasonable adjustments for more details, and download the 'Stammering, Discrimination & the Law' document at the bottom of the page.
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 necessary. Have some questions ready for the end of the interview.
You may have decided to tell the interviewer that you stammer. Many people who don't stammer won't know how to respond to someone who does, so help them by talking about your stammer. Do it matter-of-factly and don't apologise for it. Perhaps 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. See the header 'To Disclose or Not?' above for tips on how to talk about stammering during the interview itself.
Being nervous is OK. The interviewers may also be nervous, especially about causing offence.
Don't be surprised if you're not asked further questions about your stammering at the interview. Under the Equality Act 2010, employers are not allowed to ask about a disability during the recruitment process.
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?
Watch this webinar from the US-based National Stuttering Association on job interview skills for people who stammer.
After the interview
Ask for feedback. Review what went well and what you think you could have done differently. Think about how you could make changes to your next application so you give yourself a better chance next time.