Audience: Employer

Employers range from small family businesses to huge multinational corporations. Consequently, the internal resources and range of experiences with youth and people with disabilities vary considerably from business to business. The information presented here is geared to smaller employers who are not familiar with issues relating to the assessment of youth.

Career- or work-related assessment includes interviews, record reviews, observations, and performance or testing activities. Many employers regularly incorporate these activities into the hiring, supervision, and evaluation of prospective and current employees and may include them in formal or informal employee management processes. Written organizational procedures are helpful in guiding the collection and review of available information, including observations, interview data, transcripts, test scores, work experience, and job training histories to ensure fairness and equity as well as compliance with applicable employment law.

The transition to work may be especially difficult for youth with disabilities, who often have not had the same opportunities to prepare for careers that their peers without disabilities have had. In the past, some youth with disabilities were relegated to passive roles in the career-planning process, which often reflected the low expectations of advisors and the perceived needs for protection and support. Today youth with disabilities are more likely to take an active role in their transition process through self-determination and informed career decision-making. An effective assessment process is important in accurately identifying a youth’s assets and sharing this information with the youth and those who will work with him or her.

The types of assessments used by employers vary widely. Almost all employers use interviews, record reviews that document an individual’s qualifications or suitability for a particular position, and some type of probationary period during which new employees are observed in the performance of job functions. Employers may also use formal or informal tests as part of the hiring process and throughout employment. These tests may include math and reading tests, drug and alcohol screening, occupational skills certification, aptitude tests, and psychological tests. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that tests are reliable and valid and are administered equitably, appropriately, and for the purpose for which they were intended. Both employers and employees have rights that should be protected in the hiring and assessment process.


1. What should an initial interview with a prospective employee cover?

The initial interview should establish rapport with the person and should help him or her develop a realistic understanding of job requirements, duties, company expectations, and what the company or institution has to offer in terms of advancement and future opportunities. While an interview should not be overly rigid, all job applicants should be asked essentially the same questions. Under employment law, employers may not ask about drug or alcohol usage, or accuse someone of being under the influence. They may only ask questions about behavior or observed physical conditions in relation to fulfilling the requirements of a job or regarding safety. Applicants may also be asked to describe or demonstrate how they would perform the job tasks. The same question must be asked of all job applicants. In addition, applicants may be asked whether they need reasonable accommodations for the pre-employment or hiring process. Interview protocols can ensure that all the necessary questions are asked; additionally, they often contain reminders of what questions are not permitted. Follow-up questions are permitted if more information is desired or if an answer is not clear—as long as the follow-up does not stray into areas that are not permitted.

Employers often schedule interviews after reviewing written or electronic applications, resumes, letters of recommendation, and job-specific credentials such as industry licenses, certifications, and academic degrees. Interview questions may address incomplete or unclear job-related information in submitted documents. Employers should inform applicants if company policy requires testing; verification of licenses, certifications, or degrees; or additional steps in the application process. If job-related tests are required for specific positions, they must be required of all applicants for that position and cannot be required for some applicants and not for others. For example, if a math test is required for a sales associate position, the test cannot be waived because one applicant has a graduate degree. Applicants for positions such as truck driver or heavy equipment operator should be informed that a pre-employment physical and drug or alcohol screening will be required. Physicals and drug screenings are usually administered by a third party as a condition of employment after the job is accepted but before employment begins.

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2. What do I do if a person discloses a disability in the application process?

If an applicant voluntarily discloses that he or she has a disability, Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act comes into play. Title I prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in the application, hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, including employee compensation and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. Employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for a qualified individual with a disability unless the employer can show that the accommodation would pose an undue hardship. Qualified individuals will be able to perform the essential functions of the job with or without accommodations. The employer determines the essential functions of the job, and job descriptions written before advertising or interviewing people for the job are considered evidence of the essential functions.

Therefore, if an applicant voluntarily discloses that he or she has a disability, a follow-up question should be asked to determine if the individual requires any accommodations. If the answer is no, the application process continues. If the answer is yes, accommodations must be provided during the application process. It is especially important that the application process be examined to ensure that interview questions, testing, and other requirements do not screen out people with disabilities. All criteria must be related to the job in question and must be in line with business exigencies. Tests must accurately reflect the skills, knowledge, abilities, or other factors determined to be necessary for the job. Medical examinations required for the job must be required for all job applicants and should be scheduled after the job offer is made but prior to the commencement of employment. As always, all medical and disability information must be treated as confidential.

Some people may decide not to disclose a disability during the application process and may instead wait until they are hired to disclose in order to ensure that the employer can tailor training or job requirements to fit individual needs. This scenario is most common with hidden disabilities and is permitted under the law.

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3. How will I know what kind of accommodations to provide, especially on tests?

The type of accommodation needed will vary by the type and severity of the person’s disability. Most adult workers will know what accommodations they need and may supply the required materials or equipment themselves. Youth with disabilities or adults who have recently developed disabilities may need help in communicating disability-related support and accommodation needs to prospective employers.

Vocational assessments may lead to practical ideas for job accommodations with training programs and employers. An effective vocational assessment should examine potential needs for accommodations that will enable a person to perform the essential functions of a chosen job. On-site and off-site accommodations that might improve the job placement success of youth with disabilities include making modifications to a job, providing access to assistive technology restructuring tasks, using job coaches to assist with training, or providing American Sign Language interpreters.

Accommodations for employment-related tests or assessments must be carefully selected to ensure that they do not change the reliability or validity of the test. It is best to consult the test publishing company or a certified vocational evaluator when determining how to provide accommodations for assessments.

Most workplace accommodations are inexpensive and are not difficult to put into place.

Employers may make environmental work-site changes or task accommodations so a youth with complex physical disabilities can perform the essential functions of a desired job. Co-workers can be trained as peer mentors to prompt or coach a youth with an intellectual disability or AD/HD.

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Americans with Disabilities Act Home Page
Information for businesses including ADA Publications, ADA Business Briefs, Design Standards, and ADA Regulations.

Career Builder
Career matching software and job search tools for job seekers and employers.

Career One-Stop
Contains resources for job seekers and workers, students and learners, businesses and human resource professionals, and workforce professionals. Also contains a special section on testing and assessments.

Employer Assistance and Referral Network
A nationwide cost-free referral and technical assistance service for employers that connects employers who have job vacancies to employment service providers who have direct access to job-ready individuals with disabilities.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Contains ADA enforcement guidance and related EEOC documents.

Career matching software and job search tools for job seekers and employers.

Job Accommodation Network
Free consulting service that provides information for employers and people with disabilities about workplace accommodations, the ADA, and the employability of people with disabilities. A major feature of the network is the Searchable Online Accommodation Resource.

Monster Board
Contains searchable job postings, networking contacts, and job search tools for job seekers and employers.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Contains information on accommodations, hiring people with disabilities, job analysis strategies, and more.

Contains information from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division on employing youth workers.

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