How to interview a Deaf candidate

Applying for jobs can be a stressful experience, especially when there’s a potential for communication barriers between hearing and Deaf people.

As an employer, you need to be mindful of the issues affecting Deaf candidates, to ensure your recruitment process is fair and open to all and doesn’t discriminate.

By creating a more inclusive and accessible interview process, you will open the doors to more opportunities to work with members of the Deaf community.

Many Deaf and Hard of Hearing people still face inequality and discrimination, whether that’s at work, when applying for jobs or trying to access services or information that most hearing people take for granted.

Better communication lies at the heart of the issue. It’s what helps develop stronger relationships and can benefit your business in many ways.

There are several actions you can take as an employer to make your candidates feel comfortable and at ease, even before an interview begins.

At the very start of your recruitment campaign, you should ensure you, or whoever is running the hiring process, understands the needs of all the candidates you’ll be interviewing – including those who you may need additional support for communicating.

Stating in your job descriptions that your business will offer this kind of support will encourage Deaf candidates to apply.

Finding out what additional support or adaptations your job candidate’s needs, is one of the first things you need to look into. Although some Deaf and Hard of Hearing people may rely on lip reading, a sign language interpreter or lipspeaker may create a more accessible environment for both parties.

Deaf awareness training for current members of staff will benefit not only your interview process, but your business as a whole. This not only benefits Deaf in your workplace but also makes all staff more conscious of how they communicate with one another. You will often find that good practice for communicating with Deaf people, is good for everybody. 

Ways to create a more inclusive interview process

Although it may sound complex or daunting, with the right preparation and planning. accommodating candidates with additional communications needs is actually quite simple. 

Depending on where you carry out your interviews, checking background noise and lighting levels is crucial. Deaf candidates, especially if lip reading, need to clearly see your face to aid effective communication. Furthermore, limiting background noise benefits everyone by reducing distractions and not just those who wear hearing aids.

Sitting or standing face to face with a Deaf candidate so they can see your facial expressions as well as your body language will also benefit the interview. Eye contact is an essential part of the communication between both parties, to ensure each understands one another.

When speaking, try not to mumble, speak too loudly or cover your mouth. Many Deaf people find lipreading helpful, and this can be made more difficult with exaggerated lip patterns because of mumbling or extreme mouth movements (over-emphasising words).

Even if you have hired a BSL Interpreter for the interview process, it doesn’t hurt to learn a few basic signs yourself to again give the Deaf candidate comfort and peace of mind that you and your business care about creating an inclusive working environment.

With COVID-19, video interviews have become more commonplace and may be the easiest form of interviewing for yourself and your job candidates.

To ensure these stay as accessible as a face-to-face interview, look at hiring a live interpreter to join the video call and ensure you are calling from a quiet room with little to no distractions, to make sure your candidates can fully understand you.

Welcoming a new Deaf employee to your team

Once your recruitment process is over and you’ve hired a Deaf or Hard of Hearing candidate, you’ll still need to provide reasonable adjustments in the workplace when you welcome them to your team.

So, it’s important you use the period between them accepting the job and their start date to speak to your new recruit so you can both work out what changes you might need to make.

As an employer, ensuring your Deaf starters understand all the responsibilities and duties they will be expected to carry out is vital. It is also vital to listen to your deaf employee to find out what changes or adjustments staff and team mates may have to adapt to ensure your new candidate is included.

Adjustments may range from audio equipment, BSL interpretation, translation and note-taking. These can all usually be funded through the Government’s Access to Work scheme.

Making any written policies, information or training videos accessible to Deaf employees is also essential, particularly for those who rely on sign language for communication

Failing to accommodate reasonable adjustments is one of the most common forms of disability discrimination. It can leave your organisation open to legal action and the financial and reputational damage that it can create in the event of a successful claim against you.

Sign Solutions can help ensure your recruitment, training, and employment processes are as accessible and inclusive as possible.

To find out more about our recruitment support services, give us a call on 0843 178 0773, email or contact us via a BSL video interpreter.