September 20th, 2021 | Should You Mention Your Mental Health Problems in the Job Interview? Job Interview Tips For The Hard Times

mental health problems in the job interview

Mental Health: The Global Problem In The Times of the Pandemic

No doubt that mental health has become issue number one in today’s job market, especially after the breakout of the corona crisis. The percentage of adults reporting symptoms of anxiety disorder and or depressive disorder jumped from 11% in the first half of 2019 to 41.1% in January 2021. Recruiters follow the trends and obviously, they are conscious about the fact that as much as half of the job candidates can have mental health issues.

However, does this mean that it is ok to mention that you suffer from mental health issues during the job interview? In this article, we will touch the subject and give you some job interview tips that can help you deal with this situation with grace and without weakening your position as the job candidate.

Some General Job Interview Tips: You Don’t Need To Discuss Your Mental Health At The Interview

So, let’s imagine a situation in which you suffer from severe mental health problems and you are preparing for an interview at the company headquarters. You wonder: will the recruiter ask about my well-being? If so, what should I say? Shall I be brutally honest, diplomatically go around the question, or perhaps, felt out lie?

First of all, the recruiter will not ask you about your health, and your mental health in particular. The reason is practical. Namely, in case a candidate reveals mental health problems at the interview and then doesn’t get the job, it might prompt them to file a lawsuit for discrimination. That costs the employer time and financial resources, as they need to argue against the claim and prove that the chosen candidate is objectively better suited for the position. The only exception when the recruiter may ask about health is when the application proceeder needs tone adjusted to the candidate. E.g., if they are blind and need assistance while presenting at the interview or so.

You are also not legally obliged to disclose your (mental) health problems at the interview. As a consequence, you don’t need to discuss your health at this stage. If you mention anything in that department, it is your goodwill. After you get the position, you might be asked to disclose your medical information and name all the conditions that might potentially affect your work and make it hard for you to fulfill your duties. For your professional development, it is better to be open here and reveal this information — the employee can take action in response to dishonesty in the job application process.

If You Don’t Need To Discuss Your Mental Health At The Interview, Why Do People Often Disclose Their Mental Health Problems Anyway?

Well, many professionals assume that it is simply decent to disclose mental health problems, as it is a risk factor to the employer. They also felt that since mental health problems are so common in the job market of today, it can no longer be a factor for elimination, but it should be taken as admitting the sad reality.

Lastly, professionals often use mental health issues to justify the gap in their CV. The logic is, “I have a gap in my CV but it is not because I am lazy or unambitious. I was mentally ill and that’s the whole explanation.” Sounds reasonable, right? Well…

Why Talking About Your Current Mental Health Problems At the Interview Is Not The Best Idea

Employees love honesty and integrity — and, your openness about your mental health condition will be appreciated. However, the issue is that the interviewer doesn’t really know you as a person at all. They don’t know whether you had valid reasons to develop a mental illness, or rather, you are mentally unstable and prone to mental illness in general.

Moreover, employers know that there might be communication problems between the mentally ill person and the rest of the team. As a result, the whole team might drop in productivity. For this reason, employers prefer to hire “high-energy people.” As Naval Ravikant, the Founder of AngelList, likes to say, the best strategy is to hire people with high energy, integrity, and intelligence.

And that makes perfect sense. Imagine that you are an employer yourself and that you manage a team of ten. Whom would you pick for an employee: a high-energy person with average qualifications, or rather, someone who is exceptionally smart but often has downtime due to mental problems? While recruiting people for the job, you are a sentinel of the tribe’s and you need to make sure that the tribe members will function well with the new person on board.

Every Hiring Manager Uses a Different System of Grading Candidates

Of course, the way your mental state is treated also depends on the policy of the employer and the personal preferences of the hiring manager (which are the two independent modes of failure!). Most of the hiring managers will grade you according to their own individual system. They will grade your professional background and technical aptitude as well as your personality, attitude, and level of energy. Whether or not you get the job as a person with mental health issues, might depend on the weights that they assign to these different categories of factors. The weights which you don’t know.

For the aforementioned reasons, as a rule of thumb, it is usually not the best idea to talk about mental health problems at the job interview. If you mention your issues, then most likely, you will meet with words of understanding and support from the recruiter… but they will pick another candidate for the job.

Present Yourself From The Most Employable Side

At the interview, your job is to show yourself from the most employable side. When you go for a meeting with the recruiter, do you just go out in the morning the way you woke up? With your hair undone and in random clothes? No. To your family and friends, you are beautiful the way you are. But you still want to spend this time in front of the mirror to look your best at the interview.

It is the same with talking about your mental health. It doesn’t mean lying just framing things in a way that increases your probability of success to the maximum. Your family and friends love you as you are, with your mental health issues or burnout included, but that’s not what you can expect from your employer!

However, of course, in certain situations, it still might be a good choice to mention recent difficulties that you experienced. The hiring manager can sense people. If your mental health problems are severe, they will detect that you feel down. Therefore, if you feel that your mental health is visible and hard to hide, it is probably a better choice to be open about it.

You can do it in a “soft” way and with a focus put on the positives. You can frame your answer like follows: “As you might know, we have turbulent times in the job market right now, and these were turbulent times for me as well. However, in the past few months, I made several developments in my professional life. I took courses, I learned xyz…”

The hiring manager might not be the happiest about the fact that you are not the “high-energy” candidate at the moment. But between the two candidates with signs of burnout or mental health issues, they will choose the one who focuses on the positives and who talks about all the progressive things that they do.

Some More Job Interview Tips: In Some Circumstances, It Might Be Beneficial To Talk About Past Mental Health Issues At The Interview

Although talking about your current mental health issues at the interview might decrease the probability of getting you hired, at the same time, most hiring managers appreciate honest stories about mental health problems experienced in the past — especially when it comes to hiring leaders.

For them, hearing that you got over some mental health issues and worked out effective strategies to prevent them in the future, is a sign of honesty, maturity, self-awareness, and personal development. You might score fewer points for resilience to stress, but you will score higher for integrity. Leaders should understand their employees and followers, and past problems make them better managers, bring them closer to people, and make them more relatable.

Conclusion: Is It good For Your Professional Development To Talk About Your Mental Health Issues At The Interview?

Talking about mental health issues at the job interview is a double-sided stick, and in the vast majority of circumstances, it is not advisable. However, it is not an instant disqualification! It still scores you important points for honesty and integrity, and if you talk about lessons you learned and your plan to improve, it might not bury your chances to get hired at all.

Did you have a dilemma about whether to talk about your mental health issues at the interview? If so, what was your decision and how did it pan out for you? Or perhaps, you have job interview tips to share as well? Please share with us below and let’s discuss!

Please cite as: 

Bielczyk, N. (2021, September, 20th). Should You Mention Your Mental Health Problems in the Job Interview? Job Interview Tips For The Hard Times. Retrieved from http://ontologyofvalue.com/job-interview-tips-should-you-mention-your-mental-health-problems-in-the-job-interview/   

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