Dear Prospective Employer,
My name is (fill in the blank) and I am interested in the full-time position you have advertised. I understand that my resume reflects a list of jobs in which I have not been successful, but does not reflect my desire or need to work. That is why I have decided to include this letter with my resume.
I have been diagnosed with (select one) mental illness, anxiety, depression, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, a learning disability, etc. I want you to know this now, not because of any regulation that would force you to hire me, but because not telling my previous employers has resulted in continuously losing jobs.
By not telling you about my challenges up front, I worry that if you do hire me, we will have the same misunderstandings I have experienced in the past. I worry that you will perceive my fear and anxiety of learning a new job as an “inability to perform the required duties,” my hesitation of meeting new people as an “unwillingness to be a team player,” or my slower processing of skills as “incompetency.”
I also want you to know that my above-referenced disability does not mean that I am lazy, uninterested, dangerous, inept, unreliable, unsociable, incapable of learning skills or any of the other stereotypes and labels that follow me. What it does mean is that I will process what you teach me differently than those who do not have my challenges, I may need to be shown something more than usual, I may get anxious when there is a lot of chaos, but I have learned skills that can help me overcome that if I am allowed to use them.
I understand that you may also have a past work history of hiring others with similar challenges that may not have worked out for you, but I only ask that after considering all of this information, you are willing to give me a chance based on my individuality and not what others have done. I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.
As an advocate for people with disabilities, I often wonder what would happen if someone were to actually make a revelation like this when applying for work. There is a huge amount of risk involved with letting a prospective employer know about a disability and there is a huge amount of risk involved in not doing so.
Despite numerous studies conducted regarding the monetary and social value of hiring people with disabilities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “only 29% of Americans ages 16 to 64 with a disability were employed as of June 2018, compared with nearly 75% of those without a disability. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities who are actively seeking work is 9.2 percent—more than twice as high as for those without a disability.”
With all of the jobs available in this valley, a question to ponder to those who are responsible for filling those positions would be “what would I do if I received a letter like this?” I would like to think it would receive the consideration it deserved but as I stated, it is a question I wonder about a lot.