Employer Disability Practices Center

The disclosure dilemma: requesting accommodations for chronic pain in job interviews

Link to Full Article: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11764-021-01142-3


This study explores the job interview process for those who need disability-related accommodations on the job (in particular an “invisible” disability such as many of the long-term and late effects of cancer and its treatment (e.g., pain, fatigue, cognitive problems)), and explores whether the communication channel or the timing of the disclosure has implications on the perceived employability of applicants, with the aim of helping to close the employment gap for this marginalized population.


Using 1917 participants in a partially crossed 2 × 3 × 2 experimental design, we explored disclosing the need for accommodations using each video or audio-only channels, by varying the timing of the disclosure within the interview (early, late, or not at all), and by varying the negotiation strategy used (modest or significant increase over proposed salary). Participants rated the candidate’s employability at two different points in time.


Early and late disclosures of the need for accommodations were both associated with poorer ratings of employability. Disclosure via audio was singularly damaging as compared to video disclosure, whether it occurred early or late. Finally, asking for a significant increase in salary resulted in lower ratings of employability, especially if the disclosure of the disability happened late in the process (and proximally to the salary request itself).


Holding off on the request for accommodations until after the job has been offered may be advisable. Similarly, disability disclosures and requests for accommodation are better received using richer communication channels (video as opposed to audio). Salary requests are also sensitive topics and can be affected by ill-timed disclosures.

Implications for Cancer Survivors

If accommodations are needed on the job (based on chronic pain), waiting until later in the process to discuss this topic (using video and not the phone) and ensuring distance in time from making a salary request are apparently the better choices.