Discussing mental health at job interviews

Discussing mental health at job interviews
Discussing mental health at job interviews

posted 01 May 23

Anyone who has taken a career break following a mental health breakdown or burnout will testify that explaining the career gap on their CV during a job interview can be tricky business.

In light of National Mental Health Week, we show you how to address career gaps on your CV which have been taken on account of your mental health.

But first, is an employer allowed to ask you about your mental health during a job interview?

According to the mental health charity, Mind, generally speaking, employers cannot directly ask you about your mental health during the job interview process. However, there are some situations where employers may be allowed to ask about your mental health, for example:

  • To find out whether you can take an assessment for the job.
  • To find out whether you need reasonable adjustments to the application process.
  • To decide whether you can do tasks central to the job (though they should also consider the reasonable adjustments that you might need).
  • To assess if they are receiving job applications from a diverse range of people.
  • To establish if you have the disability required for the job.
  • To assess you for national security purposes.

How to talk about mental health during a job interview 

​In an ideal world, mental health would be discussed openly and honestly, like other medical conditions. Although, due to negative stigmas, this can sometimes be a daunting prospect. Here are three golden nuggets of advice to remember when talking about mental health during a job interview.

1. Conduct an interview practice run where you discuss mental health career gaps 

​​There are a few approaches you can take to discuss career gaps on your CV that are down to poor mental health. One option is to be completely transparent about why you left your previous job, focusing on the positive outcomes of your career break. You could also take a more subtle approach, saying you left for personal reasons or that your previous job impacted life outside of work.

It is important to remember that transparency will often be within your best interest. Ultimately, you don't want your next role to have a negative impact on your mental health and will want to work for an employer who appreciates your health needs.

2. Consider long-term implications of how you discuss your mental health during a job interview

2. Consider long-term implications of how you discuss your mental health during a job interview

It’s important to consider the long-term implications of how you address your mental health should you receive a job offer after the interview.

Will the company understand your needs should you become a full-time employee? Will you be able to cope with the demands of the role, and the culture of the company? These are all meaningful questions you should ask yourself, in addition to conducting preliminary research of the company. Be sure to ask the interviewer as many questions as possible to determine the company’s approach to employee wellbeing.

3. Know your rights when it comes to mental health during the job interview and offer process

Historically, employers were able to ask about health history before interviews and job offers, regardless of circumstance. Now, employers are only allowed to ask about this when a job is offered if a specific ability is intrinsically required, or if not having a set of desirable criteria is a health and safety risk.

If an employer asks you health questions before a job offer is made, you can report this to the Equality Advisory Service by filling out their form for reporting pre-employment health questions

If you are asked questions about your health at the interview stage and feel you have been unfairly treated in the application process, you may want to challenge the discrimination. A court or tribunal will look very carefully at the employer’s decision not to employ you and the employer must prove that the decision not to employ you was not linked to your disability.

Need mental health support and advice during your job search?

At Search, mental health support at work is fully embedded into our culture as a business, and several of our representatives are certified mental health first aiders with an understanding of how to tackle these issues and manage employee wellbeing. Ultimately, our consultants have the knowledge and insight to represent you during the recruitment process and help you find a job which fits your individual needs. Contact us to find out more or if you are looking for a new role, browse current opportunities below.

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