what to do if a job candidate discloses a mental health condition


Interviewers must know how to navigate the conversation appropriately, to avoid being discriminatory or disrespectful.

This article was developed by Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) in partnership with the National Council of Social Service (NCSS).

When a job candidate discloses a mental health condition at the interview stage, it is important that interviewers know how to navigate the conversation appropriately, to avoid being discriminatory or disrespectful.

Here are three simple steps that interviewers can take to demonstrate respect and sensitivity when communicating with candidates who disclose a mental health condition during job interviews.

1. Thank the job candidate for their openness

It takes a lot of courage and trust to talk about one’s mental health condition due to the stigma associated with these conditions. How interviewers respond is therefore critical and can represent an organisation’s attitude towards hiring persons with mental health conditions. Avoid over-reacting and making insensitive comments or posing questions such as: “You don’t look like you have (mental health condition).”, “How did you get (mental health condition)?”, etc.

Assure the candidates that the interview would focus on drawing out their abilities to do the job.

2. Be upfront about the job expectations

It is important to reserve one’s judgments and not to disregard a candidate’s application based on their disclosure.

Make your expectations clear and allow the candidate to share how they had or would perform the tasks required for the position they applied for, and listen attentively for evidence of their abilities. To assess their abilities objectively, frame the questions directly related to the selection criteria that are applied consistently to all candidates using techniques such as competency-based questions.

Avoid making assumptions about their abilities due to their condition.

3. Share about your organisation’s inclusive workplace culture

Check first if the candidate requires any workplace adjustments or accommodations. Not all persons with mental health conditions need accommodations to do the job. If workplace accommodations and adjustments (e.g., flexible working hours, employee assistance programmes, and wellness ambassadors) are available, interviewers could state them. This helps to communicate the organisation’s commitment to hiring persons with mental health conditions (and any other disabilities), and encourages candidates to share if they need any accommodations.

If in doubt, let the candidate know that you need to check on their request for workplace adjustments first, and this can be discussed further at a later stage.

If their request cannot be met, help the candidate to understand the organisation’s considerations and reasons (e.g., the accommodation/adjustment will incur excessive costs or will fundamentally change the nature or operation of the business, etc.), and explore other options with them.

In general, employers should exercise care and diligence in collecting sensitive and/or personal information. Organisations should not ask job applicants to declare personal information such as their mental health condition unless there is a job-related requirement.

If you require information that may be viewed as discriminatory, state your reasons clearly why you are collecting the information.

For more resources on how to conduct interviews in a non-discriminatory and respectful manner, visit tafep.sg.

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