Discussion: March 9, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

In today’s newsletter a reader says:

I have a medical condition (since birth) that has no effect on my work: my hands tremble a little or moderately. It’s called “benign essential tremor.” It is not Parkinson’s or anything like it. I worry that it scares off employers when I interview.

Today I was invited to an informal interview. In my reply, I tried something new. I said, “Great! I would love to meet with you. One thing I should let you know about. My hands shake slightly, but this doesn’t affect my work.”

I don’t want to scare off prospective employers by saying the wrong thing. I figure if I discuss it up front, that’s best. How should I say it?

How to Say It: I think you already say it well. You might add that it’s not a degenerative condition, if you want to go that far. I’m sure you’re aware that you may be protected under the disabilities laws, but it also seems you prefer to be candid. I like that.

Should this reader explain it up front, or wait until the interview?


  1. Being upfront about it seems like a better suggestion, to my mind. Otherwise, there is the question of timing near the start of the interview. Starting an interview with, “I need to tell you something,” or following the handshake with an acknowledgment of the condition may leave doubts about communicating upfront and honestly.

  2. I like your approach, it defuses any concerns and inevitable mental questions that could distract the interviewer. I would not discuss it until your first face-to-face with someone though.

    Mention it briefly and casually as you did, and add that you’ve had it forever and is non-degenerative. You could introduce it like “my hands have a tremor, many think it’s Parkinsons but fortunately it’s not, it’s .”

  3. I’m deaf, and I wear hearing aids, so there’s no avoiding not saying anything about that. I handle this by saying that I read lips and I may need to ask the interviewer to repeat if I don’t understand what is being said, and that they can always feel free to ask me to repeat what I said if they don’t understand my speech. There’s always that paper and pencil.

  4. I am a senior manager/executive,and have been in the corporate world for over 30 years.Oh,
    and by the way,I’m a post polio(age 4)with a shorter right leg,and no use of my right arm.
    When I first graduated college in 1972,HR professionals?(obstructionists)would ask me why I walked with a limp.No win answer-right?If you say something smart ass (like most 22 year olds think they are)you are perceived as having a chip on your shoulder.If you avoid the question,you are meek.My reply was “I am really thankful that my disability did not interfere in getting a great education,and an opportunity to help your company”.
    Fast forward 30 years,and I have literally worn out my left leg,and must use a scooter to get around.Oh,yea,I lost my job 18 months ago.How do you address a scooter the equation?
    I don’t give the interviewer a chance.After formalities are exchanged I say “obviously as you can see,I have a disability.Thank God I haven’t missed a day of work in 30 years because of it”.Answers alot of questions,and demonstrates that you are not a liability.
    Hope this helps.