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Written by Susan ShorSusan Shor

How to apply for jobs if you have dyslexia

10 min read
How to apply for jobs if you have dyslexia
Artwork by:Jane Izmailova
Dyslexia should not be a barrier to finding a great job and, in fact, it’s not. Start with the tips below to smooth your path to success.

Dyslexia does not have to be an obstacle in your job search, even if it made your school days more challenging. You have probably developed coping mechanisms and found technology to use to your advantage, but that doesn’t necessarily take the worry out of entering new situations.

This blog is designed to give you guidance on

  • Describing dyslexia to people who may not understand it
  • Writing a flawless resume and cover letter with dyslexia
  • To tell or not to tell (or when to tell) a prospective employer
  • Finding resources for adults with dyslexia.

What is dyslexia and how do I describe it?

If you choose to disclose your dyslexia to an employer (more on that later), you may want to try to describe what this means in terms of the position you seek.

Dyslexia is a neurological condition that makes reading and writing difficult because of processing differences in the brain that make accessing spoken language challenging. Dyslexia does not look the same for everyone and is scaled on a spectrum from moderate to severe. 

If you have dyslexia, you are not alone. About 20% of the population and 80-90% of people who have a learning disability are there with you, according to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity. Dyslexia is not related to intelligence.

Expert tip

Your rights in the workplace

The technological tools available at work may make accommodations available to you under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) unnecessary.

The ADA prohibits discrimination in the workplace, but does not clearly define what is required of employers beyond “reasonable accommodations.”

How to write a flawless resume and cover letter with dyslexia

Written tasks are challenging for people with dyslexia. As a result, some might put them off. When you need a job, or just want a new one, putting off creating a resume and cover letter means a lost opportunity.

This may be the most daunting aspect of your job hunt, so how do you get started? You know what you want to say, you have the skills and talents to do a great job, but you’re concerned that you won’t successfully convey your message. Avail yourself of the many tools out there to help you. You may be familiar with many of them if you used them in school or in your daily life. You may even be using one to read this blog.

The first thing to remember is that you have valuable high-level thinking skills that employers want. Instead of focusing on your language difficulties, focus on your assets. Some general traits of people with dyslexia:

  • Problem-solving
  • Creative
  • Observant
  • Empathetic
  • Big-picture thinking
  • Ability to make connections
  • Pattern recognition
  • Three-dimensional thinking

Ask yourself the following questions about the skills above: 

  • Which do I have?
  • Which are valuable for my career?
  • How can I highlight these on my resume?

Now that you’ve assessed all that you have to offer, you are ready to think about the writing process.

You have three main options:

  1. Hire a professional resume writer who will guide you through the process
  2. Use an online resume builder service such as ours that integrates spelling and grammar checks
  3. Get help from a friend, family member, colleague, or teacher if you are still in school.

In all of these cases, you can use a speech-to-text system to get your ideas out. Then, when you have a draft, use text-to-speech to listen to what you have. Proofing the content is a key part of anyone’s job application process.

If you choose to hire a professional resume writer, they may require you to complete a form that they can work from. You can ask to do the interview orally and then use your resources to review the materials the resume writer creates.

An online resume builder service will guide you through the process of creating each section so that you don’t have to organize the overall document. You will have the freedom to design your resume or alter an existing layout, such as the expertly-designed templates from Resume.io.

Finally, you can simply ask for help if you have a person close to you who has the skills you need. 

With all of these options, keep in mind that it’s your resume and should reflect your voice. You don’t want the hiring manager to expect a person different from the one who appears at the interview. Choose language that’s part of your vocabulary. Of course, the tone in your cover letter and resume may be a bit more formal than when you speak, but don’t veer too far from your natural speech patterns. 

If and when to tell a prospective employer

First, you should know that you are under no legal obligation to disclose to your employer or to a prospective employer that you have dyslexia.

That being said, there are circumstances where it may be to your benefit to do so. Many interview processes are not dyslexia-friendly. For instance, they may entail a written or computerized test that you cannot have read aloud. If the job you have applied for will not require a lot of reading and writing, you may want to ask for accommodations that will help you pass this portion of the interview process. You will have to balance the likelihood that you will perform poorly vs. the likelihood that disclosing your learning disability will eliminate you from the candidate pool.

Should you tell your employer at the time of your job offer? Again, this is a judgment call. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Can you do your job with the tools at hand and do you feel comfortable without revealing your dyslexia?
  • Is there a simple accommodation that will make a big difference to your job performance and your comfort level in the workplace?
  • Will your performance review include an assessment of a skill affected by your dyslexia?

You may choose to wait until you have proven yourself at work and feel more comfortable revealing that you have dyslexia or you may never reveal it and it may make no difference in your job performance. The key is being honest with yourself.
 

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Resources and tools for adults with dyslexia

Resources

Tools

Many of these tools offer multiple functions and some require a one-time payment or subscription. Employers (especially in education) may have subscriptions to speech recognition or other tools since in addition to helping those with dyslexia, they make transcription and a host of other tasks quicker and easier for everyone.

Speech recognition

Text-to-speech

  • OCR Instantly Pro for Android or iOS
  • Leo

Writing with speech function

  • Ghotit
  • ClaroSpeak - available as a browser extension or app

Visual aids

  • Tint Vision is an app that creates a color overlay on computers and mobile screens. It also has a text-to-speech tool.
  • There are several fonts designed to help readers with dyslexia, although research does not show significant improvement. Here are a couple of them to try: Dyslexie, Open Dyslexic.

Key takeaways

If there is only one idea you take away from this blog it is that your dyslexia is your business and only you know how to handle it best. Here are other key ideas to remember:

  • You are under no obligation to reveal your dyslexia to your employer or prospective employer.
  • Job-hunting can be anxiety-provoking and having dyslexia may make it more so – don’t be afraid to use all the resources available.
  • Many of the tools that make your life easier, make the lives of all people easier.
  • Contacting advocacy or research organizations will provide you with more ideas and information.
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