Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that can significantly impact daily functioning. ADHD is characterized by difficulties with attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Many adults with ADHD wonder if they should disclose their diagnosis when applying for jobs.
The Pros and Cons of Disclosing ADHD
There are pros and cons to disclosing ADHD on a job application.
- Asking for reasonable accommodations – Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employees with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations that allow them to perform their essential job functions. Disclosing ADHD makes you eligible to request accommodations like a quiet workspace, permission to work from home, extra time for assignments, etc.
- Explaining resume gaps or work history issues – ADHD symptoms like disorganization, forgetfulness, and restlessness can negatively impact work performance and lead to frequent job changes. Disclosing provides context for an inconsistent work history.
- Demonstrating self-awareness – Telling employers about your ADHD shows you are self-aware, responsible, and proactive about managing your symptoms.
- Avoiding misunderstandings – If ADHD causes behaviors like forgetfulness, impulsivity, or inattention during the hiring process, disclosing helps employers understand these are symptoms, not poor motivation or attitude.
- Bias and discrimination – Some employers may hold outdated views of ADHD and discriminate against applicants with disabilities.
- Concerns about job performance – Employers may worry that ADHD symptoms will make you unreliable, distracted, disorganized, etc, even with accommodations.
- Focus on disability, not ability – Disclosing could lead employers to define you by your ADHD instead of evaluating your skills.
- Not eligible for accommodations yet – Employers only have to provide accommodations after hiring, so disclosing at the application stage does not guarantee accommodations.
Weighing these pros and cons requires looking at your unique situation and the individual employer.
When to Disclose ADHD
As a general rule, there are three main options for when to reveal ADHD to employers:
1. On the job application
Disclosing ADHD on the initial application is the most proactive approach. Listing it with other medical conditions lets employers know upfront. This can work in your favor with disability-friendly employers. However, some employers may inadvertently screen out applicants who disclose a disability early on.
2. In the interview process
You might choose to disclose your ADHD during a phone screening or in-person interview. This gives you a chance to explain how ADHD impacts your work, highlight your assets, and advocate for accommodations. With this approach, employers have more context to evaluate you as a full candidate before judging your ADHD.
3. After receiving a job offer
Legally, you only need to disclose a disability after receiving an offer. At this stage, your new employer is more invested in onboarding you and is required to discuss accommodations in good faith. However, surprising them with new information late in the game can seem sneaky.
There is no “right” time. Consider the company culture, your needs, and the job itself when deciding when to tell.
Accommodations to Request
Reasonable accommodations are modifications to the work environment or policies that allow employees with disabilities to perform essential functions. Under the ADA, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations as long as they do not impose “undue hardship” on the business.
Here are some accommodations to consider requesting if you disclose ADHD:
- Modified work schedule – Flexible start/end times, ability to shift hours as needed.
- Work from home – Full remote work or a hybrid on-site/remote schedule.
- Noise-canceling headphones – To reduce auditory distractions in the office.
- Private office – A quiet, secluded workspace to limit distractions.
- Extra training time – Extended onboarding/training on new systems and tasks.
- Job coach – A colleague who can provide feedback and guidance.
- Reminders – Email alerts about meetings, deadlines, tasks, etc.
- Checklists – Step-by-step checklists to follow for complex duties.
- Dictation software – Allows dictating instead of typing for certain tasks.
The best accommodations are tailored to your symptoms and job duties. Be prepared to explain how each request helps you manage specific ADHD challenges.
Explaining ADHD in Interviews
If you choose to tell interviewers about your ADHD, think through how to have an effective conversation:
- Be positive – Frame ADHD in terms of your assets like creativity, empathy, and energy.
- Focus on success – Share examples of how you succeed with ADHD symptoms when properly managed.
- Highlight qualifications – Redirect the conversation back to your impressive resume and fit for the role.
- Know your rights – If asked illegal or inappropriate questions about medical conditions, politely decline to answer.
- Suggest accommodations – Offer ideas for specific, reasonable accommodations that allow you to excel.
- Be understanding – Employers may be uninformed about ADHD, so educate them compassionately.
It also helps to practice explaining your ADHD in a simple, relatable way. Prepare short anecdotes that build understanding.
Handling Illegal Interview Questions
The ADA prohibits asking disability-related questions before extending a job offer. However, some hiring managers may still illegally ask about:
- Your specific ADHD symptoms
- Any disabilities or medical conditions
- Prescription medications you take
- How often you expect to miss work due to ADHD
- If you can perform major life activities like learning, concentrating, thinking, communicating
These questions aim to determine if you have a disability even without naming it directly. Politely redirect illegal questions back to your qualifications. For example:
“I’m able to consistently meet all workplace performance standards, as evidenced by strong past performance reviews. I’d be happy to further discuss my qualifications for this position.”
If an interviewer continues to inappropriately probe about medical issues, you can file an ADA complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Writing an ADHD Disclosure Letter
A disclosure letter formally notifies your employer about your ADHD diagnosis and related needs. This written document serves as legal record of your request for accommodations.
Your letter can:
- Explain how ADHD affects your work capacity
- Outline your symptoms and challenges
- Request specific accommodations
- Suggest accommodations you believe will be effective
- Note any previous accommodations that worked well
- Thank the employer for supporting you
Tips for writing an effective ADHD disclosure letter:
- Keep it short, simple, and positive in tone
- Focus on how accommodations will benefit your work performance
- Provide medical documentation if available
- Use respectful, solution-oriented language
- Note that accommodations do not lower expectations or standards
- Request a response within a reasonable timeframe
- Thank them for considering your request
Having an accommodation request in writing starts the interactive process required by the ADA. This gives your employer insight into your needs and how best to support you.
Sample ADHD Disclosure Letters
Below are two sample disclosure letters you can customize:
Sample Letter #1
Dear [Manager’s Name],
I am writing to formally request reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act for my diagnosed disability, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
My ADHD results in challenges with [insert examples like organization, concentration, memory, managing deadlines, etc]. To manage these challenges and continue fully contributing, I am requesting the following accommodations:
– [Accommodation request #1]
– [Accommodation request #2]
– [Accommodation request #3]
These accommodations will allow me to utilize my strengths and perform all essential duties without posing undue hardship. Please let me know if you need any medical documentation of my disability. I am happy to engage in the interactive process to tailor these accommodations to our workplace. Please advise me of your decision by [reasonable date]. Thank you in advance for supporting me in accessing what I need to thrive in my role. I look forward to continuing our work together.
Sample Letter #2
Dear [Hiring Manager’s name],
Thank you again for the [job title] offer at [Company]. I am thrilled at the prospect of joining your team.
Before officially accepting the offer, I wanted to have an open conversation about how my ADHD impacts my work style. I was diagnosed with ADHD five years ago and have learned to manage my symptoms effectively over the years. However, I still face challenges at times with [insert examples like distractibility, disorganization, restlessness, etc].
I am proactively letting you know this so that we can discuss what reasonable accommodations would set me up for success in this role. Examples may include [list potential accommodation requests]. I’m confident these accommodations will enable me to fully meet all performance expectations. Please let me know if you need any medical documentation from my doctor.
It is important to me that we have candid conversations about how I can thrive at [Company]. I truly appreciate you taking the time to understand my needs and determine appropriate accommodations. I look forward to finalizing the details of my offer soon. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any other questions.
Thank you again for this exciting opportunity!
Speaking With HR About Accommodations
After disclosing ADHD, you will likely need to speak with Human Resources about requesting accommodations. Here are some tips for effectively communicating your needs:
- Bring medical documentation – Provide recent doctor’s notes, testing results, etc. documenting your ADHD diagnosis and symptoms.
- Give specific examples – Explain how ADHD concretely impacts your job performance, like missing deadlines or losing track of tasks.
- Suggest accommodations – Come prepared with accommodation ideas and be open to alternatives that meet your needs.
- Know it’s a process – Requesting accommodations often involves an ongoing dialogue to find the best solutions.
- Be positive – Emphasize you are ready and willing to fully meet performance standards with accommodations.
- Ask questions – Inquire about timeframes, policies, implementation plans, and setting up an ADA file.
- Say thank you – HR plays an important role, so express gratitude for their time and willingness to support you.
The conversation may feel vulnerable, but HR wants to help you thrive. By law, they cannot disclose your private medical information without consent. Approach the process collaboratively, and you are likely to get your needs met.
Responding to a Request Denial
Hopefully your employer grants reasonable ADHD accommodations after disclosure. But some requests do get denied. Denials typically cite “undue hardship” to the company.
If your request is denied, remain professional and solution-oriented:
- Ask for a written explanation – Get specific reasons for the denial for your records.
- Suggest alternatives – Brainstorm other accommodations that meet your needs.
- Offer a trial run – Propose starting with a temporary or scaled-back version of the request.
- Provide more documentation – If needed, get letters from doctors explaining the business necessity of your request.
- Check the law – Make sure the denial adheres to ADA regulations before assuming the decision is final.
You can also file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission if you feel the denial reflects illegal discrimination. With patience and persistence, many initially denied requests get approved eventually.
Tips for Succeeding at Work With ADHD
Disclosing your ADHD is just the first step to thriving in your career. Once hired, you will also need to manage your symptoms and perform well.
Here are some tips:
- Invest in routine – Structure your days and weeks with helpful rituals.
- Reduce noise and chaos – Seek quiet spaces to focus when possible.
- Take notes obsessively – Write everything down so key info is not forgotten.
- Set phone reminders – For meetings, deadlines, tasks – anything you might forget.
- Break up projects – Tackle large assignments in smaller chunks.
- Move around – Incorporate movement to burn energy when restlessness arises.
- Ask for feedback – Check in regularly with managers about performance.
- Recharge alone – Have some alone time to re-energize when depleted.
Be patient with yourself, and tap into available support like counseling, coaching, medication, and community. Your needs may evolve over time. Stay in touch with managers and HR about maximizing success.
Disclosing ADHD at work is a personal decision that comes with risks and benefits. Consider carefully when and how to tell based on the specific job and company culture. Frame the conversation positively, focusing on your assets and ability to thrive with simple accommodations. While it requires some vulnerability, asking for what you need makes success possible. Approach it step-by-step, and remember there are resources to help each step of the way. With the right supports, your ADHD does not have to hold you back from professional accomplishments.