Dear Claudia,

I recently met a candidate with a technical skill that is critical to one of my clients. The challenge is that this candidate has Tourette Syndrome; he blinked, coughed, and twitched his way through our interview, and it was really distracting. How much should I tell my client in advance about it? And by presenting a candidate with Tourette’s to him, am I putting my client at risk for legal action if he chooses not to hire the person after all?

Just Checking

Dear JC,

Actually, Tourette's is indeed a disability that is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). What does that mean to you? Proceed as you might with any submittal: present the resume and a summary of why you think the candidate is qualified in comparison to others, and let the Hiring Manager decide what comes next.

If the next step is an in-person interview, my rule of thumb is “no surprises.” I would tell the Manager that this candidate has TS and answer any up-front questions about what that means. I would also ensure that the Manager understands how the ADA applies to him in this situation: that although he is not required to hire the candidate after the interview, he may not refuse to hire him simply because of the disability.

It should be noted that the ADA applies to companies with 15 or more employees here in the US. That said, discrimination is just ugly no matter where it shows up, and education is the only antidote I’m aware of for the ignorance that fuels it. Good for you for asking questions, and for educating your clients as a result.

Happy recruiting!


In my day job, I’m the Head of Products for Improved Experience, where we measure and manage perception and experience as business metrics. Learn more about us here.

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I totally agree with you, that is really the only way you can and should handle the situation.
Especially agree with the 'no surprises', and that by being direct and setting it out there, the client will be ready for it.

I whole heartedly agree with you. You make some very valid and "real" points and the world is not perfect, even with the ADA as a protection filter, which I am grateful for. But.........and........however.......there is reality. I don't think I would persent the candidate to the client if it were me.

Rayanne said:
No surprises is, of course, the right action here - Be upfront about the protected disability. My only cause for pause here is "really?" If the disability was that distracting during an interview, is it fair to assume that the HM, whose responsibility it is to fill the position with the best candidate/applicant - the best - that means the best fit, the best experience, the best knowledge base... And while that candidate may have the experience and also the knowledge necessary to perform the functions of the open position, is it really fair to place that burden on the HM whether or not the candidate is the "right fit," given that his disability may actually preclude him from being the right candidate?

I know this is a can of worms and I agree that the ADA is a necessary and valid protection, however, sometimes the disability is the reason and placing the HM or Recruiter in the position of saying no (risking a lawsuit) or saying yes (risking departmental upheaval) really is a no-win for anyone.

Yes, there are some jobs that those with certain disabilities simply cannot perform the given duties - ok. But what about the jobs where the disability just makes them not a good fit for a company or department?
If your only reason for turning him/her off is your discomfort or fear of other's discomfort with the disability, it is discriminatory. Your client would only be at risk if the disability was the reason for not hiring. If there is absolutely no reason why this individual can not carry out the role, then he/she is a candidate.

I would be straight forward with the Hiring Manager about the individual's disability.

Out of curiosity though....did the candidate indicate that he had Tourette's?
I would LOVE having an employee who has Tourette's!! It would be a welcome change from the boring backstabbers I currently work with. You're WAY over-complicating this---

Find a sense of humor, etc. some positive's about your candidate-- and wholeheartedly submit him/her-- with a skip in your step and a song in your heart, my friend!!
I'm still agreeing with your pov and your well as Sandra's suggestion to check references prior to submitting the candidate. This is not a cut and dried ADA issue. Tourettes or any other distracting disability has to be taken into consideration as to the environment. And sometimes that environment is not condusive to the disability. And if you want to call that discrimination, then so be it. I've had great success with ADA hires in the past (deaf, blind, etc.), but we did take into consideration the adjustments and accommodations that were necessary in order for it to be a win-win situation.

Rayanne said:
Hmmm..., yes, did he indicate that? Or did the recruiter just assume and is now committing discrimination? What if the candidate just had allergies...

Come on. If the role requires the placement to work with other individuals, either on a daily basis or in planning sessions, and that disability gets in the way or causes upheaval - discomfort does that - the HM has to do what is best for the department, is that discrimination then not justified? If it affects the well-being and bottom line of the company/department? EVERY hiring process is discriminatory. We tell candidates no all the time, don't we?
Hi all! To clarify, Just Checking did not indicate whether the candidate disclosed the condition or not.

Regarding some of the other comments - I think that Rayanne went right to the heart of the controversy by stating that the HM's job is to be a good steward of resources for the company, and part of that is (in fact) making "discriminating" decisions about the best overall fit for the role (skills, business culture, personalities, the whole ball of wax). To be truthful, I strongly agree with you Rayanne.

The flip side of that argument is that the law is the law, and there are more laws where that one runs out, and lots of punative damages when the argument spills over into court. People don't always do the right thing without prodding, and sometimes it seems that common sense is the hardest thing to find after all.

I'm delighted that you jumped into the conversation, Heather, because you're much more the legal expert than I am...between your comments, and Sandra's brilliance re: shifting the focus from discrimination to selection, the consensus I'm getting from the group today is to THINK. Park the assumptions about whether a disabled candidate is capable of doing the job, or whether a decision in favor of a non-disabled candidate is discriminatory. Do the footwork of a great recruiter up front. Only present qualified candidates - which means always start with clarity in the requirements. Understand the tradeoffs for the Hiring Manager so you can help him or her through the decision-making mine field.

Isn't it funny how at the end of the day our questions almost always come full circle to the fundamentals of recruiting?
Another thing to consider is how much, if any, client facing is involved in this role. Where this is a technical position, could be that the individual will be mostly at their desk coding and will have little interaction with others. Internal interaction might not be an issue at all if co-workers are informed and aware of the condition.

However, if this person is expected to go out in front of clients, that could be difficult and the solution might be simply to choose a candidate with stronger client-facing skills.
I heard once that one in five people (in this country) were considered disabled - is that true? I remember the number startled me at the time. I didn't follow all the links in this posting so I may have missed the numbers - sorry.
Karen, you certainly raise valid points around the importance of objectivity in the recruiter's role. Theoretically, you are more than correct; it's the application that gets sticky.

In my experience, holding blindly to any extreme leads to trouble. In this context it is equally troubling to say that a recruiter should focus only on skills for the job as it is to say that a recruiter should focus only on personality and culture fit into the organization. The truth almost always lies somewhere in the middle, and every job has its own unique requirements (to the points made brilliantly by several others in this discussion). I've yet to meet a hiring manager who wants functional skills at the expense of productivity and team fit, because the work is seldom done in a vaccuum.

Ultimately the recruiter is tasked with matchmaking for longterm retention, or the company suffers all of the hard and soft costs associated with turnover. Are there hiring managers out there who need to be "educated'? Of course. Are there candidates who need to be educated as well? Sure there are. As the intermediary, the recruiter presents a spectrum of candidates that meet as many of the requirements as possible, and manages the fallout (uh, I mean expectations) in the selection process.

KarenM said:
MHO as recruiters when we get too deep into the Personal aspect - when we are relying too much on our emotional perspectives of the candidates that we have to present, instead of focusing on finding the best qualified person for the position based upon the Job description and what it takes to get the job done; The NEEDS and not the Wants; The Objective information.. Not only do we lose out on Great candidates, and great potential employees for our clients, but we also are instrumental in not providing the best service for all that we represent, including the candidates.

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