If your organization is not considering neurodiverse talent, it’s missing out. However, attracting neurodiverse candidates requires more than a job portal. Often, hiring processes are unintentionally diverting these candidates away from applying. So, what do you need to do differently?
Neurodiversity in employment
According to Deloitte, 85% of people on the autistic spectrum are unemployed. Compared to the overall unemployment rate of only 4.2%, there is a significant disparity.
The hiring processes currently used impede the recruitment of neurodiverse workers. This is illustrated by IBM in their article, in which an employee with Asperger’s syndrome discusses the disadvantages they faced.
“I’ve always been a hard worker, willing to go above and beyond for my employer. But my difficulties make it very hard to present myself effectively in the setting of a standard job interview. The fault of this standard is that it’s more effective in gauging an applicant’s ability to polish a resume and speak smoothly rather than their eligibility/skills for a position of employment. While good for some, this system filters out people like me.”
Hiring processes that deter neurodiverse candidates
Job advertisements can include a long list of ‘essential skills’ or ‘preferred skills’. While these can be beneficial while trying to hire a neurotypical individual, they might deter neurodiverse applicants. Frequently, one of the specifications include ‘exceptional communication’. First you should really consider if this specification is absolutely necessary to perform the given role or if adjustments can be made.
To encourage more neurodiverse applicants, the requirements for the role need to boil down to the necessities. Additionally, it would help to mention that you are open to hiring neurodivergent candidates and that you have the training to be able to support everyone’s needs in despite of their barriers.
Standard interviews can put neurodivergent candidates at a disadvantage. They rely heavily on social cues, which is something many neurodivergent people struggle with. Instead, there should be a stronger focus on the skills, experience, and personality required for the role.
Similarly, some people on the autism spectrum struggle with sensory processing issues, which makes it difficult for them to navigate the interview. One thing that may be beneficial to do beforehand is to let them know what questions you will ask and what you will discuss. This would be especially helpful for candidates who struggle with working memory, so this would benefit them greatly.
It’s important to consider that neurodiverse candidates may have anxiety surrounding interviews. They understand that this could put them at a disadvantage. Therefore, they may opt for a video interview instead of a face-to-face in the office. They may feel more comfortable in familiar surroundings which in turn makes it easier to communicate.
Additionally, neurodivergent candidates may be anxious about the stigma they often face from their condition. They may fear that the interviewer will ask personal or awkward questions regarding their neurodiversity, ‘testing’ them on it. Policies need to be in place to ensure that if workplace stigma does occur, the candidate will have protections in place. These ‘tests’ that some employers may insist on will be counterproductive and instead will deter neurodivergent candidates.
Before the hiring process starts, you need to consider the types of barriers neurodivergent people face. For example, in an interview, if an autistic individual suffers from sensory issues, a brightly lit room may cause distraction, impacting their ability to communicate. For other neurodivergent people, they might have trouble with maintaining eye contact (common in people with autism) or they may be distracted by noise.
In our previous article, we discuss other factors to consider when looking to hire neurodivergent candidates.
It’s important to note that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to hiring neurodiverse candidates. More specifically, it would be beneficial to have a discussion with the candidate about how to better accommodate them for the interview.
Overall, there is a number of changes that need to be made in order to provide the best support to neurodivergent applicants. This will allow you to learn what barriers neurodiverse candidates face and what you could do to help. Once hired, there are ways to be support them as they join the workplace, a topic we’ll discuss in our next article.