Simple adjustments to aspects of the recruitment process can alleviate challenges neurodiverse people face when looking for a job. Further, implementing these changes may help you attract Autistic employees which can lead to innovation, diverse perspectives, and many other positive changes to your workplace.
1. Job Description/Application
Provide a clear description of job duties and essential skills
- many job postings include unnecessary jargon, vague information, or list “filler” skills, such as “strong interpersonal skills or team player” which may deter neurodiverse candidates.
Only list essential education and experience requirements
- Many job postings include requirements that are preferred but not expected or essential. Autistic job seekers may take this literally and avoid applying to jobs where they don’t meet the exact requirements listed.
Include an inclusive hiring statement
- Autistic job seekers have expressed that they feel more confident and comfortable applying to jobs that explicitly state their commitment to creating inclusive hiring and workplace practices.
- Provide space in an application for the applicant to provide information of any accommodations they need during the recruitment process.
Find out the candidate’s preferred method of communication in advance
- Sign language, using picture symbols or a communication device, phone or video etc.
Provide a checklist of available interview accommodations
- Possible accommodations could include having an interpreter, offering a modified interview format, having closed captioning on video interviews etc.
Provide information about what to expect
- Let them know who will be at the interview.
- Provide written and visual instructions on how to get to the interview.
- Provide a schedule or outline for the interview in advance and stick to it.
- Provide interview questions in advance.
- Avoid abstract language and/or idioms as many Autistic people take language literally and may misinterpret what you say. Instead use concrete and literal language such as “How much do you expect to earn” rather than “give me a ballpark figure”.
- Avoid open-ended questions as many autistic people may not understand the specific answer you are looking for and provide too much or too little information, or information that is not relevant to what you are looking for. Instead, use closed-ended questions that require a specific answer such as “what are you career goals in the next 5 years” rather than “tell me where you see yourself in 5 years”.
- Avoid abstract or hypothetical questions as many autistic people have difficulties thinking in the abstract and answering “what if” type questions. Instead, ask about specific experiences so that the candidate has a reference point and can answer based on reality.
- Avoid too many behaviour based questions as many autistic job seekers have not had ample job experiences to draw from. Instead, ask about other experiences such as volunteering or education.
- Let them know if they are talking too much or too little – people with Autism may not be able to judge for themselves if they are giving too much or not enough information. You may have to probe or ask more specific questions to get more relevant details or let them know that they’ve answered your question and that you’d like to move on to the next question.
- limit the number of interviewers as too many people can be overwhelming for autistic job seekers.
- provide a sensory-friendly environment that is free from distractions such as scents, flickering lights, background noise etc.
4. Modified Interview Practices
Modified Interview Practices: Consider offering alternatives or modifications to your interview practices. Interviews are often testing social communication skills when often these are not essential to do well at the job. Consider:
- Portfolios may be a more accurate display of an Autistic candidate’s skills than what they can describe verbally.
- Skills demonstration or competency based interview such as completing a work trial or specific tasks that will actually be used on the job.
- Written or pre-recorded video answers to interview questions allows autistic candidates to process questions in their own time and formulate answers that will more accurately represent their skills
- Allowing a support person such as a job coach or interpreter to assist with clarification of questions/answers.
- Allowing extra time to process and answer questions.
- Second Chance interviews may allow a person with Autism to better demonstrate their qualifications.
- Recognize and accept differences. Autistic candidates may display unusual greetings, handshakes or body proximity, unusual or inconsistent eye contact, rocking or swaying, slouching posture, unusual tone of voice, or reduced facial expressions. While these traits may be different, they usually have little reflection on a candidate’s ability to perform a job.
Disclosure: Some Autistic employees may choose to disclose their ASD diagnosis with you. This personal choice that should be respected. Some people may chose to disclose in their cover letter, during an interview, after being hired, or some time after working. Always receive consent first before sharing diagnosis information with co-workers, supervisors or other groups in the workplace. Disclosure is personal and it is up to the Autistic individual how much sensitive information they wish to share and with whom.
In the context of school or employment it is important to think about a) how their differences impacts their ability to perform or learn and b) the supports, environment and services that can be provided to increase participation and success.