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Make your hiring process autism inclusive

For autistic people, moving through the recruitment process can present some unique challenges. However, there is more you can do as a business to help these candidates demonstrate their value, skills and competencies. 

Why neurodiverse people are an asset to businesses 

Neurodiverse people are, and have always been, an asset to businesses. Neurodiverse folk often demonstrate high levels of focus and concentration, a diverse approach to problem solving, and a strong ability to recall and apply information. Autistic folk are often able to think outside of the box, can process and analyse data quickly, and see connections and patterns that allistic people (those who are not autistic) can miss.  

It is a misconception that autistic folks are proficient in roles which focus on maths, or science. Neurodiverse people aren’t especially good at certain jobs or within specific industries; they have a huge amount of transferable skills and can apply their knowledge in a variety of different ways. Autistic people are just as likely to have the necessary skills and experience for your business as neurotypical people, as well as many more besides. 

It is also worth noting that providing reasonable adjustments for disabled and neurodiverse forms part of the Equality Act 2010. This means that employers are ‘required to make reasonable adjustments to any elements of the job which place a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage compared to non-disabled people.’

Why the hiring process sets autistic people up for failure

Autistic people face a number of barriers when looking for, and pursuing job opportunities. They might interpret a question or a job advert literally, communicate in unexpected ways, not understand social cues, struggle with eye contact or find abstract thinking difficult. An autistic candidate might meet every criteria for your job role, but find communicating that challenging or even impossible. 

Traditional interviews tend to focus on the communication and social interaction between the employee and the candidate. Businesses judge prospective employees on their social skills, their ability to engage conversationally with the interviewer and communicate their experience and abilities, as well as the way that the interviewee ‘sells’ themselves. The impact of this is that businesses often miss out on autistic talent, because they’re assessing autistic candidates using an allistic lens. 

Setting up a neuroinclusive recruitment process

There are a number of small changes that businesses can make to their hiring process, so that they aren’t missing out on autistic candidates. 

  • Check the ‘essential’ skills in your advert

    Autistic folk often interpret language literally, which means they might meet every essential skill but one and therefore decide not to apply. Remove any skills from your job description that aren’t essential, and get specific on those skills that are. ‘Ability to converse and communicate effectively with customers’ is far more explicit than, ‘excellent communication skills’.

  • Get specific on your application forms

    Autistic people might struggle with understanding how much or how little information to give. Only ask for the information that you need from candidates, and when you ask a candidate to write about their experience or skill set, give a clear word count.

  • Always ask about reasonable adjustments

    Autistic people are routinely discriminated against, both consciously and unconsciously. This means that they’re less likely to tell you that they’re autistic, for fear that they won’t be considered for the role. Instead of waiting for candidates to tell you what they need, ask what, if any, reasonable adjustments would help them in the interview.

  • Make your interviews inclusive

    This is one of the most challenging stages of the recruitment process for autistic candidates. To make your interviews neuroinclusive, you could provide the interview questions ahead of time so that the candidate knows what they are going to be asked about. This way, you’re assessing a candidate on their skills, rather than their ability to think of answers quickly.

    When you’re interviewing, ask specific questions about their experience, like, ‘Tell me about a time when you had to respond to a difficult customer’, rather than vague questions such as ‘Tell me about how you responded to challenges at work.’ Ensure that you’re asking a question, ‘Tell me about the work you did at your previous company’ rather than saying a leading statement, ‘So, I see that you worked at [company]’. Autistic people are likely to miss this cue to expand on their work experience. 

  • Show me, don’t tell me

    If it is possible, allow the candidate to show you their skills, rather than tell you about them. Including a test that assesses their ability to meet the job criteria can circumvent some of the social difficulties autistic candidates face in interviews, and will allow you to see them in action.

Read Workplace Neurodiversity Rising to find out more about creating a neuroinclusive business

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