How to Hire Autistic, Dyslexic or Other Neurodiverse Staff
THE RECRUITMENT PROCESS
The first and typically the last hurdle that most neurodiverse job candidates face is the recruitment process. From sometimes long, repetitive and occasionally ambiguous application forms to panel interviews and assessment centres that generally only serve to highlight the challenges these candidates may have with social interactions, there are a number of stages where job candidates will stumble.
However, there are many minor adjustments that organisations can make to their processes that will allow neurodiverse candidates to demonstrate their strengths and character.
As is so often the case with adjustments for neurodiverse candidates/employees, you’ll find these changes can be of benefit to all candidates. The single most significant change – being open and flexible in your thinking and approach.
Additionally, you’ll also ensure that you’re able to meet your legal requirements to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for people with a disability.
Quite often a job description will represent the ideal employee profile that has the whole range of skills, competencies, experiences and qualifications of the perfect candidate.
Many neurodiverse job seekers, especially those with Aspergers or Autism can take a fairly literal view of the world and with their inherently very honest natures will self-eliminate from applying where they don’t believe they tick all the boxes.
The best way around these issues is to limit the job description to the core, truly non-negotiable skills, experiences and qualifications. Then focus on the characteristics a successful person in this role would have. Question yourself if you’re defaulting to including networking, team working and influencing skills being required for every role.
There are many roles where being a team player is important for sure, but is it really critical?
Could someone who’s not your best player when it comes to stakeholder influencing still be able to nail that analytics or design based role?
A great team isn’t made up of amazing all-rounders who can play in any position on the field. Most players are more adept at one position over another – how many goalies are top scoring strikers?
Outlining the key activities to be performed within the role will enable applicants to better assess their own suitability for the job. This will also help to avoid applicants trying to match themselves against expectations of prior industry or role specific experience – especially as careers become more fluid and non-linear.
Minimising jargon, acronyms and assumed knowledge will also broaden your applicant base and assist in potential applicants getting a better understanding of the role you’re offering.
Similarly to the job description, ensuring that your application form is clear, succinct and avoids ambiguous questions will support a wider range of potential candidates to provide you the details you’re really looking for.
Consider including a glossary of terms to assist with understanding, especially for those great candidates who may not be as familiar with your specific industry.
Providing an opportunity for applicants to outline their particular needs or adjustments will also allow you to be prepared when it comes to interview or assessments. It is also an indication to applicants that you take inclusion seriously and that you’re ready to listen to them.
Following the same theme as the job description and the application form, keeping your ad copy clear and simple and setting clear expectations of what is really required to succeed in the role will broaden your reach.
The job ad is also your opportunity to highlight your organisation’s position on inclusion and how you support applicants and employees. So outline your value proposition on that front, let potential candidates see that they should take the time to apply.
When it comes to neurodiverse candidates and interviews, working with the historic standard expectations of interview performance, you can be looking at an oil and water situation.
Many neurodiverse candidates don’t approach social interactions in the same way as most other people. Having got so far as securing an interview, they’re now at the point where they can’t hide behind a two dimensional application form.
As the interviewer you’ve now got the opportunity to meet them and get to know them better. This might mean that you need to put aside many of the typical biases you’d bring to an interview situation. Things like – no eye contact = ‘bad’.
Allowing for some differences in behaviours, such as an awkward or unconventional greeting, some neurodiverse people are highly adverse to personal contact or just have a hard time with shaking hands.
Being mindful of the language you use when asking questions, allowing time for consideration and responses to be formulated and prompting for additional information are little things that will help your candidate let you know who they are and the strengths they can bring to the role.
Be open to alternative approaches to interviews or having the interview as one component and the be all and end all of your evaluation of neurodiverse candidates. Consider this – 45 minutes in a room, nervous and anxious, talking about what they can do is not the same as how they could perform on the job day in day out.
Consider what adaptations you could make to your interview or recruitment process. This is because in particular, Aspergers may face difficulties with:
understanding body language and maintaining appropriate eye contact
knowing how to start and maintain conversations or do small talk
judging how much information to give – especially if questions are open
processing verbal questions quickly
thinking in abstract ways, or considering 'what if?' scenarios
varying their tone of voice and finding the appropriate level of formality.
By providing an opportunity to demonstrate what a candidate can do is often far better an assessment of potential job performance. There are many ways of conducting a work trial, depending on the amount of time and effort you’re prepared to invest in finding and supporting the right candidate.
To help make this a successful process, leveraging someone who can guide and assist can be invaluable.
A good work trial will provide exposure to the types of, or preferably, the exact activities that will be conducted as part of the role.
The way this is setup will differ from one role to another and from one employer to another. The thing to keep in mind is to evaluate the ability of the candidate to perform the role and to give them the chance to demonstrate this through action rather than words.
By adopting some or all of these measures, you can dramatically improve your neurodiverse recruitment and inclusion efforts and open the door to some highly motivated and talented individuals.
Are you a HR manager, recruiter or diversity & inclusion leader?
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