How employers can make their recruitment processes more neurodiverse-friendly

Recently there has been a growing awareness around neurodiversity, along with the benefits of having neurodiverse employees in a company. However, many neurodiverse people still experience a lot of struggles when applying for jobs that they’re more than capable of doing. Many recruitment processes unintentionally create barriers that both put neurodiverse people off from applying, and make it difficult for them to excel when applying. The following tips can help employers who are looking to make their recruitment processes more inclusive to neurodiverse individuals.

Job adverts and job descriptions

  • Job adverts should be concise, in plain English, listing essential skills and avoiding jargon or unnecessary information.
  • Review what is the right mix between recruiting for generalist skills, or people with outstanding abilities in specific areas.
  • Many job descriptions have broad skills such as ‘strong teamwork and excellent communication skills’ almost by default, regardless of how essential they are to the role itself. Many autistic people will not apply for roles with these requirements, assuming that they ineligible for the job even if they have strong skills that are directly relevant.
  • Having clearly demarcated ‘must-have’ and ‘desirable’ criteria can help encourage people to apply. For example, someone who is dyslexic may feel more confident applying for a role.
  • Includes a diversity and inclusion statement in the job advert that states you are happy to discuss reasonable adjustments.

Application forms

  • Provide clear guidance on what needs to be included in each section of an application form (such as what to include in a supporting statement).
  • Ensure the form includes a space for applicants to highlight any support or adjustments needed for interview. Remember, there is no legal obligation for candidates to talk about a disability or learning difference though, and employers are not to ask further questions about the nature of a disability beyond the information a candidate volunteers.

Candidate filtering

  • Consider using blind recruitment where possible to help remove unconscious bias, for example penalising neurodiverse candidate for having ‘patchy’ education or work history (for example, a person may simply have never had a suitable support with these in the past).
  • Reviewing a candidate’s work (e.g. a program written as part of a Computer Science module) can provide a clearer indication of an applicant’s ability.
  • Being overly critical on small errors such as a minor spelling mistake may lead to unintentionally screening out talented people with dyslexia.

Interviews

A conventional interview is often principally a test of recall and ‘social competence’. This form of assessment can put some neurodivergent people at a disadvantage, making it harder for them to demonstrate the skills and aptitudes required for the job in question. For example, some people may be overly honest about weaknesses, struggle with eye contact or lack confidence because of previous bad experiences.

CIPD, Neurodiversity at Work

Advice for conventional interviews

  • Acknowledge that interviews can be more of a ‘test of social competence’ than an assessment of a person’s ability to perform tasks relevant to the role.
  • Provide candidates with clear and visual information in advance about how to get to the interview venue (maps and visual cues are helpful), and what to expect. This can include the procedure for arriving at the interview, as well as interview format and clear timings of different sections (for example, 15 minutes on work history, 25 minutes on technical skills). Names, information about role in the process and photos of the interview panel can be beneficial too.
  • Choose a quiet, distraction-free place to conduct interviews.
  • Be aware that a candidate may face challenges such as eye contact, body language, knowing how to start, continue or end conversations or answers.
  • Ask direct, clear and specific questions that are not open to interpretation, conjecture or require thinking in abstract ways (e.g. ‘what if?’ scenarios). For example, ‘in your last job, did you do X? What processes did you use to do this effectively?’ Avoid general questions, such as ‘tell me about yourself’.
  • Consider providing interview questions up to two days in advance.
  • Some candidates may benefit from being told if they have given enough information, as they may struggle to judge this themselves.
  • Prompt candidates for more information as needed.
  • Provide adequate breaks during longer interviews.
  • Allow the candidate to refer to any written notes they have made.

Alternatives to traditional interviews

  • Many autistic people perform better in interviews if they have a supporter with them. This person acts as a go-between to ease communication between interviewer and candidate. They don’t answer questions on the interviewee’s behalf, but can help with rephrasing and clarifying questions.
  • Work trials can be a better way of assessing skills than an interview.

For more information, see:

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