Although many companies state that they welcome all applicants, job adverts must reflect that the workplace can accommodate autistic and neurodivergent (ND) employees. As well as a statement to say that you welcome ND applicants, here are some ways that you can make it easier for ND’s during the hiring process:
- Avoid use of jargon. Job adverts can be extremely long and anxiety inducing. and as soon as sector-based jargon is used, NDs are unlikely to apply. It is best to break down what you are looking for by skills: If you are looking for attention to detail –in what? Are the organisational skills about time management or the ability to prioritise work?
- Provide an option to add any accommodations required for the interview, or provide assistance on completing additional application forms.
- Send interview questions beforehand, or give an idea on what will be asked, so anyone with executive dysfunction or using an AAC machine can prepare.
- Are non-speaking autistics who use sign or AAC machines able to apply? What accommodations are in place where they can be supported when verbal communication is not an option? (This can also apply to deaf/hard of hearing people.)
- Have a pre-interview chat with ND applicants so they can become familiar with who they will be interviewing with, and won’t be as uncomfortable at seeing a new face.
- Make it clear you allow stimming in interviews, and offer breaks if needed.
- Be direct in what you are actually looking for in a person, as with ND people we can’t guess how we have to present ourselves—this needs to be made as clear as possible.
- Always ask specific questions that require specific details.
- If a question has more than one part, then break it down. We won’t process all the information in one go.
- If the interview is over Zoom, provide the questions on the screen so that NDs can refer to them during the interview. This way they can structure their responses and keep themselves on track.
Examples of Specific Questions to Ask
Rejections are hard for anyone, but incredibly hard for those who catastrophize, as NDs often do. Wording rejection emails more positively, by adding what they did well, can help take the sting out.
Rejection emails don’t need to include why you went with someone else, or what someone needs to improve on, because you never know if what you’re seeing as a “flaw” might just be a neurodivergent trait.
Try, if possible, to avoid words like ‘improvement,’ as it just sets the tone of “Who you are right now is not good enough.”
Working with Neurodivergents
- Are you able to provide transcripts of audio?
- Can documents have text-to-audio option?
- Can you provide documents that can be highlighted?
- Can you provide different text filters or fonts for Dyslexic workers?
- Do you have meetings with NDs first to see how they can access their work effectively and what programmes/equipment is needed?
- Have you carried out a risk assessment, hiring a disability and inclusion officer who is also neurodivergent?
- Do you put in the subject the priority of tasks/emails to help NDs prioritise their workload?
- Do you give the outline of a meeting in advance?
- Giving a “my turn to talk” option helps NDs know when they can speak and know they won’t be interrupted.
- Is there an option to do meetings over Zoom so that the chat box can be used instead of being verbal?
- Do you have transcripts of meetings available?
- If an ND staff member speaks bluntly and without a filter, are they understood by their team and not seen as “rude.”
Safe Spaces for Neurodivergents
One thing most firms and organisations are lacking is a neurodivergent person in a leadership/mentor position. Do you have someone NDs can go to personally to discuss being burnt out, their struggles or just to get some advice? Do they have someone they can check in with so the question is constantly asked on how the company can make their working life better/easier?
For burnout, is there an option to take a period of leave without the risk of losing the position?
Hiring someone who is neurodivergent as a one-to-one means that communication will be more effective. Logical and structured advice will be given instead of words of affirmation and NDs are more likely to go to other ND’s than a neurotypical. There also needs to be that option of going to another ND to discuss team issues because if there is a neurotypical who doesn’t understand autism/OCD/ADHD etc, there’s a huge chance they will be gaslighted and the issues won’t get resolved.
When discord does occur, asking “how would you like this situation resolved?” helps foster an environment where ND workers can speak first and be heard. If they don’t know the answer, then offer some alternatives but only once they’re comfortable with you throwing out options.
Training needs to be kept consistent and regular. Having an autistic or neurodivergent inclusion officer or ND advocate carry out the training means you’re getting accurate information at all times. It also means staff are being educated properly, and it’s not on the ND employee to have to educate a whole team or workplace.
Sign up to neurodiversity celebration week, autistic acceptance month, and other weeks/months of awareness where you can learn and adopt better habits to help your ND employees.