When Joe McMiller applied for a job as a quality assurance tester at a private company, he experienced a lot of things that several of us face: apprehension about not having the same qualifications as the others and nervousness surrounding the social rules surrounding the experience. However, these feelings are valid, and much higher in proportion for someone with autism, just like Joe does.
What was once considered as a disadvantage is now being looked at as a strength by companies all over the world. Organisations that support neurodiverse candidates are increasing, as they are beginning to see the potential in these individuals. It’s a well-known fact that a diverse workforce is made up of a wide range of perspectives, thought-processes and talents. This is because it provides the company with a competitive advantage as they embrace the role of diversity, equity and inclusion in their process of recruitment. However, it is important to note that one form of diversity is generating a lot of attention: neurodiversity.
What exactly does neurodiversity take into account? It is the different but valid ways in which human cognition works, which is apparent in the case of candidates with dyslexia, autism, ADD/ADHD etc. Organisations such as Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft are on an active mission to reform their HR recruitment processes in order to hire more neurodiverse candidates. This results in the increase in productivity of the company, their quality of engagement and innovation. Moreover, other companies have gone to establish neurodiversity recruitment programs to support them in all ways.
However, the sad truth of the matter is that neuro diverse candidates continue to face obstacles to employment. Practices of conventional recruitment often negatively impact the candidates with neurodivergent disabilities. For example: people with autism or Asperger’s Syndrome may face difficulty in the interpretation of social cues.
Individuals with autism have often found it challenging to find work. But as companies begin to recognize the skills neurodiverse professionals can bring into the workplace, they are making greater efforts to hire them. In addition, the changing nature of work and the rise of technology adoption in the workplace requires diverse talent.
Fortunately for McMiller, companies and organisations are taking steps to help neurodivergent candidates by implementing different programs to harness talent and many initiatives to support them in every way possible. Interview Intelligence, in particular, helps these candidates in a variety of ways which are listed below:
The first step in a neurodiverse employee selection process using structured interviews. Interview Intelligence can help provide structured interview guides that aid in the standardisation of questions asked of all the applicants. This helps minimise the bias to ensure that all the candidates are evaluated based on the same criteria. For neurodivergent candidates, its extremely important that the questions are directly related to the job responsibilities- not hypothetical or abstract. For example, ask the candidate to define a specific challenge that might come up in the role and then have the candidate identify the steps they would take to address it. Thus, it is very important to train your interviewers on neurodiversity.
Interview Intelligence can provide a wide range of accommodation and accessibility options to ensure that the neuro-diverse candidates are able to participate in the interview process. For example, accommodations may include alternative formatting for the questions such as audio or visual, or may also use the option of assistive technology. Other ways that interviewers can ensure that neurodivergent candidates feel comfortable include:
- Accepting that socialising may be a source of stress to them
- Reducing lighting, as flickering lights can be a source of stress or distraction to them
- Allow them to use a fidget device
Interview Intelligence can be used to provide skill assessments that can help in the evaluation of a candidate’s weaknesses and strengths in an objective way. This can ensure a level playing field and ensure that all the candidates are evaluated on the basis of their abilities and not their neurodiversity. When hiring for neurodiversity, instead of using telephonic interviews or resumes, employers should assess their candidates based on work sample tests provided by the interview intelligence. These involve asking the candidates to complete role-specific tasks which are designed to test their skill set for the job role in question.
Interview Intelligence can use AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning algorithms to analyse the responses and provide an objective scoring based on the predefined criteria. This helps to minimise the bias and ensure that there is a fair evaluation of all the candidates. It is important to remember that neurodiverse conditions are inherently diverse. What this means is that one person’s experience will be completely different to somebody elses. For example, autism represents a condition which is very different in different individuals.
Thus, it is very important to be aware of the impact that unconscious biases may have on the recruitment decisions. Ensure that all the psychometric assessments regarding the competency of a candidate are done. Steps involved to ensure that unconscious biases may be reduced can be as simple as ensuring that every neurodiverse candidate is observed by several different assessors, or by making sure that the team goes through unconscious bias training. Thus, it is very important to train your interviewers on neurodiversity.
When it comes to diversity, equality and inclusion initiatives,
it is important to note that the disabled community is equally important and deserving of more representation. As more companies recognise the value of neurodiverse individuals in their organisations, competition for this talent will increase. Mentioned below are some considerations for recruiting and hiring teams to review neuro-diverse candidates:
- Learn to challenge your perspective/point of view when you come across someone who is neuro-divergent. Learn to listen to the candidate’s experience and be open to see potential for the job in the candidate, and not be under the influence of bias.
- Do not be easily swayed by social norms. The candidate may not smile or make eye contact as easily as the others.
- Prep the candidate beforehand by telling them exactly what to expect- the interview process, how many people will be present and who they will be, the duration of the interview etc.
- Try reducing their anxiety, if they display signs of any. Allow them to relax and to be comfortable in the interview setting.
- Moreover, avoid using vague/ambiguous language during the interview. Try to be as clear and transparent with them as possible.
Do not ask: What is your greatest strength (too vague)
Ask: What are your strengths? What can do very well that other people might not?
Also read: Can Candidate Experience Be Improved By Interviewer Training?
Thus, as DEI initiatives evolve continuously, organisations would be negligent if they did not prioritise their focus on disabilities and not make recruitment decisions due to those disabilities, especially for neurodivergent candidates. According to the Harvard Business Review, companies prioritising neurodiversity have been witnessing ““productivity gains, quality improvement, boosts in innovative capabilities and increased employee engagement as a result.”