How To Conduct An Effective Interview for A Neurodiverse Candidate

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Want to know some simple tips for more effective interviews for neurodiverse or autistic job candidates? It doesn't need to be difficult to adjust your approach to get a better outcome for everyone.

For neurodiverse job seekers and indeed for many job seekers generally, the interview can be a really daunting hurdle to leap. For many, especially for those on the autism spectrum interviews can be the ‘bridge too far’.

I suspect though that this is a source of frustration and disappointment for both sides, candidate and interviewer - be they a recruiter or employer.

Think about the lost opportunity for each. One is missing out on a job - not something to be taken lightly, especially when even getting an interview can be a real success in the first instance. The other is missing out on hiring someone who could really bring something different and valuable to their business.

For sure most employers or recruiters might walk away thinking they’ve wasted their time, but only because it’s easy to dismiss what we don’t understand.

At other times an employer who is deliberately seeking to hire someone who’s neurodiverse may be put off from doing so because they’ve not created a positive interview environment and failed to see the potential in the candidate.

So here are my top tips to conduct a more effective interview (assuming you can’t get away from traditional interviews altogether):

  • Reconsider the interview location - can you avoid highly sensory stimulating environments, could you make it feel more relaxed?

  • Ask about their areas of interest - if they have a passion area, let them tell you about it. Take the opportunity to see their depth of knowledge, passion and see beyond any stereotypes you may have.

  • Ask closed questions - ie, tell me about the jobs you held over the last 5 years. Avoid open questions such as ‘tell me about yourself’.

  • Focus your questions on the actual roles and experiences the candidate has had

  • Avoid hypothetical questions - rather nuance these questions around their past roles and experiences.

  • Let the candidate know if they are talking too much - politely interject with something like “thanks, you’ve told me enough about that, I’d like to ask you another question”.

  • Prompt the candidate for further information - they may misjudge how much detail or what details you’re looking for, they may need some active encouragement to get there.

  • The candidate may take questions very literally - be mindful that you may need to rephrase your questions. You might ask “how did you find your last job” and get a response along the lines “on an online job site”. Be prepared to then focus on the exact nature of the response you are looking for - ie “what did you enjoy about your last job?”.

  • Allow more time for answers - your candidate may need a little more time to process and consider the question before responding. Be patient before interrupting their thoughts with a follow up prompt.

  • Eye contact - this may well be fleeting, minimal or it could be overly intense. Don’t ask for eye contact if you’re not getting it.

  • Small talk - often not a strong suit so don’t feel offended if your efforts feel in vain. It’s not personal.

If nothing else, my one piece of advice would be if you know you’re going to interview someone who’s identified as being neurodiverse get in touch with them before hand. Ask them if there is anything you could do to make the interview process more comfortable and less stressful.

This can have a huge positive impact on their confidence and anxiety.

Keep in mind, you’ve got 30-60 minutes to attempt to get to know this person sufficiently to understand if they can fit within your organisation and do the job. Take that time to look past the superficial, to look past any diagnosis and listen to the person in front of you.

Consider the resilience they demonstrate every day and the fact they are sitting across from you shows they’re committed. For the balance of their cultural fit, look to judge that based on how open, accepting and encouraging the rest of your team already is.