From education to employment

Opening Doors: Strategies for Inclusive Hiring

Sarah Aray Exclusive

Sarah Aray discusses making job interviews more accessible for neurodivergent candidates. She emphasises the importance of clear questions, avoiding jargon, providing questions in advance, offering flexible interview formats, and sharing a clear agenda. These adjustments can help companies tap into the unique talents and perspectives of neurodivergent individuals, potentially boosting productivity and diversity.

Recruitment isn’t just filling vacancies; it’s about shaping the future of organisations and unlocking potential. In today’s competitive job market, it’s important for companies to recognise the importance of diversity and inclusion in their hiring practices. One key aspect of this is ensuring that the interview process is accessible for neurodivergent candidates. Neurodivergence, which includes autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and more, brings a wealth of unique talents and perspectives to the workplace. In a past article for FE News, I spoke about the competitive advantage of hiring neurodivergent individuals who, with the right adjustments, have proven to be up to 30% more productive than their neurotypical colleagues and possess various valuable skills, such as enhanced creativity, attention to detail, and improved problem-solving.

However, traditional interview methods can often pose significant challenges for neurodivergent individuals, potentially overlooking some of the most innovative and dedicated prospective employees. So, how can we ensure companies do not miss out on highly qualified talent? In this short article, I’ll present a few pointers that are easy to implement and will make interviewing neurodivergent employees more accessible and inclusive. 

As recruiters and employers, you are probably aware of how draining interviews can be. But did you know the extra toll they can take on neurodivergent applicants? Interviews are stressful for anyone, but neurodivergent individuals may also feel the pressure to mask.. “Masking” involves suppressing one’s true thoughts, feelings, or neurodivergent traits in order to fit in or appear more “neurotypical”, out of fear of discrimination. Imagine constantly hiding your true interests or true-self from someone in the hopes that they might like you better – sounds exhausting doesn’t it?  

So, apart from encouraging candidates to ask for adjustments, how can you, as an interviewer, make the process more accessible for neurodivergent talent? 

Ask Clear Questions

One of the primary ways to make interviews more accessible is by asking clear and direct questions. Ambiguous or open-ended questions can be particularly difficult to understand for neurodivergent individuals, who tend to be literal thinkers or need a bit more context. For instance, questions like “Where do you see yourself in 2 years?” or “Tell me a little bit about yourself.” can be vague. Are you asking about the person’s hobbies? Probably not! Instead, consider asking more specific questions such as, “Tell me about your educational background or work experience.” These types of questions provide a clear direction and allow candidates to focus on specific aspects of their prior experience, ensuring they provide you with the answer you’re looking for. 

Examples of other common vague questions include:

  • “Imagine a day at work.”
  • “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
  • “How would others describe you?”
  • “Describe yourself in 3 words.” 

Instead, you could ask:

  • “What are your career goals in this company?”
  • “Describe what a typical day might look like for you in this role, considering specific tasks, environment, and interactions.”
  • “What are some skills you have that are relevant to this role?” or “What skills are you currently working on, and why?”
  • “What 3 adjectives would you use to describe yourself in X work setting?”

Avoid Buzzwords and Acronyms 

    Avoiding corporate buzzwords and acronyms is also essential. These terms can be confusing and may make it difficult for candidates to understand what is being asked. Simple, straightforward language ensures that the questions are accessible to everyone.

    Send Interview Questions in Advance

      Providing candidates with interview questions in advance is another effective strategy. This gives interviewees the opportunity to process the questions and decipher any unclear or ambiguous phrasing. It’s especially helpful for neurodivergent people who may have auditory processing issues. It also helps boost their confidence, as they can prepare their answers ahead of time. 

      Be Flexible With the Interview Format

        Allowing candidates to choose the format of their interview, whether in person or online, can also be helpful. Each format has its advantages, and candidates may have a preference based on their comfort level and accessibility needs. For in-person interviews, providing a quiet setting and asking if they have any physical accessibility requirements adjustments, such as turning off overhead lights. This can make a significant difference for neurodivergent individuals with sensory sensitivity. For online interviews, sending questions over the chat can assist those with auditory processing difficulties and short-term memory problems. 

        Establish a Clear Agenda

          Send an agenda ahead of the interview! Providing a concise and explicit agenda in advance ensures that candidates know what to expect at each stage of the interview process. This should include details such as whether there will be time for them to ask questions, the purpose of the interview (e.g., what they are being evaluated for), and the approximate duration of the interview. After all, having agendas helps everyone prepare. 

          By implementing these simple and free adjustments, you can make your interview process accessible to all, including neurodivergent candidates. Neurodivergent people bring so much to the table including improved company morale, productivity, and diverse perspectives. It is certainly worth considering the re-evaluation of certain recruitment practices to ensure that you don’t miss out on our talent!

          By Sarah Aray, Public Relations and Communications Officer, Happy Autistic Lady

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