Can you do more to support autistic candidates?

In-House Recruiting, Recruitment Strategies
4 Can you do more to support autistic candidates_B2C blog 767x130

Understanding how to avoid and overcome difficulties can be crucial to ensuring an enjoyable and effective working relationship

More than one in 100 people in the UK are on the autism spectrum. It’s a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates and how they relate to people and the world around them.

Autism affects around 700,000 people in Britain, making it essential for recruiters to ensure they’re not misreading behaviour by gaining an understanding of the difficulties autistic people face.

What’s unique about people with autism?

People with autism see, hear and feel the world differently to other people. All people with autism will share certain difficulties, but it affects people in different ways – some might suffer associated learning disabilities and mental health issues, which could potentially put them at a disadvantage in the workplace.

Businesses like the multi-national company SAP are challenging assumptions, looking at people with autism as unique individuals rather than people at a disadvantage. The company has a corporate goal to employ 650 people on the autism spectrum by 2020. The individuals work in roles such as software developer, data analyst and IT technical support.

Increasing numbers of companies are recognising that people with autism can offer unique skills – from advanced logic and maths skills to a photographic memory and a diligent approach to problem-solving. Specialist recruiters have placed people with autism in job positions in a number of countries, including UK organisations like the BBC, Lockheed Martin, and the NHS.

What can recruiters do to help autistic people?

The recruitment process can create obstacles for people with autism, and there are ways to help them apply for jobs and demonstrate their skills. The National Autistic Society has three simple steps recruiters can take to make it easier for people with autism to apply.

  1. Make job descriptions clear. Often ‘excellent communication skills’ and ‘being able to work in a team’ are default statements made in a job advert. Many people with autism won’t apply for jobs that make statements like this, even if they have other strong skills related to the job.
  2. Make it clear what’s needed on the application form. For people with autism, this is not always clear. Recruiters should offer guidance, ensuring the firm includes space to highlight any support or adjustments needed at interview.
  3. Make the job advert concise and in plain English. Listing essential skills, avoiding jargon, and unnecessary information. Make sure to be clear about what skills and experience are essential for the job to be done well.

Anna Skelton, Senior HR Business Partner at Jobsite, said, “Recruiters should understand that the autism spectrum is very wide, and that each person should be viewed as an individual. For example, some people with autism are personable and confident, while others are more introverted, needing more time than usual to feel comfortable in a strange environment.

“It’s also important to examine the skills of an individual with autism closely, as you don’t want to fit them with a job that doesn’t utilise the full range of their abilities properly. It’s generally thought better to wait until interview stage before discussing autism.”

How to prepare people with autism for interview

Skelton continues, “Recruiters need to make sure that employers understand that people with autism may approach job interviews differently. They might not be able to ‘sell themselves’ in quite the same way, particularly when it comes to eye contact, maintaining conversations, and sharing information. But the key is to look beyond this.”

Skelton said that recruiters should make sure that at interview stage, employers asked questions in a way fit for employees with autism. She offered these tips:

  • Interviewers should ask closed questions, instead of questions like ‘tell me about yourself’ which people with autism may have difficulty in judging. They might also answer questions very literally.
  •  Interviewers should ask questions based on real past experiences, avoiding hypothetical and abstract ones.
  • Interviewers should gently remind the candidate if they’re talking too much for one question, but prompt or support the candidate in sharing the right information.
  • Interviewers should be aware that body language may vary from the expected norm – eye contact could be fleeting or prolonged.

It’s easy to box yourself in to a strict idea of what makes an ideal candidate when you’re an experienced professional who knows what makes a good fit for a company. By broadening your understanding of the human condition and what makes certain people unique, you’ll find new ways to strengthen your workforce and access hidden talent.

Disclaimer: Any views here do not necessarily reflect the views of Jobsite. As such we cannot be held responsible for the views expressed here or any actions taken as a consequence.