How to Hire Autistic Employees
Job candidates on the autism spectrum can be an incredible addition to your team, increasing neurodiversity at your company and filling critical skill gaps. Yet this hidden talent pool is often overlooked or screened out by recruiters.
Hiring practices aren’t always designed for people with autism or other invisible learning disabilities. Many of the personality and assessment tests used for screening don’t work for autistic candidates, and the typical interview process relies heavily on social and communication skills over practical skills. That means that people with autism may struggle to sell themselves because of social interaction challenges.
The result? You may be missing out on talented hires from a broad, untapped talent pool that are ready and capable of working, and contributing to solving real business problems with unique, logical, and straightforward thinking. Here are some key insights when it comes to hiring autistic employees.
Accessing This Rich Talent Pool
Unemployment for those with autism is approximately 85%, yet hiring autistic employees offers real benefits outside of longer tenure, decreased turnover, and increased employee engagement. The distinctive skill sets and unique qualities of an autistic mind can include:
- High attention to detail
- High pattern recognition
- Strong memory
- Direct communication style
- Deep focus
- Analytical skills
The types of skills that a person on the autism spectrum might have varies by the individual, so there’s no one-job-fits-all approach to determining which roles an autistic employee might be best suited for. People with autism can be everything from a computer programmer to warehouse manager, accountant to physicist to animal trainer.
The challenge is designing a recruitment strategy that will let these candidates shine. In fact, interviewing and hiring people on the autism spectrum only requires making a few modifications to your current recruitment process. It isn’t about giving special advantages to autistic applicants. Refinements to your hiring process will benefit all prospective candidates, and provide fair opportunities to demonstrate distinct strengths, talents and fit.
Focusing Your Recruitment Efforts
In recent years, more and more companies, including Microsoft, SAP, and IBM, are recognizing the exceptional talents and competitive advantage of neurodiverse hires, and have set up special recruiting divisions. Microsoft has made autism hiring a priority and has created an entire program devoted to hiring neurodiverse candidates.
Autistic applicants seeking jobs at Microsoft take part in a multi-day hiring event that focuses on workability, team projects, and skills assessments. The focus is on Microsoft’s core competencies, such as teamwork and collaboration, as well as technical interviews where candidates get to showcase their skills.
How to Start Hiring Autistic Employees
Workplace inclusion initiatives will put you ahead of your competition and can help grow culture, productivity and innovation. But to ensure that you’re not missing out on the valuable skills of autistic candidates, it’s important to start with the right strategy. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you evaluate your hiring process:
- How you are enabling candidates to easily request interview accommodations?
- Is your interview process accessible for everyone—including content, infrastructure, and interview tools?
- How you are supporting your employees to better understand the fundamentals of disability etiquette and inclusive interview practices for people with disabilities?
Once you get a handle on how to improve accessibility generally, there are three concrete areas where you can improve your efforts to hire autistic employees.
1. Job Descriptions
Your job descriptions are the first touchpoint with a potential job candidate. This means that they need to be written in a way that appeals to individuals on the autism spectrum.
In addition to advising applicants of their right to request a reasonable accommodation during the application process and providing a company contact for such a request, your job descriptions should also:
- Highlight the inclusivity of your hiring process and culture.
- Avoid jargon and unnecessary information that clutters the post.
- Forego tick-box descriptions such as “excellent communication skills” and “good team player” when these attributes are not actually essential to the job.
- Focus on abilities and experience genuinely essential for the job; for example, high-attention to detail or interest in repetitive tasks.
2. The Interview Process
It’s important to be flexible about the interview process and to select a place and time that meets your candidates’ various needs. Conducting the initial interview via Zoom or on the phone can help reduce social anxiety, and show mindfulness of sensory sensitivity.
In addition, you want to make sure to structure the interview. Let the candidate know what to expect in the process and share the itinerary, topics that will be discussed, and even the interview questions, in advance of the interview.
You should also provide the names of the interviewers, along with a bit of professional information on each one, to further put the candidate at ease. The fewer the number of interviewers, the better and interviews should be scheduled in 45-minute time frames.
In a Zoom or phone interview, help the applicant perform their best by being open and direct. Gauging how much information to share in a response can be difficult for some candidates, so be sure to let them know matter-of-factly that you’ve received enough information and it’s time to move on to the next question.
Finally, be sure to ask only one question at a time and keep questions specific to the skill set you are accessing. Avoid general questions like “tell me about yourself” or “where do you see yourself in five years?” Instead focus on experience, skills, and procedures. For example, if they did data input, what processes were used and what were the results?
3. Assessment and Screening Tools
Consider retooling your interviewing process to include different assessments for potential autistic employees. For example, if the position is for software testing, rather than using a personality test, assess talent with tools such as an online technical assessment, a pattern recognition test, and hands-on software testing work.
Need More Help With Hiring Autistic Employees?
Companies are benefiting from the autism advantage beyond employment equity. Creating a culture of inclusion results in a safe space for people of all abilities to work and support one another. To learn more about how you can increase and support your talent pool, check out the latest in free hiring insights from Monster, from tips on finding the best candidates to hiring strategies that align with current job market trends.