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Partner Article: How to make your Interview process fair for neurodiverse candidates.

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Kevin Nixon

Three women sitting around a table in a conference room having a meeting

In 2019, the National Autism Society reported that only 16% of adults with ASC in the UK are in full-time paid employment. However, a massive 79% of ASC individuals would like to be in work.  

As part of S-SA Digital’s ongoing commitment to ensure both we and our clients are diverse, inclusive and conscious employers, we have put together some tips to ensure neurodiverse applicants are treated fairly during the interview process. 

Just a few small adjustments to processes and approaches to an interview process could make a very big difference to the type of talent an organisation hires and ensure neurodiverse candidates are given equal opportunity to show their talents. 

Educate yourself and raise awareness among Managers and staff.  

Someone who is neurodivergent behaves, thinks and learns differently compared to those who are neurotypical. This term can be used to describe an individual whose brain functions differently to what we consider “normal”. This includes people with autism, ADHD, Tourette’s, dyslexia and a range of other neurodiverse conditions. 

Before you make your interview process neurodiversity-friendly, as a Hiring Manager you must learn what terms like autism spectrum conditions, dyslexia and ADHD mean, and how these differences might affect an individual in an interview – so you can give candidates the fairest chance of getting the job.   

For example, if a candidate doesn’t make eye contact with you, don’t judge them harshly. Interviews can be nerve-racking; so instead, give them time to settle in and get familiar with their surroundings. 

What language are you using in your job specs?  

Often, those with autism for example, will read requirements literally. So if your job specification contains information that is largely irrelevant to the role, this can deter neurodiverse candidates from applying.   

Taking this into consideration, you should look at how you have worded your specifications and ensure every point listed is a core element for the role. 

The main objective, is to minimise broad content and be straight to the point.  

For example, try not to list traits such as:

  • “enthusiastic,”  
  • team player” 
  • “able to multitask”  
  • “Strong communication skills” 

Individuals might be scared to apply with such language. 

Often, only a few features of job function are critically important: identify tasks that comprise about 90 to 95 percent of the work done and list tasks in order of the time consumed or in order of importance. 

You could word your requirements like so: 

  • Experience working in a DevOps environment. 
  • Interest in working on innovative projects for top brands. 
  • Experience coding in Python  
  • Experience using Kubernetes for containerisation.

Also, consider whether you are willing to train someone on those tasks; if so, tell them that! 

“If you don’t have experience with ______, you are still welcome to apply.”  

The job description layout should be attractive and easy to read or scan. Where possible, confine the job description to one page.  

Prepare your interviewees. 

Preparing your candidates can help relax them and make them feel more at ease. A way to do this is to give a clear outline of your recruitment process. 

This might include: 

  • A deadline for applications on your job advert with proposed dates for interviewing. 
  • Ask if they need additional support (encourage disclosure
  • Send prospective candidates the interview agenda  
  • Tell them who will be attending the interview and their role within the company. 
  • If you are having an in-person interview, give your candidates clear directions on how to get to the destination. 
  • If you are having a virtual interview, send a Zoom link with a calendar invite. 

Create a relaxed environment 

Creating a welcoming environment is essential as interviews themselves can be quite daunting. You can create a relaxed environment by: 

  • Giving a tour of your workplace in advance 
  • Choosing a meeting space that has limited sensory triggers. 
  • Create a safe exit option. Explain to the candidate that if they need to leave for a break at any point they can, and show them where that safe space is.  

(Sensory triggers you should be aware of are things like: flickering lights, noise from a heater, and any other potential distractions. If unavoidable, candidates should know what to expect in advance). 

On the day, make sure you ask your candidate if they need anything such as a pen, paper, or a glass of water and ask them to make themselves comfortable. 

Think about how your questions are worded 

Interview questions can be taken literally, so it is important to think about how they have been worded. Make sure you give plenty of time to the candidate to think about their answer. If the candidate is struggling with the question, try to ask it in another way. 

You might even want to give the candidate the questions in advance so that they have time to fully prepare for the interview. An organisation would have to make this reasonable adjustment if asked under the Autism Act.  

One of our clients; a Major Tech brand in Manchester who regularly hire Software Engineers, now does this as standard practice.

Pay attention to body language 

If you have a sense that your candidate is feeling overwhelmed, pay attention to their body language and adjust your approach. Consider a different line of questioning to try and keep the person calm. For example, you could ask about their hobbies and interests. 

Here at S-SA Digital, we are proud to be a Disability Confident Employer and are passionate about helping similar-minded companies on their journey towards building more diverse and inclusive teams 

The Disability Confident scheme helps employers recruit great people, by: 

  • Challenging attitudes and increasing understanding of disability  
  • Drawing from the widest possible pool of talent  
  • Securing high-quality staff who are skilled, loyal and hard-working  
  • Improving employee morale and commitment by demonstrating fair treatment  

If you would like more tips on how to make your interview process neurodiversity-friendly, get in touch with us today. 

About the Author:

Kevin Nixon

I’m Kevin, a highly experienced Recruiter @ S-SA Digital. I have around 15 years’ experience of successfully delivering bespoke Talent Acquisition strategy and campaigns for Digital Agencies throughout the UK & Europe.  

I have enjoyed extensive results in Tech, Customer Success, Digital Marketing & Data Recruitment, partnering with awesome people to deliver critical talent through a variety of methods such as:

👉🏼 Executive Search (Retained to source C-level Executives, often on a confidential basis with no Adverts).

👉🏼 Exclusive contingency programmes.

👉🏼 TaaS (Talent-As-a-Service) which is our Outsourced, In-House service. This works brilliantly for fast-growing start-ups who don’t yet have an internal Talent team.

  • Educate yourself and raise awareness among managers and staff. 🧠
  • Use inclusive language in your job specifications. 📝
  • Minimise irrelevant information and be concise in job descriptions. ✍️
  • Consider highlighting core elements and essential tasks. ⚙️
  • Be open to training candidates on necessary tasks. 📚
  • Prepare your interviewees and provide a clear recruitment process outline. 📅
  • Create a relaxed environment during interviews. 🌿
  • Be mindful of sensory triggers and accommodate special needs. 🎧
  • Adapt interview questions to be clear and give ample time for responses. ❓
  • Consider providing questions in advance for better preparation. 📖
  • Pay attention to body language cues during interviews. 👀