Ideas to make recruitment simpler...for you and the person with autism....
There are many minor adjustments which can be made to the recruitment process which help people with autism apply for jobs, and improve the chances of employers recognising their skills as potential employees. Many of these may also benefit other candidates and enhance overall efficiency in recruitment.
Reaching your potential employees
- Job Adverts often contain confusing ‘jargon’ and extraneous information or complex design which may be confusing to many applicants, including people with autism. It may be better to use clearly worded adverts listing essential skills. It is relatively common for employers to include in a job description or advert skills which are not essential for the job to be done effectively. Typical examples are ‘excellent communication skills’ and ‘good team player’, which are often included as ‘default’ skills when they are not actually necessary. Many people with autism do not apply for jobs demanding these attributes as they are aware of their potential difficulties in these areas and assume themselves to be ineligible for the job (even where they have strong, directly relevant skills). When drafting adverts and job descriptions, it is helpful to make a conscious effort to consider objectively what abilities and experience are genuinely essential for the job to be done well, and to omit those which are not.
- Application Forms It may be helpful to people with autism to include a section on an application form which gives applicants the opportunity to highlight any help or adjustments they may want at an interview. Clear guidance about what information the employer needs on the application form can also be helpful.
The Interview Process
Interviews are one of the most difficult areas for people with autism. Even a person with all the right skills for the job is likely to struggle in an interview if they have autism. Essentially this is because the difficulties people with autism face in communicating means that they are unlikely to put themselves forward well in an interview situation, regardless of their ability in other areas.
Some of the problems people may face are:
• difficulties with understanding body language and with eye contact
• difficulty with starting and maintaining conversations
• difficulty in judging how much information to give, especially if questions are ‘open’
• finding it hard to think in abstract ways and being more comfortable with facts than hypotheses
• their voice sounding formal, and not varying much in tone
• a general difficulty in ‘selling themselves’ to potential employers.
There are many things employers can do to make it easier for a person with autism to give their best in an interview, and to find out if they are the best person for the job.
- Ask closed, rather than open questions. For example, asking: “Tell me about yourself” is very vague and a candidate with an ASD may not be able to judge what you want to know. A better question may be: “Tell me about your last job and what it involved.”
- Ask questions based on candidates’ real experience or which relate specifically to skills needed for the job they are applying for. For example: “In your last job did you do any proof-reading? What procedures did you use to do this efficiently?”
- Avoid hypothetical or abstract questions, such as: “How do you think you will reach a deadline if there are a lot of interruptions?” A better question would be: “Think back to your last job. How did you deal with people interrupting you and still reach your deadline?”
- Be prepared to prompt candidates and ask supplementary questions.
- Let interviewees know if they are talking too much, as they may find it hard to judge how much information you need. Simply say: “Thank you, you’ve told us enough about that now, and I’d like to ask you another question.”
- Be aware that a person with autism may interpret language literally. For example, asking: “How did you find your last job?” may result in an answer like: “I looked in the A to Z,” or: “I found it in the paper and sent off for an application form.”
- Be aware that eye contact may be difficult for the person, so may be either fleeting or over long.
- Allow / Encourage the use of Supporters Because it is hard for an employer who does not have experience of autism immediately to adapt their questions, many people with the condition perform much better in interviews if they have a supporter with them who can, if required, reword questions for the candidate and help them to understand exactly what the interviewer wants. A supporter should not answer for the person with autism, but simply rephrase questions or help them communicate with the person or people conducting the interview, so that the interviewee’s relevant knowledge and skills can be clarified. Many employers have found this invaluable in understanding what the person with autism may have to offer. Allowing a person to have a supporter with them will help an employer assess their ability fully and is also likely to be a ‘reasonable adjustment’ under the terms of the Disability Discrimination Act.
- Work Trials Because of the difficulties people with autism often face in communication and social interaction, you might well find that a work trial is a better way of assessing their skills than a formal interview. Organising a work trial or work experience may also help if you think that a person with autism is likely to do well in the job, but have concerns about how they will cope in the workplace.
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