How to Hire People with Autism
Companies that hire people with autism have found them to be some of the most creative, thorough, and reliable employees they have. This is not a grandiose claim; I speak from first-hand experience. Over the past three years, I have successfully recruited, trained, placed, and hired many individuals with autism.
While adults with autism do make great employees, statistics show that only 34% are actually able to find a job. The reason for this is the hiring process: conventional practices just don’t work.
People with autism spectrum disorder can experience intense anxiety in social situations – such as a job interview – and can withdraw into themselves or engage in repetitive behavior, like rocking back and forth or pacing. Hiring managers who are unaware of the challenges people with autism face often misread the applicant’s body language, social awkwardness, lack of eye contact, and anxious mannerisms.
This lack of awareness and understanding needs to change if employers want to tap into this rich pool of neurodiverse talent. Here are three practical and effective ways that we can improve the hiring process so it doesn’t automatically eliminate job applicants with Autistic Spectrum Disorder.
Three autism-friendly hiring practices
- Job Postings
When you advertise for a position, it’s tempting to list every possible skill and requirement you can think of. Here’s what’s interesting – studies show that men will apply if they meet 50% of the requirements for the job, females will apply if they have 80% of the requirements, and people with autism will only apply if they have 100% of the requirements, which is a pretty tall order to fill!
Autism-friendly approach: Re-evaluate your job posting. Only list requirements that are absolutely necessary for the role and those that are “nice to have”. Eliminate everything else. Also use or rather than and when some requirements are interchangeable. These small changes will make a big difference.
- Resume Screening
Many people with autism don’t make it past this stage of the process because they either don’t have the post-secondary education or previous work experience and they have gaps in their work history – all attributes that are at high risk of pre-screening elimination.
Autism-friendly approach: Re-consider whether the education and previous work experience are “must haves” especially given our present-day shortage of talent. Consider that there may be reasons behind the inconsistent work history and lack of education that has nothing to do with the autistic person’s ability and intellect and everything to do with barriers and insufficient support they have experienced.
- Job Interview
A job interview can be overwhelmingly stressful for a person with autism. At the same time, their social awkwardness, lack of eye contact, and other behaviors can be misinterpreted based on unconscious biases.
Autism-friendly approach: Do not read too much into an autistic job applicant’s behaviour during the interview. Realize that the autistic person will answer questions literally and will not “sell” themselves. To compensate, consider replacing the interview with a less formal “meet and greet” for the person with autism, along with an assessment of their skill level or aptitude for the job.