As April is Autism Awareness Month, we’ve put together brief guidance on ways you can make sure your recruitment process is more supportive for autistic candidates.
Falling somewhere on the autistic spectrum is just one of the ways an employee may be neurodivergent. Understanding how you can support autistic candidates in the recruitment process – and in the workplace in general – will help your workplace feel more inclusive and may also help attract talented candidates that have been excluded elsewhere.
Some of the ways to support autistic team members, according to the National Autistic Society, include:
Giving ‘more time to process questions, requests, and instructions.’
Understanding that some candidates may ‘struggle when meeting new people.’
Providing verbal or written clarity on ‘unwritten rules.’
Being flexible with work from home arrangements as some ‘may find office environments overwhelming.’
Be understanding of the difficulties some may have ‘with small talk and workplace relationships.’
The Interview Process
One of the main things to consider is the interview process. Most of the time interviews aren’t done by a single hiring manager, they are often conducted by panels that may include team members from HR or even shift supervisors. It’s important that going into an interview, you have taken the time to review individual adjustments that candidates have requested and ensure that you have all agreed how to approach that in practice.
It’s also helpful to make sure everybody taking part in the interview knows that candidates should be given time to recover should they feel overwhelmed or anxious and that rescheduling is an option. Putting questions in writing or allowing candidates the time to make notes can also help ensure you’re both getting the best from each other.
During an interview, make sure you aren’t relying on body language or non-verbal signals to communicate. Put everything into words and be as clear and concise as possible. Try not to be offended if a candidate requires further clarification. We all process information differently and a question might need rewording in order to unlock something fantastic!
While we are exploring the ways in which you can best support neurodivergent candidates in and beyond the recruitment process, keeping an open dialogue should always be a priority. One thing to remember is that people differ, and this rule still applies to autistic team members. Every individual is different, we all have different needs. It’s crucial that during the recruitment and interview process, you are creating space for any candidate to share the adjustments they require.
There may be times that people will forget to notify you or feel too uncomfortable to disclose things on an application. Sometimes, thinking of these in terms of whether they’re ‘reasonable’ or not can close you off from actually responding to the individual and their needs.
It's also a good idea to check in with your candidate as to whether they would like additional updates throughout the process. Specifically, to keep them informed as to what the next stages are and how long things might take. This can allow candidates the additional time they may need to process information and prepare.
The Workplace Buddy
A fantastic way to make autistic team members feel more welcome can be done through workplace initiatives like the buddy system. This can help colleagues feel less alone and give them a go-to person they can approach without judgement to clarify information they might have missed or to help them feel less overwhelmed in social settings.
Autistic colleagues may also be able to provide input into your interview process. However, it’s important to remember that no two candidates or team members will be the same. If you already have a workplace buddy, involving them in the recruitment process is a great way of supporting candidates.
Having a recruitment policy informed by the diverse needs of your team should ensure that you are prepared for any last-minute adjustments you may need to make during recruitment.
It also provides a resource for your colleagues, ensuring everyone is sighted with what’s expected of them, and that the dignity of all candidates and colleagues is being respected. Autism awareness posters are a great way of going about this and can be ordered from the National Autistic Society. Providing information that’s proudly displayed, not only signals to autistic colleagues that they are valued, but also helps foster a more inclusive workplace through education.
Lastly, understanding the incredible strengths of neurodivergent colleagues, it’s not hard to see how having a more diverse team can improve every workplace. You may benefit from increased ‘focus, attention to detail, considered and reflective approaches, honesty, integrity, and creative thinking’ simply by encouraging and supporting autistic candidates to apply.
If you need any further advice on how to make your business a more inclusive place to work, we’re happy to set you on the right track and provide our professional expertise. Give us a call on 01792 477340 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.