Autism and the Job Interview


It is a well-documented fact that the autistic population is largely unemployed or underemployed, even those with exceptional talent and intelligence. One of the reasons these individuals are more likely to be unemployed is because of particular challenges presented by the traditional interviewing process. 

Here is why you may not get an accurate view of the skills of someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and could miss out on game-changing talent:

1.     Although individuals with ASD may translate computer code like their native language, they might have trouble interpreting facial cues and body language.  This makes it difficult for them to react to these social ques.

2.     Autism often makes people focused employees, but it can also come with social anxiety, shyness, and “quirky” behavior.  The stress that comes with the interview process can exacerbate this, and then be misread by the interviewer.

3.     Because of the black and white thinking found in autistic individuals, they tend to be refreshingly honest, but they can find it challenging to elaborate on particularly open-ended or abstract questions.

4.     Cultural biases, such as a firm handshake and appropriate eye contact are often expected from a job candidate, but physical contact and direct eye contact can be uncomfortable for some people with ASD.

5.     And on occasion, because you can’t possibly know everything about every disability, employers may misunderstand and inadvertently discriminate against those with autism.

So, how can employers change their interviewing method to move past these limitations?  Here are a few ways:

1.     Allow the applicant extra time to answer questions, and don’t assume using the extra time reflects an intellectual disadvantage.

2.     Focus on the skills and traits that are required to do the job well.

3.     Avoid jargon and hypothetical questions that might cause a black and white thinker to misunderstand a question, or answer a question too literally.

4.     Interview in a space with minimal distraction and environmental stimulus.

5.     Come to the interview with an open mind and allow your assumptions to be challenged.

There are a number of advantages to including people on the autism spectrum into a business or organization.  Considering the challenges the traditional interviewing process creates can allow access to our neuro-diverse applicants.