By this part of the series, we have covered how to open the job market up to a wider talent pool and have looked into how to make Job Specs inclusive, the next step is to look at how we can make the interview process more accessible for all candidates, not just those classed as neurodivergent.
For someone with a neurodiverse condition, the idea of having to communicate and sell themselves to strangers could be akin to torture, this is partly why a lot of neurodiverse candidates will avoid disclosing their condition. They will feel like it will be held against them, rather than being supported and allow for the interview to be adapted for them.
Interviews don’t give a true reflection of whether someone could do a job anyway, but for a neurodiverse candidate, they may be more than capable of doing the job well, but will not get a chance to prove that because they hadn’t found a way to talk about it in the way the interviewees want them to talk about it. Something doesn’t add up here, but the interview process is probably here to stay for a long time yet.
What Can We Do to Make It Less Torturous?
Everything should be done to make all candidates feel as relaxed and informed of the process as possible. without this, any Neurodiverse candidate will instantly feel completely overwhelmed with the lack of knowing what to expect. This alone could cause someone with Autism to become very anxious and either end up not attending the interview or being visibly not at their best during the session.
The first step to help with this, would be to make contact with the candidate beforehand and ask them some simple questions around what environment they would be most comfortable being interviewed in. Given that the point of the interview is to find out about as much about each other as possible, working out whether you are a good fit, why not find an environment which everyone can be at ease? This may be outside in an open space or it may just be in a room which has been set up a lot more informally (no desk and panel interview format maybe?). It’s also a chance to discuss any sensory needs which may be distracting for the candidate (bright lights, loud noise or strong smells). Merely having this kind of conversation with the candidate, shows empathy and care for them and will immediately make them feel valued.
Along with having this discussion, ensure that the format of the interview is documented, and the schedule is sent to the candidate. Again, like the job spec, remove any ambiguous content and make it as clear as possible. Putting times in it may or may not be a good thing, as if there is any deviation to schedule because of delays on the day, this could also lead to anxiety from the candidate.
What are the Tests Proving?
Really assess whether any practical tests need to be timed/pressured. In the working environment, you won’t be in many situations where you have an hour to write a piece of code or perform a task, so why put additional pressure on a candidate who will already be putting additional pressure on themselves? It really becomes a test of processing speed rather than quality of output.
With any tests that are devised, think about how they can be made accesible. Look into whether they are compatible with assistive technology tools. Again, this will be something which will make the candidate feel like they are valued and that you are keen for them to do their best.
Think About Your Questions
One thing that will benefit all candidates, not just the ones who are neurodiverse, is for interview questions to be more carefully planned and prepared. Think about how your questions could be answered.
Do you have any prepared questions which could be percieved as closed questions? For someone with a neurodiverse condition, something along the lines of “Can you tell me about your current job?” could simply be answered with a “Yes I can”. Or something like “What can you bring to this role?” could get an answer along the lines of “my laptop, my rucksack and my lunch”. It’s crucial to find a way to articulate your questions in a way that both sides understand the type of answer expected.
Try to avoid hypothetical questions, someone with Autism or ADHD may struggle to understand the logic of why the answer would be important. Or questions where you get them to compare themselves to the other candidates (when they know nothing about them), this could throw the candidate off and the answers may come across as blunt.
Because of the nature of how some neurodivergents brains work, questions that come across vague will cause confusion, try and ensure these are as clear as possible and don’t be afraid to discuss expectations of what you’re asking about, in order to keep them focused.
Check Your First Impressions at the Door
In the heightened stress of an interview situation, you may find that a neurodiverse candidates eye contact is not what you would usually expect. They may spend a lot of time looking away or looking down, this doesn’t mean they aren’t focused, it may just be a coping mechanism to get them through the session.
Think again about what you are really assessing the candidate on, the problem with interviews are that they often became and exercise in social interaction. And while a lot of interviews are also about how well the person fits in the current team, it’s also important to understand how you can adapt the team setup to enable a neurodiverse team member to excel. So if you think they have the capability to do the job, think about what else you could do to help them fit in.
In part 4, we will look into the induction/onboarding process and how it can be made as inclusive as possible when considering Neurodiversity.