Creating an Inclusive Recruitment Process for Neurodivergent Candidates

Creating an Inclusive Recruitment Process for Neurodivergent Candidates

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By Roger Newman

Neurodiversity refers to the natural variation in human brains and how people think, process information, and experience the world. One in five adults in the United States is neurodivergent, including those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and Tourette syndrome.

Historically, neurodivergent individuals have faced significant challenges in finding employment—with an 85 percent unemployment rate among college graduates on the autism spectrum and 30 to 40 percent for the broader neurodivergent population—highlighting the underutilization of their talents.

However, a positive shift is occurring as organizations recognize the value of neurodiversity, and 61 percent are now actively seeking out neurodiverse candidates in their recruitment efforts, including Dell, Ford, JP Morgan Chase, and Microsoft.

In a recent Acara LinkedIn poll, 65 percent of respondents said their organization is using skills-based hiring to make their recruitment and hiring process more inclusive. 19 percent reported diversifying their hiring team.

Adapting your hiring process to support neurodivergent candidates is a positive step toward creating a diverse and inclusive workplace. Here are some recommendations to help you adapt your hiring process:

Attracting diverse candidates

Job postings can unintentionally discourage neurodivergent candidates from applying if not carefully crafted.

  • Use inclusive language and avoid using terms that may inadvertently discourage or exclude neurodivergent candidates.
  • Review and revise job descriptions to focus on essential skills and qualifications rather than non-essential attributes or characteristics that may disadvantage neurodivergent candidates.
  • Clearly communicate that your organization is open to providing reasonable accommodations throughout the application process and on the job.

The application process

To create an environment where neurodivergent applicants feel welcome and empowered to showcase their skills and qualifications:

  • Offer multiple application submission channels, such as email or accessible online forms, to accommodate different needs and preferences.
  • Simplify the application process by minimizing complex language and jargon that may confuse or deter potential applicants.
  • Provide a clear structure for the application process, with step-by-step instructions and an outline of what applicants can expect, including required documents, deadlines, and other relevant information.

The interview

Here’s how an employee with Asperger’s syndrome explains his disadvantages in the hiring process: “I’ve always been a hard worker, willing to go above and beyond for my employer. But my difficulties make it very hard to present myself effectively in the setting of a standard job interview. The fault of this standard is that it’s more effective in gauging an applicant’s ability to polish a resume and speak smoothly rather than their eligibility/skills for a position of employment. While good for some, this system filters out people like me.”

Educate your hiring team about autism and understand that certain behaviors—difficulty making eye contact and stimming—are characteristic of the neurodivergent community and should not be seen as indicators of unprofessionalism. To accommodate neurodiverse candidates:

  • Outline the format, duration, and specific expectations, allowing candidates to prepare effectively. Also, consider offering interview questions in advance so that candidates have time to formulate their responses, as well as accommodations—like extra time, breaks, or alternative interview formats (e.g., video call, written responses)—if requested or deemed helpful.
  • Offer a quiet and comfortable space, considering factors such as lighting, noise levels, and seating arrangements.
  • Ask direct questions about the candidates’ skills and past experiences and avoid asking funny or unexpected questions like, “If you could be any animal, which would you be and why?”

Assessment and evaluation

Utilize a variety of assessment methods that go beyond traditional interviews.

  • Consider incorporating online simulations, work samples, practical tasks, or projects that allow candidates to demonstrate their skills and abilities in a more tangible and relevant way.
  • Provide opportunities for candidates to showcase their skills through methods better suited to their preferred communication styles or unique ways of processing information.
  • Ensure that the assessment environment is comfortable and supportive for neurodiverse candidates.

Onboarding and workplace support

To create a supportive onboarding process and work environment for your new neurodiverse employee:

  • Tailor the onboarding process to accommodate their unique learning styles, communication preferences, and sensory sensitivities.
  • Assign neurodiverse workers with mentors or coaches who can provide guidance, support, and help to navigate the workplace. Research has found that organizations that provide mentors to employees with disabilities benefit from an increase in productivity (18 percent) and profitability (16 percent).
  • Offer ongoing support and opportunities for professional development to neurodiverse workers to enhance their skills, boost their confidence, and promote career growth.

By widening their recruitment efforts and adapting their hiring processes to be more inclusive, companies can unlock the potential of a highly talented and often overlooked group of individuals. This not only contributes to ethical and social responsibility but also yields numerous benefits for your organization, including more productive teams (30 percent) and workers (90 to 140 percent) and innovation and agility (6 times more likely). Therefore, it’s a win-win situation where your business and employees benefit from a diverse and inclusive workplace.

This blog was written by Acara Director of Recruiting Roger Newman.