When 800 businesses were asked if they had implemented a DEI strategy in their hiring process, 56% answered yes, while an additional 24% said they plan on implementing one. Recruitment of neurodivergent talent is skyrocketing in a new age where a company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion can have a tangible impact on the connection they make with customers.
It’s no surprise why: neurodiversity hires have been found to benefit workplaces in myriad ways. Neurodivergent describes a person whose thinking is atypical due to their brain and mental makeup. These cognitive abilities are assessed on a spectrum. In a culture that increasingly favors diversity of perspectives, neurodivergent candidates contribute talents and skills workplaces may lack without their presence.
An increasing amount of people in the U.S. identify as neurodivergent, with some studies estimating that up to 15-20% of the country’s population is neurodiverse. This rise is, in no doubt correlated to increased awareness around autism and neurodivergent tendencies. The U.S.’s criteria for diagnosing autism, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, adapts as new studies are conducted. In recent years, more neurodivergent individuals, including children, have gained access to special government-sponsored programs as the manual has broadened to encompass them.
Attracting Diverse Candidates
Before interviews occur, companies are encouraged to advertise their desire to onboard neurodivergent employees on their career pages to attract candidates. The best way to achieve this is to create a mission statement that expresses your organization’s commitment to DEI. A candidate’s first contact with your company will likely be through the marketing department as they investigate your organization’s mission. The first impression your company should make is that all are welcome, including neurodivergent applicants. Candidates that are on the spectrum can be discouraged from applying to job listings that do not offer concessions based on physical and mental abilities. If adjustments can be made to the interview process or the job at hand, it is worth noting this in the job description, along with the DEI policy and stances your company stands by.
Neurodiversity can vary significantly between candidates. Recruiters are encouraged to adjust their hiring practices to not only attract neurodivergent talent but ensure the hiring process accommodates their needs rather than create obstacles to their success. One way to discover what works best for a candidate who self-identifies as neurodivergent is to schedule a short phone call where the recruiter can walk that candidate through the application process and inquire if any portion stands out as an obstacle for the candidate. For example, if the candidate flags they would have trouble with a Zoom interview, the recruiter can offer a phone interview instead.
Interview Processes Should be Accommodating
The key to this process’s success is to operate as though no two neurodivergent candidates are alike because they are not. First and foremost, recruiters and hiring managers should seek to understand each individual candidate, by asking about their preferences before proceeding. For instance, some candidates will likely thrive in an environment free from distractions. So, for in-person interviews – a quiet, clutter-free room will be best. Likewise, if multiple stakeholders are needed to sign off on a new hire, interviews should be conducted individually instead of in a group setting.
Multiple options can be offered to neurodivergent candidates for them to choose the one they are most comfortable with. A concession can be given to a neurodivergent candidate interviewing for a non-client-facing role if interpersonal skills are not a strong suit of theirs. In this case, an interview can take shape in a series of tests that evaluate the skills a candidate will need on the job while forgoing the added pressure of a face-to-face interview where their nature may hold them back. Asynchronous interviews can also be offered to allow a candidate to take their time with the process and present prospective employers with a version with themselves they are comfortable sharing. A written assessment can be given to applicants who express that their personality and skills will best be shared through a written medium rather than verbally.
Put Yourself in their Shoes
A little goes a long way in helping candidates feel seen and valued by prospective employers. This is especially true for neurodivergent talent, who have traditionally been overlooked when recruitment processes are built out. Hiring managers should take a step back and ask if their job listings and recruitment materials are truly inclusive to the most marginalized amongst us.
At the end of the day, the candidate who can perform a job’s duties should be hired, so questions and tasks should provide candidates the ability to demonstrate their capabilities. This can work in favor of a neurodivergent candidate who can excel at a technical skill but may have difficulty answering abstract questions in a formal interview.
If your company already has neurodivergent talent, this is an excellent opportunity to bring them into the process and get a first-hand opinion on what they found challenging about the hiring process or what adjustments could be made in the office to accommodate them.
Taylor Moon is the Director of Content at RecruitingDaily.com. She's a seasoned Content Director with a demonstrated history of working in various industries, predominantly in digital marketing and technology. As a hiring manager throughout her career, she's worked closely with recruiters and HR and acted as a sourcer and recruiter in various roles, bringing a unique perspective into topics.
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