One of the biggest challenges facing any organization is how to hire new and exciting employees who are able to change the dynamics of the market and give the business a lead over the competition. For many companies, the typical talent pool is small and many of the candidates bring identical or similar skills, knowledge and experiences to the table. However, there is an untapped pool of high quality talent out there that will give any organization a boost: individuals with autism.
Benefits of hiring someone with autism
Employing people with ASD brings many benefits to an organization. They tend to be capable of high levels of pattern recognition and excellent performance in repetitive tasks, and many workplaces find that all employees benefit from the simplification of instructions and communication that have to be made to fully integrate an employee on the spectrum. Organizations who hire individuals on the spectrum report that they see an increase in empathy among all staff and a decrease in office tensions as everyone evaluates their own world view and becomes more sensitive to the needs of their coworkers.
How to hire individuals with autism
It’s plain to see that hiring people with ASD is a great way to boost a business, but the hardest part is finding them and getting them situated in the right position. The typical hiring process of application, interview and second interview doesn’t play well with individuals with autism for a variety of reasons: the application process can seem too abstract for them, they can find social cues and interactions hard to deal with, and it’s often tricky for them to explain hypothetical situations. However, there are some steps that interested employers can take to modify the hiring process to tap into this new talent pool:
- Explicitly state that you’re looking for neurodiversity – this simple step, taken by large organizations such as Microsoft, reduces the anxiety surrounding breaking through the societal stigma of autism. Many individuals with ASD are deeply concerned about how they will be viewed and treated, so acknowledging this straight off the bat and encouraging them to apply will widen your search considerably.
- Allow different formats for the application – while having a standard application form makes it easier to filter through candidates and collate potential hires easily, organizations looking to include diverse candidates in the hiring process should accept alternative formats such as video submissions, conversations over the phone or internet or open letter format. This will allow individuals on the spectrum to talk freely about their interests, skills and learning styles which will help potential employees match them to the right job.
- Replace the interview with performance tasks – the formal interview is an intimidating experience for most neurotypical people at the best of times, and this situation is exacerbated for individuals on the spectrum. A better format is to put the potential hire in the actual situations that they would find themselves on a day to day basis: completing routine tasks, taking part in staff briefings and interacting with other staff members in informal settings. By observing these scenarios, employers will get a sense of the real strengths and weaknesses of the individual as well as being able to make an action plan of support and accommodations that could be put into place on day one.
- Keep it short and simple – a lengthy hiring process benefits no one. The process should be one that in a short period of time it should be apparent if the individual with autism is going to be a good fit for the organization or not. A decision turnaround time inside 24 hours is ideal, but definitely not more than 3 days after the interview.
All of these steps do require some forethought and planning, but fortunately there are experts in the field who are doing this work already at autism employment agencies. Not only will these organizations find people with autism who are interested in getting full-time employment, but they will provide comprehensive training for surviving the workplace as working alongside prospective employers to create an autism friendly hiring process. By tapping into their expertise, any business can start to gain a competitive edge by pulling from the neurodiverse talent pool.