How to support neurodiverse candidates during the recruitment process

It’s estimated that over 10.2 million people in the UK - that’s 1-in-7, or 15% of the population - are neurodiverse. 

Hiring managers are finally beginning to recognise the value that neurodiverse candidates can bring to the workplace, and the shrewdest are now tailoring recruitment processes in order to attract this wealth of under-represented and often-overlooked talent. 

Here’s how you can support neurodiverse candidates during the recruitment process

What is neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity is an all-encompassing phrase for a range of natural differences in the ways our brains process information, and people who are neurodiverse simply think differently. Not better, or worse - just differently.

Neurodiverse conditions include:

  • Anxiety

  • Autism

  • ADHD

  • Dyslexia

  • Dyspraxia

  • Dyscalculia

  • Dysgraphia

  • Hyperlexia

  • Meares-Irlen Syndrome

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

  • Synaesthesia 

  • Tourette's Syndrome 

Being neurodivergent is no barrier to success. Famous neurodivergent people include Alan Turing, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Greta Thunberg, Billie Eilish, Ryan Gosling, Simone Biles and Florence Welch, all of whom have made their indelible mark on the world, inspiring many others to achieve great things.

However, in the past, such conditions were regarded with suspicion, and people with neurodivergence were held back by a lack of understanding and a failure to accommodate them.  Thankfully, times are changing, and the unique contribution that neurodivergent people can make to the workplace is evident. 

Neurodivergent people often demonstrate exacting thoroughness and a high level of attention to detail. They may have an in-depth knowledge of a particular subject, and can concentrate deeply. Some have an excellent memory and superb recall. Many are also highly creative, with fertile imaginations. 

How can recruiters get the best from neurodivergent people?

Start at the very beginning of your process and consider your job ad:

  • Is it written in simple, jargon-free language? Many neurodivergent people can struggle to decipher complex, vague expectations.

  • Does it offer a clear job description? Focus on what skills, abilities and qualifications are actually needed for the role, rather than personal qualities.

  • Are the basics obvious? Have you listed working hours, salary and benefits in an unambiguous way? 

  • Have you included a Diversity and Inclusion statement? If you haven’t mentioned that neurodivergent people are welcome to apply, they might not.

  • Do you have a lengthy and complicated application form? For some neurodivergent people, filling in an overly-complex online form can be stressful and exhausting, so it makes sense to ensure that your application process is accessible to everyone.

  • Does your application process include a section where applicants can disclose their disability status? If so, make sure they can elaborate if they choose, so that you can make reasonable adjustments for them when they come for an interview. If not, consider including one.

Before the interview:

Ensure that you provide a clear and detailed outline of what neurodiverse candidates can expect when they are invited for an interview. This should include the precise location of the venue, the people they will be meeting, the format for the interview (will they be expected to undergo any testing?), and the timings – perhaps ask the candidate what time would suit them best, rather than impose a schedule on them. You might also wish to send a list of the potential questions you will be asking the candidate in advance – this will help them prepare and perform to the best of their abilities. 

On the day of the interview:

Neurodivergent people have the right to be provided with reasonable adjustments at interview which will not put them at a disadvantage compared to neurotypical people. These can include a quiet, calm environment, that’s clutter-free, sympathetically lit, and contains no strong odours, any of which can be off-putting for some people.

Some neurodivergent people can find crowds overwhelming, so if you have a panel of interviewers, offer the candidate the opportunity to meet them on a one-to-one basis rather than in a large group.

Think about asking questions which focus on the skills that the job requires, rather than the personal qualities of the person being interviewed. Closed questions will give the candidate the opportunity to demonstrate their suitability for the role – open-ended or abstract questions may cause confusion. 

Also, try to avoid questions which involve asking about other people’s reactions, as some neurodivergent people may have difficulty interpreting other’s body language and facial expressions. Allow extra time for candidates to consider their answer and be considerate if they find eye-contact difficult or exhibit physical tics during the interview. Above all, be objective.

The more welcoming and inclusive you make your interview process, the more you are enabling candidates to perform at their best, regardless of whether they are neurodivergent or not. Give your candidates the opportunity to demonstrate the capabilities they possess that match your job description. Consider skills-based cognitive assessments or task-based trials which focus on their ability to actually do the job, and ask them about their past work for a more effective evaluation process.

The benefits of hiring a diverse workforce are well known, and increasing numbers of public sector and non-profit organisations are seeing how both their profits and performance are raised when a workplace is inclusive. However, it takes determination and dedication to be in a position where diverse members of society, such as neurodiverse people, are welcomed into a work space, and it requires all employees to be fully trained and aware of the adjustments they can make to ensure that no one gets left behind. 

Get in touch

For more information on creating a truly diverse and inclusive workforce, get in touch with Global Resourcing today

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