Last week was Neurodiversity Celebration Week. Across social media employers engaged on diversity and inclusion and shared an appreciation for the value of diverse abilities, backgrounds, and perspectives.
Organisations want to harness and maximise the talents of people who think differently because it drives innovation, creativity, and competitive advantage.
Yet, there's a disconnect.
It's estimated that 1 in 7 people in the UK are neurodivergent and although there's vast diversity across the spectrum, neurodivergent people are more likely to be excluded by a typical recruitment process.
Rather than expecting people to fit the process, the process must accommodate the individual, enabling an equal opportunity to demonstrate their abilities. It's fair that everyone should start from a level playing field.
Inclusive recruitment enables employers to attract and retain a more diverse range of applicants and the changes to your process don't need to be dramatic or expensive.
Gain knowledge and commitment, most employers admit to having 'little' or 'no' understanding of the cognitive differences people may have.
Learn about neurodivergence and get buy-in from leadership that neurodivergent people will be supported and valued across the business.
On your website and social media share stories, metrics, employee testimonials, events, and any other activities that will help neurodivergent people imagine themselves working in a business where they feel supported and included.
Train your brain to embrace diversity and train your recruiters to be aware of and manage unconscious bias.
Move on from thinking about culture fit as this just perpetuates "like hiring like" and reinforces the importance of the likeability factor.
Instead of culture fit, adopt a culture add perspective. Think progressively about the individual's skills, values, and competencies, and what they will add to your culture rather than just fit in.
This is an opportunity to make your job descriptions better for everyone:
- Be clear that your organisation welcomes and supports neurodivergent people.
- Use a simple format, avoid jargon language, and be explicit on the essential skills and behaviours required for the job. Neurodivergent people tend to interpret information literally and may not apply if they feel they do not have all the specified criteria.
- Ditch meaningless generic information that's found in every job spec, such as "good team player" and "excellent communication skills".
- Provide step-by-step guidance on the application process and the information the applicant is required to provide.
Clarify your application process and make it more efficient:
- Provide guidance on how long the application process will take.
- Ask if support is required and if it is, offer alternatives. Part of this can also be offering everyone the option to apply using different methods. Some neurodivergent people communicate best in writing, others find that is their biggest barrier and will submit a much stronger application over the telephone or in a voice recording.
- Offer extra time to complete assessments and consider the time it takes to complete the assessments provided.
- Are you requiring people to duplicate information (i.e. list their education in a portal when it's already in the CV)? This is inefficient for everyone and takes a lot of energy.
Personalise the interview:
- Job interviews are the most nerve-wracking stage of the recruitment process and can be particularly challenging for people who find social interactions and rapport building uncomfortable. Interviews focus on how a person performs under pressure, which may create overwhelm for people with Tourette’s or anxiety.
- Give clear information on what to expect at the interview and ask the applicant what they need to be supported.
- Include clear instructions on how to get to the interview, such as a map and travel options. Alternatively, offer video interviews so the anxiety associated with traveling to a new place is removed entirely.
- Send questions in advance of the interview, to allow time to process and think.
- Reduce sensory stimulation. Loud noises, bright lights, concurrent conversations can all be overwhelming.
- Say exactly what you mean, avoid metaphors and jargon.
- Ask one question at a time and switch behavioural questions for skills-based assessments, sample work tests, and interactive conversations where the applicant can show you what they can do.
- Don't get hung up on dress code and traditional interview behaviours such as a strong handshake and making eye contact.
Follow up verbal communications in writing and clearly explain any change to plans.
Be tactful in your candidate feedback, avoid framing it in a personal way.
Pause for a moment and consider all the guidance you've read. Has it struck you that these changes would help every applicant and job seeker?
Your recruitment process could be improved for everyone by sharing what to expect and taking action to reduce anxiety. Enabling people to truly present their best selves will result in better hiring decisions for your business.
For further guidance watch our interview with Nesceda Blake. Nesceda is an autistic woman who advocates for more inclusive recruitment. Her perspective is thought provoking and her lived experience of job hunting is insightful.
There's a comprehensive library of guidance and education materials on the Neurodiversity Celebration Week website: https://www.neurodiversityweek.com/resource-hub