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Are you overlooking top talent? Rethinking the interview process for neurodivergent candidates



As an HR professional, you’re an expert in recruiting talent and matching that talent to hiring managers and teams. Post-COVID, you may have even upped your game with online interviews and hiring. 

It’s during the interview process that the HR professional relies on intuition and experience – that ever-important first impression. How did the candidate communicate, appear, speak and answer questions? Candidates are quickly sorted based on skills and their fit into the company culture.

But what if you’re sorting your company short?

It is estimated that 15-20% of the world’s population is neurodivergent. That’s approximately 70 million Americans. 

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “Neurodiversity describes the variation in the human experience of the world, in school, at work and through social relationships. Driven by both genetic and environmental factors … neurodivergent conditions, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are overrepresented in STEM fields.”

The term neurodivergent is broad. And despite a growing acceptance in younger generations, it is misunderstood.

A recent survey conducted by the non-profit Understood found that:

  • Only 52% of Americans know that neurodivergent people don’t all have autism
  • 43% of Americans incorrectly believe people can outgrow learning and thinking differences, and
  • Less than half of Americans (47%) view neurodiversity as normal brain differences, rather than deficits.

And while HR professionals may have specialized knowledge and an understanding of neurodivergent candidates, hiring managers and teams may not.

Rethink the interview process

Neurodiverse employees have unique abilities that can improve teams, outcomes, creative solutions and more. However, they may not interview like a typical employee. 

Many neurodiverse people avoid eye contact and may misread body language cues. This is not a sign of disrespect or lack of engagement. Research has shown that neurodiverse people respond differently to eye contact, facial and verbal language, and look away as a means of resetting their brains.

The traditional interview causes many potential hires to feel nervous. For a neurodivergent candidate, they may experience heightened anxiety based on the number of people they need to meet or sensory overload due to certain environments such as shared workspaces or open floor plans without walls. 

While it’s not possible to anticipate the needs of each candidate, if their behavior is different than what was expected, they should be evaluated with a different set of parameters. For example, the technology services company, CAI, has an entire neurodiversity team strategy.

Not all organizations are as large as CAI or have a technology business that excels with neurodivergent thinkers. However, CAI’s commitment to hiring neurodivergent candidates is paying off.

Companies can support neurodivergent employees by offering a variety of accommodations that are already covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

NIH recommends some of the following:

  • Flexible hours
  • Remote work
  • Modified workspaces
  • Noise-cancelling headsets
  • Alternative lighting, full-spectrum or natural lighting products
  • Written forms
  • Prompts
  • Recorded directives, and
  • Messages and materials.

The best solution is to ask the candidate or new hire what they may need to be the most productive and comfortable. Neurodiverse employees are experts in their needs and will feel empowered and welcomed with results that benefit everyone. 

Read the full article here