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9 Steps To Neurodiversity-Friendly Recruitment

David Law

Wed, 11 May, 2022


David Law

  • Reading Time:
    ~ 5 minutes

A diversity of perspectives, experiences, and skillsets can only help a company thrive. Many organisations are waking up to these benefits— so why are employers still having a hard time hiring with neurodiversity in mind?

On a global scale, 15 to 20% of the population is neurodivergent. This simply means their brains (including cognition, perception, feelings, and behaviours) are wired differently. And yet, up to 80% of neurodivergent adults are unemployed or underemployed.

This is a problem not only for the neurodivergent candidate but also for the company missing out on potential top talent, improved employer branding, and gains in the bottom line.

Who’s to blame? Rigid conventional workplace and recruitment models. A big hurdle for neurodivergent candidates is the interview process.

What is neurodiversity-friendly recruitment?

Neurodiversity can be understood as many variant ways of perceiving and understanding the world, as well as navigating it. These different brain wirings include autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, and other variances.

Neurodivergence is a difference, not a deficit.

Hiring with neurodivergent talent in mind has many benefits. To start with, in 2022’s tight labour market, no company has the luxury to exclude potential top talent. Besides, Glassdoor determined that 76% of candidates decide whether to apply to a job taking into account diversity factors. Neurodiversity-friendly hiring improves your organisation’s reputation.

And more specifically, different perspectives bring more creative solutions and faster innovation. Plus, hiring neurodivergent talent that can closely relate to 10-20% of your audience improves your chances of creating value successfully.

And neurodivergent employees can be extremely engaged and productive, resulting in a boost in your bottom line. For example, JP Morgan’s found its autistic employees are 48% more productive than neurotypical employees. And 2018 study shows that companies with a diverse, inclusive culture are 6 times more likely to be more agile and innovative.

How to make your hiring process neurodiversity-friendly.

It’s time to face the elephant in the room: conventional recruitment methods don’t work for hiring neurodivergent talent.

A UK-based study determined that 88% of neurodivergent talent felt discouraged to even apply for a position. And 52% of neurodivergent applicants stated they felt discriminated against during the interview process, leading them to underperform.

Starting the journey towards solving this problem means a reassessment and transformation of the recruitment process to be more inclusive and accessible.

1. Assess and adapt the hiring process.

As a first step, you should carry out a thorough audit of your recruitment process. From the very beginning, with your careers website and job ads, all the way through communications with candidates, interviews, and feedback given.

How simple and accessible is your application system? What kind of skills are interviewers looking for? Are communications and feedback transparent and concise? Once you’ve assessed the hiring process for strengths and obstacles, you’re ready to kickstart the transformation. Remember: adaptability is the key.

2. Make your workplace welcoming.

Neurodivergent talent might experience the workplace differently. To help candidates perform to the best of their ability and want to work with you, you need to make neurodiversity-friendly accommodations in your interview space.

For example, you might want to minimise sensory triggers such as too-bright lights to help your candidates focus. Your space might be too loud and distracting, so assure them that it’s all right to wear noise-cancelling headphones for skill tests that do not require conversation.

However, the most important aspect is to give your candidates a choice. By clearly communicating that you will support their decisions, you show respect and understanding— foundational elements of a good employer brand.

3. Get stakeholder buy-in.

You will only build a neurodiversity-friendly recruitment process if all involved are on the same page. You need managers, HR, and the interviewing and marketing teams to understand the goals, the why, and the how.

Provide training on neurodiversity in the workplace for everyone involved in recruitment. Your team must understand the hurdles neurodivergent people commonly face and how to help them overcome these.

4. Refine your employer brand.

To attract neurodivergent talent, you need to fine-tune your employer brand (your company’s reputation as an employer) to reflect your support of neurodivergent individuals.

Industry leaders such as Microsoft, Dell, and Google also show online statements detailing how they welcome and champion neurodivergent talent in their workforce. Update your website to provide transparent information on your neurodiversity-friendly hiring process and culture.

It’s essential to focus on supporting the neurodivergent talent already working for you. Communicate with them frequently, ensure they know to ask for any necessary accommodations, and provide mentors who are available to help them. Give neurodivergent talent a voice in your social media— happy employees can become authentic ambassadors for your employer brand.

5. Understand skillsets and accessibility.

It’s well-known that diversity within an organisation has tangible benefits. From understanding the audience better to finding faster solutions to problems, there’s a clear advantage to team members of different backgrounds, ethnicities, genders and sexual orientations— and yes, brain wirings.

However, neurodiversity-friendly hiring isn’t about hiring talent simply because they’re neurodivergent. It’s about widening the talent pool, opening the doors, and levelling out the playing field so neurodivergent individuals can shine.

The recruitment team needs to identify the skillsets and qualities truly important to excel at a position. Then, they need to match the right candidate to those core requirements, regardless of cognitive variation.

6. Update your job ads.

All too often, job ads and application forms are convoluted, jargon-filled, and hard to decipher. Neurodivergent people can struggle with subtext and unclear communication, so review your ads and keep it simple.

Eliminate opaque language and cross out unnecessary ‘skills’ such as ‘a sense of humour’ or ‘good at teamwork’ to reduce stress. Top talent usually has a lot of options and not much time: you need to make your process as simple as possible. If possible, use captioned video to get your message across.

7. Change your interview methods.

Conventional interview methods tend to leave neurodivergent people feeling left out and disregarded. Consider alternatives for your recruitment process.

Keep messages and interview questions unambiguous, focus on competency rather than interpersonal skills, and keep your interviews practical when possible. Take into account your candidates’ needs and comfort when choosing the venue— it doesn’t hurt to ask if they have any preferences beforehand.

8. Prioritise clear communication.

Many neurodivergent individuals struggle with understanding unclear communication. Avoid using sarcasm and euphemisms. Express your message concretely instead of implying it. Focus on offering detailed, actionable feedback to support your candidates’ growth. Even if they don’t meet the requirements for the position now, clear communication is favourable to your employer brand and might bring them back in the future. 

9. Provide a supportive environment.

The work to offer neurodiversity support doesn’t end with offer and acceptance. Your organisation needs a flexible onboarding process for neurodivergent talent. It should include the day-to-day process, workplace culture and etiquette, details on the tasks assigned to the position, and the offer of continued mentorship by another team member.

Most importantly, remain adaptable and allow neurodivergent hires a safe space to advocate for their needs. Listen and act on your new employees’ feedback to make your company a place where neurodivergent talent can thrive.

At Fulcrum, we leverage embedded experts for flexible, effective hiring and growth. Our use of video in recruitment and our focus on the human element means we’re well suited to attracting neurodiversity to your company.

Write to us— let’s work together towards aligned, sustainable success.

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