A third of autistic people say recruitment most difficult part of their career

Traditional recruitment involves unwritten social rules which are a barrier for autistic candidates, a new report has found.

The report, by Auticon, an IT consultancy which exclusively employs people on the autism spectrum, found almost a third (31%) of autistic people said the traditional recruitment process was the most difficult part of their career.

More on autistic inclusion:

UK pledges £8 million to plug autism employment gap

Think differently to unlock the benefits of autistic employees

Why employers need to reconsider autism in the workplace

Andrea Girlanda, CEO of Auticon, said complicated job descriptions are the first barrier autistic candidates face.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “Autistic people may be more likely to deselect themselves from applying when faced with overly detailed job specifications, if they feel that they do not hit every single point in the criteria.

“To reduce this, we encourage hiring managers to be really thoughtful and realistic about the skills that are truly essential to the role and stick to those.”

Due to the dependence on social cues, Girlanda said interviews can also throw up hurdles for autistic people.

He said: “The interview process can be a challenge for autistic people due to factors like the number of unwritten social rules during the process, for example the expectation to make small talk or hold eye contact.

“There is also the added pressure of being unable to fully prepare in the absence of being provided with the interview questions ahead of time.”

To gain an accurate assessment of neurodivergent applicants’ abilities, he recommended a mix of skills-based assessments, informal conversations and group activities, rather than a traditional interview.

Another major issue is that many autistic workers do not feel comfortable disclosing their diagnosis.

Less than half (44%) of autistic people surveyed said they felt they could be their authentic selves at work and only 30% felt comfortable disclosing their disability to HR.

This was significantly impacted by age and seniority, with older and higher-ranking workers being far more likely to disclose than junior workers.

This was also reflected in the likelihood of workers to request reasonable adjustments to help support their needs: only 50% of junior workers compared with 78% of those in senior ranking roles.

Richmal Maybank, employer engagement manager at the National Autistic Society, said for autistic employees to feel comfortable enough to disclose, employers must create an inclusive culture with examples of how support can be given.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “Some autistic people may not consider themselves to be disabled or may worry about being discriminated against if they do disclose, so having a reassuring disclosure process with positive and accessible language, clear examples of how you can support as an employer, as well as case studies from other employees you’ve supported, can help put people at ease.”

Maybank said employers can create a more inclusive workplace by working together autistic employees to discuss what individual support they can provide.

She added: “This could be as straightforward as offering details of an interview format and sharing questions in advance, allowing extra time to process or answer questions, routinely circulating agendas before meetings, or using plain English and clear planning.“

Girlanda said employers must be proactive in educating themselves on what reasonable adjustments autistic workers might need.

He said: “The onus shouldn’t all be placed on the employee to necessarily know what they need. This can be particularly applicable to people who have been recently diagnosed and may still be learning about their condition.

“At Auticon, for example, from as early as the interview stage, we offer a whole list of suggestions of adjustments that people might find helpful. By making clear that reasonable adjustments are already on the organisational radar, will naturally make things easier for neurodivergent staff wondering if they are in an inclusive environment.”

Auticon’s Neurodiversity in Work Survey reviewed the experiences of almost 1,000 autistic workers.