Hiring Autistic Employees
You will learn
- The benefits of hiring autistic employees
- How to adapt your application and interview technique to be more inclusive
- How to become autism friendly in your workplace
Hiring autistic employees has many benefits for businesses, but some employers can be apprehensive about taking on someone who may have more difficulty with social interactions, communication and imagination. We have created this article to help give you the confidence to start working with autistic adults in your business, clueing you up on the benefits they can bring, and offering advice to help you recruit and bring someone with autism on to your team.
The benefits of hiring autistic employees
There are lots of benefits of hiring autistic employees for your business. Not only does it make you a more inclusive employer which can actually be a unique selling point for your product or service, your new employee can bring lots of skills to your team. These include:
- Attention to detail
- Being methodical
- Keeping to routines
- Focused concentration
- Excellent memory
- IT competence
- Technical abilities
- Persistence and tenacity
- Deep, detailed factual knowledge
- Being able to identify errors
- Being conscientious
Hiring autistic employees can have untold rewards, especially if you can tap in to their specific interests. For example, your potential employee may have a love of maths, which perfectly positions them for an accountancy role in your business.
Becoming autism friendly in your business
Remember, your new potential does not have to disclose their condition, or they might not have ever sought a diagnosis. If a person does not feel they can disclose information about their condition to you, you cannot make reasonable adjustments in your business to help them feel more comfortable and able in your workplace. Feeling like they cannot be honest, or having to openly deceive you about their condition, can also add extra pressures and stress for your applicant. It is much better for you to become an autism friendly business and create an inclusive culture before opening your applications.
There are lots of ways that you can show that you are an inclusive employer, which will not only help you when it comes to recruitment, but it can also help develop your brand and encourage more customers to buy from you over your competition. You can get involved with the National Autistic Society and get yourself an Autism Friendly Award that you can use to promote your business and encourage applicants with autism.
You can also get support to help your new employee settle in to work through organisations like United Response or Access to Work. These, and other programmes like them, can help your applicant get the training they need to be a great member or your team, and can, in some circumstances, provide support for equipment or transportation that will allow them to become a highly productive employee.
What to include in a job specification
Often, job specifications accidentally put off applicants with autism, simply through bad wording or unnecessary personal requirements. A lot of job adverts list that they require candidates with great interpersonal skills even though they are not customer facing roles, or that they need team players despite the role being largely independent.
Think carefully about your wording and the requirements you actually need from your new employee. Is it more important for your employee to have high attention to detail and the ability to work to deadlines rather than good communications skills?
You should also consider what qualifications are absolutely a must for success in your role, as often people with autism will not have attained high educational qualifications. English, maths and science GCSEs or equivalents are not always a guarantee of a quality worker, though they are common necessities on job application forms. Try not to rule out applicants without a grade C or above, as a working interview could be a much more effective way of choosing your new employee, and you can find out more about these in the interview section. Someone with autism or another social communication disorder may be highly qualified in a field that could be really beneficial to your business, but may not have a C in English.
Once you have whittled down you applicant list, it is time to invite the people you have shortlisted to an interview. Interviews can be a nerve wracking experience for anyone, so it is no surprise that they are even more stressful for someone with autism. You might need to adapt your interview technique or questions to help a candidate with autism really show the best of themselves.
Additional information is helpful for all candidates, but especially for those with autism. Make sure you let them know the time and date of their interview, the estimated time of the meeting, local public transport links, and who to ask for upon arrival. When hiring autistic employees, it can also be useful to send them an overview of your questions so they can prepare responses, or to allow them to bring someone they feel comfortable around to the interview. Sticking to time, while being an important business skill, is key to helping an applicant with autism feel more comfortable. While not everyone likes to go first, you could ask your potential employee if they would prefer to take the first interview slot so there is less chance of their interview getting delayed.
It is common at interview stage for applicants to be asked open ended questions where they are expected to elaborate on their answers. These types of questions can tell you a lot about the person sitting in front of you, but are likely to not offer an applicant with autism the chance to shine. Try to make sure that the questions you ask are specific, clear and direct, and arrange them in a logical order to help get strong answers from your candidate.
Some questions you might consider asking or to use for guidance are:
- What job did you do for your last employer?
- Did you have to talk to customers, and was that difficult for you?
- How did you respond to being interrupted doing a task?
- What support did you get from your colleagues?
- Did you have to use a computer or a laptop?
- Have you had to input data or update records on a computer?
- What processes or systems have you used for your job?
- Did you have to work with other people to get your job done?
- What skills would you like to gain in this job?
- What would you like to know about the job / company?
Remember that not everyone likes being touched, so ask whether or not your candidate is happy to shake hands as they arrive or leave the interview. Further, although maintaining eye contact and sharing a joke can often indicate confidence and competence in some potential employees, these are things that people with autism can find difficult. Remind yourself not to interpret these as disinterest or rudeness and make allowances for all kinds of people.
Sometimes, a working interview can be much more useful for helping you figure out which of your candidates you want to hire, and it can help an applicant with autism show their best qualities. Rather than asking potential employees questions about their knowledge and abilities, invite them to a working interview and have them spend a few hours performing some of the basic duties they would be expected to do if they get the position. That way, you can see how well they work and whether or not they would be a good fit for your business.
Hiring autistic employees can be great for your business, as you will be getting dedicated, conscientious employees with high attention to detail. By making some small changes to your job specifications and interview techniques, you can make your business more inclusive to applicants with autism.