The interviewing process can be intimidating for anyone, but for those on the autism spectrum it can pose an especially unique challenge. Often, employers tie an applicant's ability to do a certain job in with their sociability and performance in an interview setting. This can put those with autism at a disadvantage because of their "different communication and social skills."1 There are a variety of modifications that can make a job interveiw more autism-friendly, which we will go over here. Changing the interviewing process is not giving any special advantage, rather it is giving every applicant the opportunity to best demonstrate their distinct strengths and abilities.
"Find the best person for the job, not just the one who interviews best."2
Some ways to modify the interviewing process:
- Give candidates a detailed outline of what the interview will involve. If he or she requests it, supply a copy of the interview questions ahead of time to allow that person to get familiar with them
- Be flexible in re-asking or rewording questions to more effectively gather the information that you want. If the candidate hesitates before answering, allow the person a moment to collect his or her thoughts and give a response. This could be the individual calling upon "filters" in preparing an appropariate answer.
- Make the candidate feel comfortable, and consider asking what, if any, particular accomodations that person may need to feel at ease.
- Depending on the skills required for the specific position, consider creating an alternate method to assess the candidate's capabilities and "fit" for the job. This might be an observational assessment which could exist in lieu of a formal interview or in conjuction with one. For example, if an interview setting does not represent an individual's ability to perform the necessary tasks, have the applicant do a sample of the work required for the position as you observe.
Ways to adapt questions during an interview:
- If you can, ask questions that are direct and literal rather than general and abstract. For example, instead of asking your candidate about a time where he or she may have overcome a challenge, lay out a specific problem that might arise in the office and have the candidate outline steps to solve it.
- Use examples in your questions when possible; it will illustrate the intent of the question and will allow the applicant to more easily process and respond appropriately.
- Ask more open-ended questions, avoiding questions that can be answered with a "yes" or "no," in order to gather the information you need. Ask follow-up questions to help applicants expand on previous answers.
Carefully reflect on whether some common attributes of those on the spectrum interfere with their ability to succeed in the position at hand. Depending on the field of work, these might count against applicants in an interview yet have no bearing on the skills necessary for the job. Some of these include:
- Inconsistent eye contact. This may be a way of processing for the applicant.
- Lack of interest in small talk.
- Uncommon greeting.
- Unusual voice tone or manner of speaking.
For more complete information, visit Fraser's helpful resource: Autism's Hidden Strengths: Interviewing & Hiring Individual's with Autism.
Fraser, a Minnesota-based leading organization in providing autism services, created a video series that consisted of several different unscripted mock interviews with autistic applicants in an effort to offer an example of an effective, modified interivew process for those on the spectrum. We have included a few here to get you started, and you can view the complete collection on their website fraser.org.
There is plenty of literature available on the interviewing process for individuals with autism. The Autism Empowerment Kit written by the Global Impact Sourcing Coalition is a comprehensive resource where you can find tips on interviewing individuals with autism as well as information about the hiring process as a whole.
1 Streeby, Karen. "Impact Sourcing in Action: Autism Empowerment Kit." Global Impact Sourcing Coalition, n.d. Web.
2 "Autism's Hidden Strengths: Interviewing & Hiring Individuals With Autism." Fraser, 2016. Web.