As the often used adage goes; A one-size fits all approach does not work for everyone. So why do so many employers still rely so heavily on formal interviews to fill roles and choose the right candidate? Due to the nature of interviews, they often favour those who are able and comfortable creating a repertoire with interviewers, whether they have the necessary on the job skills or not. For autistic adults, interviews can be a real barrier to work (According to the latest statistics only 17% of autistic adults are in full-time employment). This means that neurotypical individuals have a huge advantage over those who are non-neurotypical in the interview process.
As an autistic adult, I build up my own confidence with interviews through placements and I can safely say am definitely a lot better than I used to be. However, for many autistic candidates, the struggle to ‘sell themselves’ in an interview is a reality, even if they have all the right skills. Indeed, this is something I am still not naturally perfect at.
An interesting piece by The New York Times appeared in April this year which highlighted an interesting study on the effectiveness of interviews. They came to the conclusion that not only can they be irrelevant: They can be harmful, undercutting the impact of other, more valuable information about individuals.
In her 2015 book; Work Rules, Google’s senior vice president of people operations, Laszlo Bock, also talks about the effectiveness of interviews.
“Most interviews are a waste of time,” she writes, “because 99.4% of the time is spent trying to confirm whatever impression the interviewer formed in the first 10 seconds.”
Here is my first idea of how to make the interview process easier for those who struggle, including autistic individuals.
1) Bring in an object to represent a hobby or interest.
A problem I sometimes have with interviews is getting in the flow of talking, particularly if I am extra anxious that day. So why not let an interviewee start the conversation by letting them talk about something they love. For me, this would perhaps be one of my favourite films; my VHS of the Lion King is an important part of my film collection. Friends and family have often said that I am able to speak more confidently about something I am passionate about; in fact, sometimes I talk too much about it!
This could also be a good way of getting your personality across without the pressure of formal questions thrown in the mix such as Tell Me about Yourself. For those with autism, this question can be too vague and often make the interviewee unsure about what to say and therefore cause unnecessary anxiety.
Keep an eye out for more of my ideas in my upcoming blogs.