Positive discrimination in job interviews

A person writing seated at a desk

Neurodiversity policy is not about positive discrimination in job interviews.

Why are so many neurodiverse individuals not employed when we have so many excellent skills and positive attributes to offer?

The solution to enable more neurodiverse individuals to succeed within the recruitment phase is not to encourage positive discrimination.

We want to be given a fair opportunity to show our skills and best attributes. We don’t want positive discrimination.

Reasonable adjustments are not positive discrimination, they are a level playing field.

Those who think differently will never do as well under a one-size-fits-all approach to recruitment.

Below are a few interview questions I’ve experienced many times and why they cause unnecessary stress.

“Tell me a little about yourself”

This question is vague: do they want to know where I live, the number of tattoos I have, or what food I like to eat? What is it about me they want to know?

These questions are better:

“Is there a part of this job role you are already interested in?”
“When not at work, what do you like to do for entertainment?”

“What are your biggest weaknesses?”

Being dyslexic and autistic, I went through the whole of school being told how bad I was at things; my weakness felt like everything. I now have to fight the urge to say all the things I have been called out for doing poorly. So instead I choose something that I personally believe is a strength to use as a weakness. I say I am honest and say things as they are. I won’t go along with a decision just because everyone else is if I disagree with it.

These questions are better:

“Are you aware of areas where you can perform better when given support, and if so, what type of support is most helpful to you?”
“Is there any additional training you would like the opportunity to do as a way to better yourself personally or professionally?”

“What are your biggest strengths?”

I am not that literal saying how much I can bench press as my strengths. This question is still vague as to where those strengths have to be. My first thought is my ability to learn and discover new things. I am learning all about 3d printing and model painting. It has nothing to do with my job, but it is my new passion, and I am excited to talk about it.

I am now in danger of going off on a tangent talking about 3D printers and model painting.

This question is better:

“If you were to work here, what are you particularly good at that will positively impact your team and this company?”

“Tell me about the last time a co-worker or customer got angry with you. What happened?”

This type of question is completely unfair and can cause a lot of stress to a neurodiverse individual. Most of the time the frustration would have occurred through no fault of our own and the majority of us, when this happens, have no idea that we are doing something to cause such an emotional response until after it has happened. Most of the time it also resolves by us taking ownership and blame when if you look closer, support was missing or communication was not clear.

These questions are better:

“What do you do to manage your emotions and support your mental health? Can you give an example of a time when you did this?”“Has there been a time when you have supported someone else to manage their emotions if so tell us the support you gave?”

Where do you see yourself in five years?

This is one of the strangest questions – how on earth do any of us know where we will be, or what we will be doing in five years? Again there are so many possible avenues to explore. Does it mean personal life, work-life or maybe both? What about the zombie apocalypse? Do we know when that will happen? I usually have to stop my mind from going down all sorts of rabbit holes with this question.

This question is better:

“Do you have any long-term goals you would like to achieve or be working towards within your career?”

A better way is needed.

Neurodiverse employees have so much to offer. There is no reason why, with slight adjustments to the typical recruitment strategies, more individuals can’t be successful.

A more diverse workforce starts with a better recruitment strategy.

      • Very clear and detailed job advert
      • Unambiguous job description
      • Required skills should only be those skills that are vital for the role.
        • For example, a lot of adverts state that good communication skills are essential.
        • What type of communication is vital for the role? Writing emails for a role that involves a lot of lone working at a desk involves a different type of communication skills to that of a front of house public-facing role.
      • An interview is processed-based on an individual showing what they can do, not just having the skills to answer unknown questions in an unfamiliar environment. With the extra skill of making yourself personable to a complete stranger.
      • Send questions out beforehand, and give a list of names of those on the interview panel with links to their LinkedIn or website profiles, so they become familiar.
      • Have a quiet interview space and waiting area that is sensory safe.
      • Advise of an expected dress code for the interview. If the job does not require a person to wear a shirt and tie, having them wear one for the interview may cause additional sensory stress, which will affect their ability to show their full potential.

These are reasonable adjustments which cost very little, yet they could lead to recruiting an individual who will generate and save the company thousands of pounds.

Giving people the chance to show what they can do will always give the best indication of a persons ability to do a job well over the ability to talk about doing a job well.

Minor adjustments make huge differences.