‘Neurodiversity’ refers to the natural range of differences in human brain function, including dyslexia, autism, ADHD, dyspraxia, and other neurological conditions. Amongst employers, the term Neurodiversity has been used to represent a movement that seeks to embrace the talents of individuals who think differently.
Whilst the unemployment gap among neurodiverse individuals remains significantly high, more and more organisations are beginning to recognise the benefits of hiring a neurologically diverse workforce. Notably, in a recent study by the CIPD, 1 in 10 HR professionals reported that their organisation currently sees neurodiversity as one of their main priorities. But, what can employers do to welcome individuals who are neurologically diverse?
The recruitment process undoubtedly plays a key role here, with some people suggesting that common selection processes may actually act as a barrier to entry for individuals who are neurologically diverse and seeking employment, due to their reliance on generalist skills and interpretation of social cues. Based on previous research and shared experiences of neurodiverse individuals, we have pulled together some key factors below that employers may want to consider when ensuring their selection processes are as inclusive as possible:
Make sure that you are offering candidates the opportunity to disclose any conditions they may have at various points during the recruitment process. Whilst there is no general duty for candidates to disclose, this can be incredibly daunting for those that choose to. Try to make this process as easy as possible for them. If you are using a form, consider the language used. If you are using a tickbox with multiple options, consider whether you have offered an exhaustive list. Open response formats have the benefit of allowing candidates to label their condition themselves, and share as much or as little as they would like to.
If a candidate discloses a condition, be as supportive as possible. Be ready to have a subsequent conversation around whether you can offer any support or accommodations through the recruitment process.
- Opportunity to perform
Be sure that you allow candidates multiple opportunities to demonstrate their competence as part of the selection process. This applies to all candidates, regardless of neurodiversity. When putting together your selection process, you want to be trying to assess a candidate’s competence across multiple assessments or exercises. This allows you to reach a more informed recruitment decision. This also means that you are not disregarding potentially great candidates on the basis of just one assessment. Everybody has a natural preference for certain types of assessment above others. Whilst some candidates thrive in an interview, others may dread them. Most importantly – ALWAYS make sure that the assessments used are fair and valid ways of assessing their competence to perform the job.
- Objective assessment
Always make sure that you are being as objective as possible in your assessment of candidates. This can become a particularly important issue to consider if you have candidates who have disclosed as neurodiverse as you do not want assessors viewing that candidate based on their preconceived beliefs about what their condition is. Remember that neurodiverse conditions are inherently diverse. This means that one person’s experience of a condition will be completely different to somebody else’s. For example, Autism represents a spectrum condition which will present itself very differently across individuals.
Try to be really aware of the impact that unconscious biases may have on selection decisions. Ensure that all psychometric assessments of a candidate’s performance relate to a competency that is required for the job. Steps to help reduce the impact of unconscious biases may be as simple as ensuring that each candidate is observed by multiple different assessors, or offering unconscious bias training to the observer team.
- Transparency of language
One factor to consider when assessing individuals who are neurologically diverse is to make sure that communication throughout the recruitment process is as transparent as possible. Whilst this is important for all candidates, this can be a real barrier for individuals who may interpret things in a slightly different way. For example, candidates with an Autism Spectrum Condition may find it more difficult to make sense of ambiguity, metaphorical references, or inclinations in speech. Make sure that candidates understand what they are being asked to do and what is expected of them. Be clear and transparent in your communication to help ensure a level playing field, and be ready to adapt your communication style where necessary.
- Reasonable adjustments
Be open to making accommodations on a case by case basis. There is no set rule for what accommodations should be offered to candidates with neurodiverse conditions. This means it’s important to consider this on an individual basis. Ask the candidate what accommodations they are used to, or what they feel would help make the selection process more accessible to them.
Some accommodations that you may consider here are increasing time limits, sending interview questions to the candidate in advance, adjusting display settings on online assessments, or having someone present with them to support. Consider whether these reasonable adjustments could be made to the role, and consider whether these adjustments could be offered to the other candidates too.
Whilst this list is by no means exhaustive, we hope it helps to give you a feel for some of the main factors that you may want to be considering when reviewing your recruitment processes to ensure it is as inclusive as possible for helping welcome neurodiverse talent into your organisation.
For an objective and transparent addition to your assessment process, why not consider using psychometric assessments? Read about what Criterion offer here.
Written by Laura Cross
Published by Lily Harvey