Autism Syndrome Person in a pool of neurotypical people

Disability & Diversity: Have You Been Overlooking a Pool of Talent?

Rachel Stewart Johnson

Psychologist | Driven by communications about human behavior in Work

This October, we recognize National Disability Employment Awareness Month. This gives us an opportunity to reflect and ask: are hiring practices overlooking an untapped talent pool? Is the process subject to systematic loss of a certain type of candidate? If so, what solutions exist for talent acquisition professionals to help widen the lens? Today, we discuss a key cohort: the neurodiverse community.

Untapped value: recognizing the advantages of the differently-abled

To address how traditional hiring practices are prone to gaps in identifying talent, let’s start with the interview. Historically, the interview has been a face-to-face experience, and for many roles and hiring managers, the effort is effectively an extended conversation. Those who do well are the individuals who make eye contact with ease, who enjoy small talk, and who can present themselves comfortably when they are the lone person in a spotlight.

That process therefore favors candidates who recruitment employment awkward job interview no eye contactare naturally more social, able to monitor their self-presentation in real-time, and who thrive with the back and forth of spoken communication. But who’s at a disadvantage? One answer: individuals who are not neurotypical. Job candidates who have a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are a diverse group. For those who are higher functioning, no intellectual delay is observed. Instead, challenges tend to fall into the social and sensory realms. Many individuals with ASD are not naturally well-suited to sitting largely motionless in the company of another person while having to improvise questions and answers. Their patterns of making eye contact in these situations are often atypical, and may even be seen as rude by a layperson. They may engage in repetitive movements that could similarly be judged as poor decorum by an unsuspecting hiring manager.

Finding the right fits for Autistic Spectrum Disorder

Despite these types of roadblocks, an individual with ASD could be an excellent choice to fill certain roles. For example, they often have a marked ability to focus on a repetitive task. A neurotypical person may spend more mental energy on social concerns -- what should I say next? Why did Kevin ask that, and what did he really mean? Does Monisha know about what happened before? While those interpersonal musings work well for certain settings and tasks, there can be value in slimming all that down and simply focusing on an objective, whether it be writing lines of code or collecting test data alone in the field. For common roles in high-volume hiring settings, there are several ways in which a worker with ASD could be a great choice, such as logging quality control metrics or stocking shelves. Roles that require focus, person stocking shelves at grocery storeindividual work, and/or adherence to protocols can be good fits for ASD, while those that involve extensive collaboration, communication, and long-term planning may be less so.

Given this underutilized value, how can employers create pathways for neurodiversity in the workplace? With personality data, organizations enjoy the benefit of an additional metric with which to understand a candidate. Notably, that information speaks to the everyday demands of the role. Traitify’s personality assessment, for example, provides unbiased insights about sociability (or lack thereof), organization, pragmatism, and preferences, among others. Altogether, this previously absent store of information can help candidates who may have otherwise escaped notice.

Beyond the job offer

Personality data also helps employers understand how to navigate employee engagement once a person is on the job. An individual with ASD is more likely to be a poor fit for engagement that involves frequent group outings outside of work hours, for example, or participating in a large group discussion in person. In contrast, these workers can experience considerable career growth if the process is tailored to their skillset and needs. That might mean indirect feedback channels the employee accesses on-demand, increasing productivity goals as an incentive, or even social engagement that’s a better fit, like a small-group hike rather than happy hour.

person is seated at a desk surrounded by monitors displaying data, hard at workRelatedly, accommodations in the workplace will enhance the ASD worker’s experience (and value). Advocacy organization Autism Speaks has compiled an employment toolkit with advice for employers and workers themselves. Awareness among supervisors and coworkers is an important step. Other accommodations can be customized. Ideas include making it clear how to prioritize tasks over the workday, and receiving advance notice of meetings that require an ASD individual to provide information to others. In general, employers should avoid situations that require a worker to gauge the social cues of another person and make adjustments as they go. It’s helpful to be aware that individuals with ASD may show deficits in what we call “Executive Function,” which includes planning, inhibitory control, self-monitoring, and others.

An enriching blend of talents

Overall, talent acquisition professionals in high-volume hiring who see their hires more as numbers than as individuals are susceptible to costly drop-offs with one-size-fits-all operations. The use of personality assessments at an organization helps raise awareness of the value of diversity in who we are and how we experience the world. With accessible routes to rapid data capture like Traitify’s assessment solution, there’s really no reason to skip a customized approach. Savvy, data-driven employers get the most out of their people by remembering they are people, whether that’s with inclusive recruitment or recognizing the unique needs and potential of each person on the payroll.


Looking for an unbiased assessment solution to attract, select, and engage a diverse team? Try Traitify.


RSSSubscribe to Our Blog