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Recrutiment & Employment Confederation

Embracing neurodiversity in recruitment - Become an autism-confident recruiter

Advice for employers

29 March - 4 April is World Autism Awareness Week. Thank you Clare Caccavone, Programme Director at Ambitious about Autism for this guest blog on the role recruiters can play in supporting more autistic young people to enter the job market and reach their potential

Ambitious about Autism is the national charity for children and young people with autism. They provide education and employment services, raise awareness and understanding and campaign for change. Through Ambitious College, TreeHouse School and The Rise School, they offer specialist education and support.  Find out more about their latest work here

After a tumultuous year, the UK’s employment rate is estimated by the ONS to be around 75%. 

The pandemic has forced many organisations into survival mode, and restructures mean that unemployment is rising. The coming year is going to be busy for recruiters as more vacancies open up and more people compete for new jobs. It will be a challenging time, it’s fair to say – for some more than others.

In the UK, only 16% of people with autism are in full-time employment. Many autistic candidates want to work, but do not get the chance to prove themselves often because they encounter recruitment processes and workplaces that exclude them.

One aspect of job hunting that autistic candidates find difficult is the interview process. They can struggle to maintain eye contact, process hypothetical questions and are unable to predict questions. This can have a big impact on their performance.

Autism affects the way a person communicates and experiences the world around them. In an office environment this could mean they could struggle with things like bright lights or too much noise. However, autistic employees can often be a huge asset to businesses, bringing qualities such as hyper focus, attention to detail, reliability and unique problem solving.

Rise to the challenge by embracing diversity

The upheaval brought upon us by coronavirus has led to some unexpected changes in how we think about and carry out work. Many millions of us have adapted to working from home and have spent many months only meeting our colleagues virtually. Recruiting, interviewing and onboarding are now taking place online as a matter of course.

Businesses need to think differently to respond to the new ‘normal’. That means embracing diversity in their teams. There has never been a better time to think differently about not only how we recruit, but who we recruit. This is a key moment to support more neurodiverse candidates into employment.

Become an autism-confident recruiter

Ambitious about Autism is focused on supporting more autistic young people to enter the job market and reach their potential.

Its Employ Autism programme works with employers, young people and career professionals to break down barriers and improve confidence about autism and neurodiversity. The programme delivers training, resources and ongoing mentorship to a wide range of partners across the UK all with the aim of helping more autistic young people into work.

The programme aims to challenge outdated perceptions of what autistic candidates can and can’t do.

Autism-confident recruiters can play a vital role in helping these candidates to excel, by working with employers to adapt the recruitment process to make it more accessible and to help all the autistic candidate to shine. For example, the recruiter could provide the candidate with questions in advance or base them on past experience rather than hypothetical scenarios, which rely on social imagination.

Small changes can make a huge difference and increasing autism knowledge and confidence could transform the job prospects of a generation of autistic young people.

With the change in hiring practice brought upon us by the pandemic, there has never been a better time to think differently about autistic candidates and build more inclusivity and neurodiversity into the recruitment sector.

Not only will this benefit some of the most disadvantaged young people in our society, it will also reap huge benefits for employers in the long term.