Is there any reason why a candidate could not have their interview questions, an outline of scenarios or task description in advance of the interview? For someone living with Autism, it is difficult for them to picture themselves in a scenario on the spot due to the way they process information so allowing earlier access to interview questions and scenarios could mean a more realistic answer and allow an Autistic candidate to become a valued part of your work place. In advance could mean a couple of days before the interview or half an hour before if the candidate felt that this would help.
Consider whether a separate document could be sent to a candidate who declares a disability outlining what reasonable adjustments at interview could look like. Some Autistic people say they find it too intimidating to ask for support or to know how much to ask for without putting employers off. Contacting a candidate with suggestions for reasonable adjustments could help someone with Autism feel more confident in asking for adjustments that would make the interview situation more manageable for them.
Do you have expectations about interview dress? For some Autistic people, interview style dress can feel constricting, uncomfortable or too hot, such as a tie or a suit. Consider if you would find it acceptable for candidates to attend interview in smart yet non-constricting clothing and perhaps this could be listed as part of reasonable adjustments for interview.
Would you encourage a candidate to bring notes with them into an interview? Although this could be considered distracting, having notes with them could help a candidate with Autism feel less stress and anxiety and more supported if asked a question they were not prepared for or felt they could not answer on the spot. It would also show that this candidate cared about the job role as they have done their research into the job and your company.
Have you allowed extra time for candidates completing a timed-task as part of reasonable adjustments if they have a declared disability? Some companies ask for proof of diagnosis for this but do allow up to 25% for any given task.
It is helpful to tell the candidate who will be interviewing them and what the room will be like. This helps the candidate prepare themselves for the interview in advance and not be so overwhelmed by the interview situation on the day. Have you considered allowing time to meet with the candidate beforehand for an informal chat so that the candidate knows who to expect? It can be useful to send photographs of the interview panel to the candidate so they are aware of who they will see. It may be useful to consider lighting and temperature of the room. If using a group interview format, it is useful to tell potential candidates how many people will be in that group as being part of a group of 5 as opposed to a group of 20 would impact on whether some people would feel able to attend that interview.
Do you use a range of approaches for interview? For example, do you use role play? Many employers with customer facing roles find this approach useful to see how a candidate would react on the spot. However, as the interview situation is already high pressured, using such an approach with someone on the spectrum could be particularly challenging and not reflective of ‘real-life’ as once someone is in a role and are customer facing, the interview pressure is removed. You could consider letting a candidate know the scope of the role play scenario in advance to remove some of this unnecessary pressure.
Do you use telephone interviews as part of your recruitment process? For some people on the spectrum, it is near impossible for them to use the phone as they are not able to see the person they are speaking to and therefore not able to pick up on social cues, body language and facial expressions. This can add to their anxiety resulting in them not being able to use the phone as they are too scared of someone judging them if they say the wrong thing. Where possible, having a face to face interview is much more enabling for a candidate.
If you ask a potential candidate about being a team player, do you consider making it clear it is solely in the workplace in work hours? The idea of being expected to socialise outside of work hours can cause extreme anxiety to potential employers who find socialising exhausting or tricky. If socialising is required outside of hours, it could put a potential employee off from applying or accepting a job.
Here are some further resources you may find useful:
If you feel that you need to talk to someone urgently then please call the 24/7 Cornwall mental health helpline on 0800 0385 300. You can call for free, any time of day or night, if you are worried about your own or someone else’s mental health. The team behind the 24/7 telephone service will listen to you and determine how best to help. Alternatively, please call the Samaritans on 116 123.