As part of Autism World Awareness Month, I was asked to return to Eli-lily to present on how routines assist with anxiety management and autism. There are many articles, books, techniques and evidence-based research on this topic. What was interesting in the questions and answer session at the end was the range of questions on how to improve the hiring rate of people with neurodiversity and assist with making onboarding a more positive and stress-free experience. Having systems in place that are inclusive and universal will assist in hiring employees with a wide range of skills and attitudes.
Interviewing for everyone holds a certain level of natural anxiety, this is necessary to improve performance. For some people the level of anxiety can be counterproductive and impair performance and not allow the candidates true qualities and strengths to shine. This can often, but not always, be the case with people who are neurodiverse.
There are a few simple things that can make this easier.
- Provide copies of the questions beforehand, and examples of how the same question may be asked in a number of different ways. The interview is not a test of the candidate’s ability to answer surprise questions but an opportunity to demonstrate knowledge and skills in their chosen field/profession.
- Provide examples of the types of information you are seeking from the candidate. For example, can you tell me about a time you demonstrated leadership? A person may not think of leadership in the area of leading a senior team in school or assisting in running a local scouting troupe. Providing some examples will help candidates to prepare and find examples in their own lives of the skills required for leadership. This is particularly true for early career candidates who may not have much formal work experience. It will also help with self-esteem and make them more confident entering the interview process.
- Interview location: Providing visuals (preferably photographs) of the interview location will help stop the candidate from assimilating all the external environmental inputs and concentrate on the process of demonstrating their knowledge rather than trying to integrate the information form the environment that they are seeing for the first time.
- On-line interviews: post the questions in the chat box function. This helps to keep the interviewee and interviewers on focus! This is particularly beneficial if a sub-question is asked, and the interviewee can revert to the main question, which is visually presented as a re-focusing tool.
When you have hired your candidate, providing a timetable/routine of the first week’s work would help with on-boarding and allow the person to settle in more easily. It can often be the surrounding supports or work tasks that are challenging, for example, the usual lunch routine.
For candidates chosen, it would be great to have a video of the site locations before they start. This can cover things such as the following:
- Bus routes/bus stop locations relative to the work site.
- Car parking areas.
- How to enter the building on day one when the new employee will not have ID. How to enter the building when issued with ID, if this is different. Canteen location and how to use for main meals and coffee break. There may be different processes. Do you pay in cash or card? Do you need to set up an account on site? Can you bring in your own food to work and if so, can you bring this to the canteen?
- Information about location of toilets, HR offices, support services on site, if appropriate.
A map of the work site, particularly if a large work site, with locations that may act as a quiet/quieter space to assist people who may need to regulate. Walking routes that employees may use during breaks on site can be identified on this map. Identifying a space where all employees can engage in some physical activity in their workday will help with concentration and is a good way to assist in anxiety management.
These are some simple but universal approaches that are beneficial to all candidates and will help improve all candidate’s performance and onboarding