Katherine Kindersley, Neurodiversity Consultant for DMA Talent, provides guidance on inclusive
recruitment. In this article she looks at how to make recruitment more inclusive and neuro-diverse friendly, and says that it is vital recruitment processes become more inclusive.
Neurodiversity is a term which is essentially used to describe people who think differently from the majority.
It is often used in relation to neurodevelopmental conditions including autism, attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, and Tourette syndrome. It is important to note that individuals may have more than one condition, as they can often co-exist and there can be overlaps in the manifestations.
Employers have a vital role to play, particularly as the Equality Act 2010 makes it a legal requirement for employers to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for people with disabilities. The legal framework also provides protection for those with neurodevelopmental conditions.
It is vital that recruitment processes become more inclusive – line managers, HR professionals and senior management teams must work together to achieve this. There are a number of recommendations listed below to help.
A job advertisement is essential for any organisation trying to recruit. Organisations must be careful not to fall into a common trap where they are essentially asking for a one-size-fits-all employee who is a generalist.
Businesses should clearly state that they encourage applications from all candidates with the right experience and qualifications. They should also encourage individuals to request reasonable adjustments that will help them to perform to the best of their abilities and make them feel more comfortable.
To be an attractive employer to candidates, make it known that your organisation has neurodiversity policies and training in place, and give assurances of a supportive and inclusive workplace.
It should always come down to how well the applicant can do the job. Any accidental, unconscious bias or miscommunication will only limit the talent pool, which could include the most promising candidates. This all starts with the job advertisement.
Some employers find that informal interviews combined with a work trial or skills testing is a better way of assessing a candidate’s compatibility than a formal interview. This approach may also help if you think that an autistic person, for example, is likely to do well in the job but are unsure about how well they will manage in the current workplace environment.
Making reasonable adjustments during an interview could be essential to allow candidates with neurodevelopmental conditions to portray their skills and competencies to their full potential. This will help to ensure that you are making an informed choice about who to recruit.
Generally, if an adjustment is possible in the job itself, then prospective employers should allow that adjustment in an assessment/recruitment process.
The simple adjustments suggested above do not give an advantage to candidates; they remove the barriers that may prevent some candidates from demonstrating their suitability for the job.
These considerations and changes will benefit the candidate and your organisation, as they will help recruitment teams to understand what the candidate has to offer and how their skills could be best used.
Reasonable adjustments do not need to be complicated or expensive. Making a few simple changes can make a huge difference.
• What might be going on in or around your building on the day of the interview that could increase anxiety/act as a distraction? Are there any scheduled fire alarms? Are there any events going on? Do you have building work going on outside? It can be extremely helpful to provide as much information as possible to eliminate surprises that could induce anxiety.
• Encourage the candidate to tell you if there are things that distract them, or if any environmental changes are required. For example, for people with sensory differences such as acute hearing, ‘do you need the ticking clock removed?’
• Notify interviewees that notes are allowed to be brought into the interview as prompts (allow time for the interviewee to look at them during the interview)
• Send over, in writing, any case studies or scenarios that will be used in the interview
• Ask if the interviewer should use full titles and names, avoiding acronyms and initials
• Provide a list of interview questions in advance of the interview. Many people have difficulty retaining verbal information, especially when experiencing anxiety, which will likely occur at a job interview.
• If a candidate has problems with visual or auditory distractions, consider ensuring the interview room is free of background noise and movement to allow for better concentration, e.g. other staff talking or moving visibly across the office
• Allow and encourage people to use any strategies they have in place to manage anxiety e.g. deep breathing exercises
• The interviewer should be aware that people with neurodevelopmental conditions can become verbally muddled when asked to give details or describe a situation, so perhaps ask them if they would like to make notes before providing an in-depth response
• When building rapport, find out about the person and their interests - avoid ‘small talk’
• Avoid general questions, e.g. ‘can you tell me a bit about yourself?’ or ‘where do you see yourself in five years’ time?’
• Avoid hypothetical ‘what would you do if?’ questions. Instead, ask the candidate to give specific examples of relevant situations they have experienced in the past
• Try to avoid non-specific questions – try to be direct and focussed. For example, instead of ‘Can you expand on that?’, they could ask ‘What was your role in the project?’
• Tell the candidate if they are talking too much, e.g. ‘thank you, you’ve told us enough about that now, and I’d like to ask you another question’ – some people may find it difficult to know how much information to provide, or pick up on your nonverbal cues if you try and interject
• Verbally prompt the candidate if they have not given sufficient information
• When sourcing information from a CV, the interviewer should provide a copy or prompt if asking about specific knowledge and experience
Access to Work can help with making reasonable adjustments in the workplace. Further information on the Access to Work website:
This article is an amalgamation of content drawn from DMA Talent’s Autism, ADHD and Dyslexia Employer Guide series, developed as part of their Neurodiversity Initiative.
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