Celebrating Neurodiversity in the Workplace – How to attract, interview and retain neurodiverse talent

It’s Neurodiversity celebration week! A week dedicated to championing and raising awareness on the talented minds of the neurodiverse community and the brilliant skillsets they can bring into our workforces.  Neurodiverse is a term that refers to the diversity of how each person’s brain is unique and different in how it learns, experiences and processes information. Some examples of neurodiverse conditions include ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, Tourette’s Syndrome as well as many others, and it is estimated that around 15% of people in the UK are neurodivergent.

In a short guide and survey run by the REC in partnership with Uptimize in Autumn last year, it revealed that only 52% of recruiters are familiar with the topic of neurodiversity in the workplace, you can read more about this here. So, for Neurodiversity celebration week this week, we wanted to provide some insight from our own experiences of working with neurodiverse candidates, and the value they bring to organisations and have shared below our tips and advise on how to attract, interview and retain our neurodiverse talent as well as the many benefits of having neurodiversity in your team!

One of the first barriers we face as recruiters is actually enticing neurodiverse candidates to apply and disclose to us that they are neurodiverse. So how can we encourage more neurodiverse candidates to apply for our positions and be confident in trusting us with this information?

  1. Ensure your diversity and inclusion messaging is visible – let your candidates know that your doors are open to neurodiverse talent and that it is one of your values and that you’d love to hear from them! Making it known that you provide a workplace culture for neurodivergent candidates will also make them feel more confident in disclosing to you that they are neurodivergent.
  2. Include messaging about flexibility and reasonable adjustments - Including key information like salary, location and working hours on your adverts as well as any information on openness to flexible working and adjustments will also fill your candidate with confidence that they can apply and be open about their needs to succeed. As part of the application, it may be worth having a quick question box that asks if that candidate requires any adjustments during the hiring process so that you can support them to interview at their best, or a quick and easy D&I survey.
  3. Make sure adverts are accessible – Think about where you post your adverts and that they are attracting a diverse audience. There are lots of fantastic jobs boards and networks out there that directly connect with neurodiversity groups as well as other diverse communities.
  4. Make sure adverts are concise and clear - if adverts are too long and complicated it can put candidates off from applying. Keep your adverts succinct and focused on the key day to day tasks, skills and experience required without being too overwhelming.
  5. Ensure the application process is not complicated. Don’t put off potential talent by having a complicated application process with multiple sign-up pages, too many questions to answer or asking them to complete a task or quiz just for an application – keep application processes easy and accessible for all. Make sure also that there is a clear contact and cut-off date as to when people can expect to hear back.
  6. Review your hiring process whether that be job descriptions, interview processes and tasks and ensure you train your team on these. Put yourself in the shoes of a neurodiverse candidate or seek professional help and advice to ensure you are presenting yourself in the right way to attract this talent.

Now that you have received applications, here is some of our advice for interviewing neurodiverse candidates:

  1. Ask if they require any adjustments for the interview or any tasks or if they would like someone present like an advocate who they trust that might be able to help throughout the process, with phrasing questions for example.
  2. Ensure they are well prepared for the interview. Give your candidate the best possible chance of impressing you! Making sure they have the job description and that they know where they are going, who they are meeting, the format of the interview and the length of time it will take will really help them feel at ease. Reiterate any reasonable adjustments that will be in place and for neurodiverse candidates perhaps even sending them any interview questions or tasks ahead of time can ensure you get the most out of them in that time.
  3. Think about the environment – If interviewing in person, make sure the location is quiet with no distractions. Ensure any interview spaces are clean and clear and if you are in a room that other people are unable to see into or out of it (for example rooms with big glass panels) where there might be a lot going on outside or people constantly coming past.
  4. Think about your interview panel and format – Neurodiverse candidates often find large groups of people overwhelming, so avoid bombarding the candidate with a large interview panel and questions from various different people all at once. Keep the format simple and well structured. If the interview does require multiple interviewers from various departments, then try to split these up with breaks in between for example.
  5. Allow extra time and be patient – Neurodiverse candidates may need extra time to process the information and question you have asked so allow them the time to digest the question and come up with the answer, resisting the urge to instantly interrupt their thought process.
  6. Plan questions and language with care - Ask direct closed questions focused on experience and skills that are based on facts that your candidate can easily refer to.
  7. Ask about their passions and specific skills – If you want to see your candidate shine then ask them about their specific expertise where they can really showcase their skills for this role.
  8. Be considerate with communication – some neurodiverse candidates will not be accustomed to small talk or holding eye contact and other forms of social interactions so avoid any open-ended questions and check in with your own social expectations to ensure no unconscious bias is applied.
  9. Let them know politely if they are talking too much – if your candidate starts to go off topic or begins speaking for a lengthy amount of time, this could also be nerves, but kindly let them know that they have given them the information you need and that you’ll move onto the next question or give them a prompt by rephrasing the question more clearly.
  10. Let them know ahead of time if there will be a task and if they require any additional needs or tools for this. Ensure the instructions and expectations for the task are clear and that the task set is definitely relevant to the job this person will be doing.

We hope that these tips help you to really think and assess your current hiring process from the perspective of neurodiverse individuals, and once you make that offer, don’t forget to continue that perspective and learning by thinking about some of the ways in which to best retain your neurodiverse team members by:

  1. Investing in tools that will help them to do their work more easily – there are some fantastic apps and software available that can help neurodiverse workers more productive with their daily tasks in return giving you a confident, motivated and dedicated team member.
  2. Ensuring that daily tasks, projects or meetings are always clear and structured and where you can give them plenty of notice of schedules or anything you need from them that might be different from their normal routine.
  3. Providing neurodiversity awareness days and training to other managers and members of the team and championing that within your workplace
  4. Creating a safe environment for that person to work in – some neurodiverse team members may find bright lights, certain noises and busy environments distracting and overwhelming so make sure they are working in a space that allows them to thrive
  5. Reassessing any policies and performance reviews regularly – it’s important to remember that when it comes to coaching and development, there is no ‘one size fits all’ and so all reviews, processes and policies should be tailored to benefit everyone on an individual basis.
  6. Reinforcing your diversity and inclusion messaging and making sure neurodiversity is mentioned and talked about as part of that messaging.
  7. Regularly checking in with your team member and learning from them. Use this as an opportunity to challenge the norm and champion better support and awareness for neurodiverse talent.

There are so many great benefits to having neurodiverse candidates in your team! Neurodiverse talent brings innovation and creative thinking, offering us unique perspectives and ideas! Our neurodiverse team mates also come with strong strategic abilities – enjoying great structure with their tasks as well as great attention to detail. Bringing greater diversity into our workforces provides us with strength and boosts company culture and in return gives us reliable, productive and loyal team members.

We could speak all day about the many great reasons for having neurodiversity in your workforce, and have also included here some great insight provided by the CIPD on championing and getting the most from neurodiverse talent in your hiring process and throughout their career. You can also visit the Neurodiversity Celebration Week resource hub for more specific information on neurodiverse conditions here.

We hope that this advice and insight is useful in helping you to fulfil any workplace goals for creating and working towards a more diverse and inclusive culture, and we welcome further ideas, experience and success stories from others on this topic that will help further our learning also.