Removing Barriers for Recruiting Neurodiverse Talent

October 27 / Grace Johnson
There is a lot of talk at the moment around employment and recruitment. With organisations still grappling with the devastating impact of Covid-19, the media is flooded with talk of hundreds of applications for singular roles, large numbers of redundancies and general market uncertainty. And with the government furlough scheme due to end in October and the latest restrictions reinstated by the government, these themes are predicted to take precedence in the media well until the end of 2020.
Competing in today’s employment market is a gargantuan challenge for anyone, but imagine if you had neurodiversity barriers too?
I work for the Work and Health Programme (WHP) at Activate Learning in Oxfordshire. The Work and Health Programme is a pioneering DWP programme with the sole aim of providing specialist and holistic employment support to a variety of individuals, most of whom have a mental or physical disability.
My Work and Heath Programme colleagues and I relied heavily on socially responsible and inclusive employers pre-Covid-19 and with the job market becoming even more competitive, we need them now more than ever.
7.7m working age people in the UK have a disability and they are attempting atypical recruitment processes alongside every other non-disabled applicant in the UK. So how can employers and recruiters ensure they are accessing ALL talent? The point of difference could be your recruitment process.
But in order to first understand how adapting the recruitment process can help, we need to understand the current situation first.
I contacted one of my WHP participants, who has an autism diagnosis and asked them if they could share some of their experience of atypical recruitment processes;
“I applied for a clinical job which claimed to be willing to make adjustments for my disability. On the day of the interview I discovered that this included a test and an hour of completing tasks which were similar to those I would be expected to do. I failed at interview because I explained that it was not possible to complete some tasks appropriately without any understanding of the company policy and procedures as there were many appropriate legal approaches to the problem posed.
I could complete it according to my preferred method but could not guess at what the company would prefer in each case. I was given no support or adjustment and was assessed as requiring too much direction to be able to work independently. The interview process meant that a potentially ideal candidate was lost to the company. While I do not know for certain that my diagnosis was a problem, I suspect that it was.”
“I think it's about 16% of diagnosed autistics who are in full time work (I'm one of the 84% who aren't.) Most of my job interviews were prior to my diagnosis so there was no option to disclose. Certainly, I knew that I needed to be very guarded about the truth about my communication challenges or I would not stand a chance at employment. That left me being judged on half-truths and my interview skills. Attributes which are of little importance in the job itself.”
So how can we change and adapt recruitment processes to ensure that ALL candidates feel they can be their full selves, whilst allowing employers to access their talent?
Some of the easiest ways you or your organisation can ensure you are creating a fair and inclusive process are;
  • Ensuring 'essential' job requirements are absolutely essential
  • Encouraging applicants to disclose their disabilities, by including disclosure opportunities at all stages of the recruitment process
  • Ensuring in-house designed assessments (if used) are valid and provide all the information necessary to complete the task at hand
  • Considering relevant, valid and reliable psychometric or other similar well-designed tests as part of your recruitment process and offering reasonable adjustments where required
  • Communicating well in advance what a selection test will assess and its duration, whilst ensuring it is completely relevant to the job
  • Offering flexible working and reasonable adjustments and stipulating this within all advertising material; ensuring that this is a sincere, embedded facet of your working culture
  • Implementing a Disability Confident Policy (you can find out more about Disability Confident here)
  • Actively seeking out applicants who may self-deselect or rule themselves out for opportunities, but who would be an asset to your organisation
  • Seeking out organisations that are already Disability Confident such as Activate Learning. Learn more about their project such as Removing Barriers Rebuilding Lives and Skills Support for the Unemployed (SSU).
  A well-designed talent assessment tool gives all the information a candidate needs to complete the task at hand fully and improves their engagement in the selection process. If you are looking for assessments to make reliable hiring decisions and provide your candidates with constructive and objective feedback, we would be delighted to help. Contact us at
We are launching a dedicated platform, Talent Grader,  with all the talent assessment tools and technologies on 3rd November 2020.

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