Welcome to our May blog post. As a reminder, this quarter we are focusing on best practices around the recruiting and interviewing process. Last month we talked about the importance of thinking broadly when engaging with the neurodivergent community and how to become an employer of choice for neurodivergent talent. This month we will spend time looking at strategies to make your recruiting practices more inclusive.
May blog post art provided by Armando Nunez. Armando Nunez
Best Practices for Sourcing Neurodivergent Talent
By Marcia Scheiner, President, Integrate
May 2022 –
In 2019, a group of employers with established neurodiversity hiring programs published the Autism@Work Playbook in which they noted the most critical factor to the success of hiring neurodivergent individuals is the ability to source talent. These employers advised others “to own their sourcing function and leverage a wide range of channels” if they want to find the desired talent. Even the authors of the Playbook – the companies most experienced at recruiting neurodivergent talent – have struggled to meet their originally stated hiring goals for autistic individuals. As with all aspects of attracting and retaining employees with an atypical way of thinking, one must use non-traditional outreach methods to source autistic jobseekers.
Like most practices in which organizations engage, recruiting is usually done by neurotypical individuals. This means that the routes for finding talent – campus recruiting, the internet, social media, and sourcing partners – are geared towards the neurotypical candidate. These outlets can continue to be used to reach neurodivergent candidates, but employers need to think differently about how they do so.
For entry-level and early career talent, many large employers look to colleges and universities as their main source of talent. This is also a good source of early career talent for neurodivergent talent, but employers need to be more creative in drawing out these candidates to their events. While Career Services is the main point of contact for employers and neurotypical college students seeking employment, those with a neurodivergent profile may find greater support through Disability Services or an autism focused support program on campus. We find some neurodivergent students don’t engage in the job search process as early or as vigorously as their neurotypical peers during college. This makes it even more important that employers and their campus recruiting teams create an environment that is supportive and encouraging for these students to come to recruiting events. Strategies can include:
- Identify campus specific support programs for neurodivergent students and conduct outreach through them, previewing for students what will happen at any recruiting events
- Hold recruiting events that have fewer attendees to reduce the social anxiety
- Assign a “buddy” from your organization to students when holding an on-campus recruiting event
- Conduct recruiting events through specific clubs likely to draw a neurodivergent population – i.e.: anime, video/board games, chess, computer science – and host an activity related to the club’s mission
While it is common knowledge that the best way to find a job is through networking, most jobseekers spend a lot of time applying for jobs online; and recruiters spend a lot of time using social media sites looking for candidates. Networking is difficult for most people, but particularly so for those with social cognitive challenges. As a recruiter, keep these best practices in mind when sourcing neurodivergent jobseekers online.
- Use inclusive screening metrics. When reviewing candidates resumes, focus on skills and academic achievements. Look for examples of their work. Don’t assume that someone with limited experience or gaps in their work history can’t do the job.
- When searching sites for candidates, include “autism”, “autistic”, “neurodiverse” and “neurodivergent” in your search terms. Many neurodivergent jobseekers have participated in programs or served as peer mentors in programs for neurodivergent individuals and list them on their resumes. Keep in mind that many candidates attribute the strength of some of their skills to thinking differently, are proud of their neurodivergent profile, and want an employer who values that in them.
- Review the recruiting websites you use to ensure they are inclusive. As discussed in last month’s blog, not only do you want your own company’s website to be accessible and inclusive for neurodivergent talent, consider the same measures for any third-party recruiting sites you use.
Third-party recruiting firms are a common source of talent for many organizations. When looking to include neurodivergent talent however, a number of third-party sources exist that can help employers in a more targeted fashion.
- Neurodivergent-focused sourcing organizations: With the advent of autism hiring programs in the early 2010’s, a few organizations were formed to help employers develop and grow these programs, including the recruiting of autistic talent. Today, over a dozen organizations of this type exist to support employers in sourcing neurodivergent talent. It is important to understand the approach any of these organizations takes in supporting employers, the complement of services they can offer and how that fits with your hiring goals.
- Vocational services agencies: Every state in the U.S. has a vocational services agency that provides employment services to people with disabilities resident in that state. These agencies can be a source of employees for employers, but the agencies will only be able to provide candidates that have voluntarily registered with the state. This means candidates with the requisite skill sets for your hiring needs may not be in the agency’s database when you need them.
- Federal Government/National Association programs: The U.S. government and a couple of national associations sponsor a few programs that allow employers to register to access a database of students with disabilities looking for summer internships (Workforce Recruitment Program, American Assn for the Advancement of Science, and American Assn of People with Disabilities Entry Point program). These programs are for students with all types of disabilities, not specifically those with a neurodivergent profile.
Your Next Steps
If your goal is to source more neurodivergent talent, look at your organization’s recruiting practices. Consider these questions – Are you providing a recruiting environment in which candidates will be comfortable? Are you reviewing candidate profiles using inclusive criteria? Have you reached out to partner organizations that can help you increase your pipeline of neurodivergent talent?
Stay tuned for our June post on inclusive interviewing practices for neurodivergent candidates.