Welcome to our June blog post. This quarter we are focusing on best practices around the recruiting and interviewing process.
June blog post art provided by Armando Nunez. Armando Nunez
Interviews: What are you evaluating? And how?
By Marcia Scheiner, President, Integrate
June 2022 –
Hundreds of websites exist with lists of best interview questions to ask candidates. If you take the time to read through a number of these sites, you will begin to see a pattern. These questions are usually intended to evaluate a candidate’s mindset, which according to Merriam-Webster, is a mental attitude or inclination, or a fixed state of mind. In recruiting, mindset tends to refer specifically to a “growth” mindset versus a “fixed” mindset. Those with a growth mindset are seen as individuals who believe in lifelong learning, embrace challenge, and learn from criticism. Those with a fixed mindset are viewed as believing their talents are innate and will not change, resulting in a tendency to avoid challenges and a dislike of negative feedback.
A quick Google search for “interviewing for growth mindset” yields articles with quotes likes these:
- “Someone with a growth mindset believes that skill development and talent are derivatives of personal will and effort. Conversely, the evil counterpart of the growth mindset is the fixed mindset, which believes that success is a personally defining label.”
- “Where fixed mindset candidates focus on the possibility of rejection, growth mindset candidates focus on the upside. Where fixed mindset candidates wing it and cross their fingers, growth mindset candidates know they can win most any position with practiced skills in the interview room. Where fixed mindset candidates see roadblocks, growth mindset candidates see hurdles.”
This viewpoint often leads recruiters to use the interview process to weed out those with a fixed mindset. More importantly, this false dichotomy fails to account for the unique cognitive style of candidates with neurodivergent profiles and discourages following a process that allows interviewers to determine whether a candidate can do the job. For autistic jobseekers, particularly those who may not disclose during an interview process, being perceived by an interviewer as someone with a fixed mindset, whether consciously or not, is oftentimes a significant obstacle in obtaining employment.
Understanding thinking styles
Everyone’s thinking styles manifest in multiple ways and have a significant impact on how we are perceived by others. Individuals who struggle with theory of mind (the ability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes) are typically literal thinkers. They view the world in terms of “black and white” and “right and wrong” and may come across as rigid thinkers. As you can imagine, such an individual might present as someone with a fixed mindset, despite being a lifelong learner and gaining considerable expertise in their subject matter of choice.
Other types of thinking are intuitive and deliberative. There are times when our physical and psychological survival depends on our reacting quickly and automatically (intuitively), such as avoiding a car that jumped the light or interpreting the facial expression of an angry supervisor. On the other hand, when making a complex decision our thinking tends to be slower and more analytical (deliberate). In Thinking Fast and Slow, psychologist/economist and Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, known for his work on the psychology of judgement and decision-making, describes how these two modes of thinking and making decisions work together. Intuition and fast thinking are a “big picture” process that uses mental shortcuts based on experience and limited information to make decisions, however, this can lead to jumping to conclusions and be prone to errors. Deliberative thinking is slow, controlled, and effortful, as it requires attending to the details required to wrestle with difficult problems. Consequently, we tend to use deliberation only when necessary, and use our intuition as a shortcut for everyday decisions, even though it may sometimes not be accurate.
Autistic individuals are known for their attention to detail, which can sometimes lead them to miss the big picture, particularly in the workplace. Recent research on thinking styles of individuals with autism suggests that they tend to rely on deliberation (even in everyday decisions). As a result, they are less susceptible to responding intuitively during logical reasoning and decision-making. This can have negative consequences during a job interview, where answering questions after long deliberation can give the wrong impression.
When looking to hire neurodivergent talent, it is important to remember what you are trying to achieve throughout your interview process. The interview process typically serves to winnow down a large applicant pool to a few qualified candidates. The goal of the process is to identify a select group of qualified candidates, using the time of recruiters and hiring managers as efficiently as possible. To increase your neurodivergent applicant pool, the interview process should be about creating a process that supports qualified candidates through to an offer. This requires a different perspective in designing the interview process. Rather than relying on a low-touch process – one that depends heavily on screens by automated resume review systems and virtual interviewing platforms – it is necessary to incorporate manual interventions into these processes so that qualified candidates do not get screened out. Some of these manual interventions can include:
- Provide candidates a contact through your applicant tracking system to disclose their disability at the time they apply, if they wish, or a link to an alternate site expressly for neurodivergent individuals. This should automatically result in a trained recruiter reviewing the candidate’s resume in addition to the automated system review.
- Program your applicant tracking system to identify and highlight resumes of candidates that have indicated participation in a pre-determined list of autism support college programs or other autism-related programs.
- Review candidates who score low on your virtual interviewing platform but have resumes that indicate they may be well suited to the role(s) you are looking to fill. These candidates may struggle with anxiety or present with verbal processing differences or delays, or other non-traditional cognitive styles that cause them to score low on the on- demand video interviews. Yet they may possess all the skills required to do the job and excel when offered some interview modifications.
Identifying neurodivergent candidates as they go through the interview process is an important step, no matter how that interview process is designed. It is equally important that anyone involved, from recruiters to hiring managers, have a level of awareness about how these candidates may present and how to best interview them.
- Conduct broad based autism awareness training so that characteristics potentially related to an individual’s autism condition, such as lack of eye contact, lack of facial expressions, repetitive body motions or a different voice quality, do not cause interviewers to disqualify candidates.
- Train your interviewers on how to interview neurodivergent candidates effectively. It is important to ask interview questions in a clear and direct manner, providing candidates with opportunities to demonstrate their mindset and skillsets in multiple ways.
- Limit the number of interviewers in an interview to no more than two and schedule no more than two sequential interviews in one day.
- Provide an autism-friendly interview experience, including a distraction free environment and the use of skills-based interviews.
Your Next Steps
Individuals will present differently during the interview process, depending on their thinking style. Neurodivergent jobseekers are more likely to present in ways the typical interviewing process is structured to screen out. Review your interview processes. Can adjustments be made to make the process more inclusive of all thinking styles, providing greater opportunity for neurodivergent candidates?
Stay tuned for our July post when we begin our focus on onboarding and managing neurodivergent employees.