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Best practices for neuro-inclusive recruitment

Approximately 15% to 20% of the global population is neurodiverse, which includes conditions such as ASD (Autism Syndrome Disorder), ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia, and Tourette Syndrome. Neurodiverse individuals encounter challenges in the job market, as they often struggle to obtain and maintain a job and face negative stereotypes related to their neuro-cognitive conditions.

However, things are starting to change, and neurodiverse employees are increasingly recognised for their unique abilities and perspectives. Yet, Human Resources professionals often lack guidance on how to make their HR practices more inclusive. As several organisations are spearheading change in terms of inclusion of neurodivergent talent, I reviewed their practices related to recruitment and retention to identify best practices. So, how can you make your selection and recruitment process more neuro-inclusive?

1. Rethink your selection criteria
The organisations I reviewed move away from traditional recruitment practices. Instead of selecting candidates based on their educational achievements or the number of years of professional experience, they prioritise the skills candidates had acquired outside the professional sphere. For instance, Ultranauts encourages candidates to highlight their self-taught skills and competencies and their capacity to learn. Bank of America follows a slightly different approach and has recruitment practices that allow neurodiverse candidates to showcase relevant competencies for the specific role they are applying for, whilst disregarding skills that are irrelevant. This approach enables individuals to focus on their strengths and avoid being penalised for lacking skills that are not essential for the job for which they are considered.

2. Allow candidates to showcase their skills
To enable candidates to authentically demonstrate their abilities and personality, instead of having to “perform” during a brief interview, the recruitment process is often extended. For example, Westpac assesses candidates’ motivation, participation and job-readiness over a period of three weeks through a series of workshops where they work with colleagues. Similarly, at Microsoft, candidates are given the opportunity to become familiar with the organisation over several days, making the job and the organisation less abstract as they develop their skills and prepare for their interview. In a similar vein, Chevron offers paid 12 weeks internship programmes that allow candidates to showcase their capabilities.

3. Eliminate biases through training
Many of us are often not aware of our own neurotypical biases. Yet, the organisations I reviewed prioritise the removal of potential biases associated with neuro-cognitive conditions. Those involved in the recruitment process are educated about the prevalence of neurotypical norms and how these norms could result in the rejection of candidates based on certain behaviours, such as avoiding eye contact or engaging in self-stimulating or self-soothing movements. Providing training to all individuals involved in the recruitment process is crucial to ensure inclusivity and support of neurodiverse candidates.

4. Collaborate with specialised agencies
You may not have all the necessary expertise in-house to make the selection and recruitment process more inclusive. Don’t hesitate to seek assistance from agencies with the expertise to help you in this regard. Organisations like JPMorgan Chase & Co engage advocacy agencies to attract more neurodiverse candidates or they enlist external specialised recruitment agencies, like Specialisterne, to pre-screen candidates before they enter the recruitment process, as it is the case with Dell.

5. Provide accommodations and adaptations throughout the recruitment process
To ensure that candidates feel comfortable and can perform their best throughout the recruitment process, it is important to provide accommodations and tailor the process to their needs. At SAP, candidates receive clear expectations and explicit instructions, ensuring that they understand what is expected from them. SAP’s website provides information on what to include in a cover letter and outlines the competencies and other qualities they seek in a candidate. These practices aim to remove barriers that hinder individuals from showcasing their full potential, fostering a recruitment process that is fair and transparent for all.

In conclusion, we can observe that some organisations are using simple, yet innovative practices that make the selection and recruitment process more neuro-inclusive. If organisations successfully attract, recruit and retain this underutilised talent pool, they stand to benefit from reliable and loyal employees who often possess specialised skills that are sought-after in the job market.

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