Thinking Differently

The recruitment process for neurodivergent candidates need to be improved, argues Ryan Graham, CTO at Texthelp.

As businesses look to recruit new employees in the new year and beyond, it’s important they cast their net as wide as possible. This means accounting for all demographics, including neurodivergent candidates. Last year saw record levels of staff turnover as part of what’s become known as the ‘Great Resignation’. Almost a quarter of workers in the UK said they were actively planning to change employers. This Is a significant increase on the typical one in 10 that move jobs each year. In the new year, many companies could find themselves short staffed, especially when coupled with the churn in employment most businesses face each January.

However, a more inclusive approach to recruitment can help combat this issue. Many businesses often overlook a demographic that can bring huge benefits to their business. Reconsidering the recruitment process can help businesses attract this – often untapped – pool of talent.

Overlooking demographics

Diversity and inclusion are front of mind for most businesses today. Indeed, diversity, in whichever form it takes, can bring advantages to any business. Neurodivergent employees, for example, can bring unique perspectives and ways of approaching challenges.

Nonetheless, while businesses everywhere make efforts to increase the diversity of their workforce’s gender and ethnic makeup, the value in employing certain demographics can still be overlooked. Whether consciously or unconsciously, many businesses can have a degree of reluctance to employ neurodivergent candidates. Biases, largely driven by negative stereotypes, can hold companies back from exploring this particular section of society. Even when these biases appear to have been overcome, their influence can still have an impact on the recruitment process itself.

Putting people off

The recruitment process is often the first point of contact a candidate will have with a company. It’s hugely important to make sure every potential employee has a positive experience.

Without due care and attention, job descriptions can prove off-putting for candidates of all types – not just neurodivergent individuals. It’s important to think about how a potential candidate might view a job description. Particularly if they’re from outside of the industry. Long sentences made up of complex words can deter people who might actually be suitable for a role. This is especially the case if the description is made up of overly complex jargon specific to that industry. It’s best, then, to avoid any terms and descriptions that may well cause otherwise suitable candidates to avoid applying. Fortunately, there are tools available to help minimise the risk of alienating potential candidates in this way.

Potential candidates may also rely on screen maskers or readers to help digest the job role. Businesses need to make sure the websites they are posting the job role on supports this kind of third-party software. Going further, businesses should try to audit their written content for accessibility. By using simpler language, they can make sure job descriptions are as inclusive as possible before they go live.

Looking beyond skills

The same consideration should be given to the skills necessary for a role, as well as to its overall description. Larger companies, for instance, can default to including the same ‘required’ skills, regardless of the role itself. Making it outcome-focused makes sure that it’s less about how the job is done. This is more inclusive to neurodivergent candidates who often have unique ways of thinking and working.

It’s important to listen, too. At every single stage of the recruitment process, candidates should have the opportunity to share their own particular life circumstances and importantly, the impact those circumstances have on their ability to demonstrate their full potential. If they make any adjustments to reduce that impact, then so too should the recruiting business.

Such considerations shouldn’t stop at the job description, of course. It’s vital to make sure that, once on board, all employees, regardless of their background, are made to feel included.

Support in unusual times

Between 30 and 40 per cent of the population is thought to be neurodivergent. It’s important that a real effort is made to make sure this demographic is made to feel welcome in the world of work. As a significant proportion of the workforce, companies must make sure they feel included as part of the company, right from the start. From onboarding and beyond, especially in today’s hybrid working environment.

More than their neurotypical colleagues, a company’s neurodivergent employees may find the prospect of working remotely especially challenging. Businesses should offer employees assurance that they have appropriate systems and strategies in place to support them under these unusual circumstances. Simple online resources such as an office group chat on Slack, or weekly one-to-one meetings over Zoom, will go a long way toward ensuring neurodivergent employees feel supported and included once they’ve joined a company.

Demonstrating real commitment

Faced with an unprecedented level of workplace churn, businesses everywhere must look further afield to find talented recruits. As part of their search, many companies are realising the benefits of hiring a diverse workforce. Neurodivergent individuals are part of a demographic that not only increases that diversity but also bring new ideas and ways of thinking to a business.

To attract these individuals, however, businesses need to revisit their recruitment processes. Conscious and unconscious biases and complex, restrictive language and expectations can often prove off-putting. Companies may miss out on recruiting hugely talented candidates simply because these individuals were turned off by the language of the job description.

When it comes to the recruitment process, businesses must reflect and remove any barriers that exist, and ensure that it’s set up to allow people to show their best selves. Diversity and inclusion are on the agenda of most businesses today. But, rather than just paying lip service to it, revisiting their recruitment process gives those businesses a real chance to demonstrate their commitment to the concept.


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