Autistic Game Changers: Rethinking the ‘Smarts’ of Interview Practices

image found at http://www.mindandmouth.com/5-ways-to-overcome-job-interview-nerves/

image found at http://www.mindandmouth.com/5-ways-to-overcome-job-interview-nerves/

 

The Autistic’s “way of thinking is an excellent means to fuel cognitive diversity—the fusion of different experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds within a group. The blending of various employee attributes and traits combines to create unique and innovative approaches and ideas. Cognitive diversity in action can be thought of as an out-of-the-box thinking incubator. Work environments not conducive to cognitive diversity, where coworkers think alike and are afraid to make suggestions, are more apt to have employees resistant to change and engagement.” (Excerpt from Autism in a Briefcase, by Marcelle Ciampi, aka Samantha Craft)

 

 

 

Game Changers: Rethinking the Smarts of Interview Practices 

by Samantha Craft

In an online article (2017), entitled 8 Mistakes Smart People Never Make in Job Interviews, a freelance, travel writer listed 8 mistakes job seekers commonly make during an interview:

  1. You don’t make eye contact
  2. You aren’t confident
  3. You are overly enthusiastic
  4. You dodge the tricky questions
  5. You don’t ask questions
  6. Not showing your personality
  7. You’re fidgeting
  8. You’re too rehearsed

 

The article has had almost 200,000 shares to date. Unfortunately, this list of interview standards is still the gold star of business practices.

This list, and ones similar, are the unspoken norm in mainstream screening processes—a norm that does not take into account the presentation style of 1% to 2% of the U.S. population, well over 3.5 million people: individuals on the autism spectrum.

This right-and-wrong-way-to-interview outlook is long overdue for a thorough overhaul, reexamination, and restructuring. The expectations, placed on interviewees, don’t follow inclusivity ideals. In contrast, expecting all job candidates to adhere to archaic and narrow ways of presentation style, calls out an entire subset of society, as not only unable to get their foot through the job door, but also, according to this article, ‘not smart.’

These current hiring practices set up autistic job seekers for failure.

Seemingly, the only avenue for success, for the autistic job seeker, is to bypass the interview, disclose a disability (and face discrimination and judgment), or fake presentation. These overly noted ‘best’ and ‘worst’ practices are nothing but a narrow scope of discrimination cloaked as normalcy, allowing for only a select type of personality and presentation style. They support those that can put on an act and perform on stage. They support those that can read others’ expectations and abide. They reject those who are shy, introverted, unable to perform, transparent, or innately soft spoken and gentle. They discriminate against a person from a culture that doesn’t readily make eye contact. These guidelines outcast those job seekers that have performance anxiety. They eliminate, by process, those that have experienced trauma and feel insecure in front of an authority figure.

Overall, when implemented, these interview measures will filter out many a quality job seeker, and leave only a select type of person: one who knows how to demonstrate effective soft skills and knows how to maneuver through the interview game.

Let’s look at what a smart interviewee knows not to do:

  1. You don’t make eye contact
  2. You aren’t confident
  3. You are overly enthusiastic
  4. You dodge the tricky questions
  5. You don’t ask questions
  6. Not showing your personality
  7. You’re fidgeting
  8. You’re too rehearsed

Let’s look at some common characteristics of millions of autistics:

FACT: Most autistics do not make sustained eye contact.

Those autistics that do make eye contact, generally feel uncomfortable, shy, or vulnerable when making sustained eye contact. Making eye contact has nothing to do with most jobs and certainly doesn’t reflect aptitudes, skills, education, and experience. If a workplace culture expects employees to make eye contact, that business needs to rethink inclusivity and best business practices.

FACT: Many autistics do lack some confidence in one area or another (most human beings do).

Many autistic job seekers lack confidence in the job screening process because they have been rejected time and time again as the result of unspoken interview standards. Others have been told they will amount to nothing or have been stereotyped by society as lacking empathy, intelligence, and know-how. Lacking confidence in some areas does not make someone unqualified for a job. Having experienced challenges in life leads to increased empathy and compassion for others. Having experienced challenges in life leads to resilience and out of the box strategies for survival and success.

FACT: Autistics sometimes present as over enthusiastic in an interview.

Autistics are transparent by nature. They don’t feel comfortable donning a mask to fool others, manipulate, or try to present as who they are not. Autistics usually respect honesty and directness. They don’t like to partake in societal games. If they are excited, they don’t usually try to suppress it. Autistics also sometimes will appear overly enthusiastic, when in fact they are extremely anxious or nervous. Some tend to talk fast and elaborate, when they first meet someone or are in a novel situation. Being over enthusiastic isn’t a bad thing. It doesn’t denote desperation, disrespect, or a hidden agenda, unless someone chooses to see it that way. Too often interviewers project their own insecurities and fears onto a job seeker. Interviewers can choose to see over enthusiasm as a trait of a transparent and passionate human being.

FACT: It might appear that an autistic job seeker is dodging a question intentionally.

To assume someone is dodging a question is a subjective judgment and not objective, nor fair to the interviewee. An autistic might not understand a question because it lacks example, preciseness, detail, or doesn’t make any sense. Instead of asking for clarification, the interviewee might find it wiser to keep an answer short or attempt to answer, even as they are off base or topic. If an interviewer makes the assumption someone is dodging a question, then proper protocol and professionalism would dictate asking the job seeker to further clarify or seeking out probable reasons the questions wasn’t answered adequately. Revisiting or rewording a question makes sense; judgment doesn’t.

FACT: Autistics are often accused of asking too many questions, being invasive, too personal, too talkative, before they ever set foot in a job interview.

A job coach or relative might have trained the autistic job seeker to speak less during an interview. When faced with an interview, an autistic individual might have so many questions, they don’t know where to start. They might not understand the social rules of what questions are appropriate and which are not. They might hear in the back of their mind, “Don’t talk.” They might clam up. If a job seeker doesn’t ask questions in an interview, it doesn’t mean they are not inquisitive or don’t care about the position. It might mean the interviewer didn’t take care to formulate a question effectively or failed to follow up or check for understanding.

FACT: Autistics are taught through courses, manuals, books, agencies, and articles, even the news media, not to be themselves.

There are multiple books about how to mask oneself during an interview and act less autistic. If an autistic doesn’t show their personality, it’s because they have indirectly or directly been told not to be their true self. Setting the stage in an interview, by explaining a company values diversity, is a great way to let a job seeker know they are accepted as is. If the interviewer shares a bit about their own quirks or challenges, all the better. The standard interview platform is much about showcasing—and then to say show your true personalitybut only this way—isn’t logical.

FACT: Autistics fidget and stim to calm themselves and to balance out the intake from sensory overload.

An autistic job seeker might tap their feet or fingers, walk in circles, sway back and forth, or present with a number of other soothing mechanisms. Moving in a way that’s different than others is okay. An interviewer who assumes that because someone is fidgeting must therefore be hiding something or incapable of a job, is not well versed on many a disability and many a fair practices.

FACT: Autistics are often taught how to blend in during an interview: what to say, what not to say, tone of voice, body language, etc.

Autistics will likely either appear rehearsed or will bomb the interview based on all the unspoken expectations. So where is the wiggle room for success?

In recognizing autistics often outwardly present as different in job screening situations, and more than likely won’t excel at current interview standards, and adjusting to allow for diversity in presentation during the interview, at the same time we allow opportunity to rethink and eradicate many unfair job screening practices. In some ways, autistic job seekers are the petroleum that fuels the earthmover to shatter the current interview paradigm.

One last word: And as far as “smarts” go? Millions of folks, from around the globe, with outstanding attributes, skill sets, and book smarts, would flunk these gold star interview standards, and they happen to be, by far, some of the smartest people I have ever had the honor to know.

(Spectrum Suite emailed the author of the article to discuss the contents of her article, and explained our position. No contact to date.)

 

2017 autism & employment-related articles by Samantha Craft or with mention of Samantha Craft (aka Ciampi)

Top Ways Autistic Teens Can Transition to the Workplace

Jobseeker Tips

Before you Interview an Autistic Jobseeker 

http://differentbrains.com/bottoms-up-the-innovative-thinking-style-of-the-aspergers-mind/

http://health.usnews.com/wellness/articles/2017-05-30/finding-work-when-youre-on-the-autism-spectrum-it-could-be-an-advantage

https://medium.com/neodotlife/ultra-testing-433b9a32a521

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/disclosing-autism-job-yes-marcelle-ciampi?trk=v-feed&lipi=urn%3Ali%3Apage%3Ad_flagship3_detail_base%3BAqyscYACR3mcanwWQ0cBGg%3D%3D

http://www.autismhr.com/blog/pursuing-meaningful-work-an-interview-with-an-autistic-author

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-i-became-community-manager-neurodiverse-tech-company-ciampi

More information can be found at Hire Autism