Interview Tips from Lead Job Recruiter who is Autistic

Samantha Craft is the lead job recruiter for an innovative software testing company that employs diverse workers. Craft interviews job candidates across the U.S. (remotely), with the majority of candidates on the autism spectrum or with a neurological condition (e.g., dyslexia). Craft also provides mock interviews and jobseeker tips to university students. Below are a list of interview tips based on Craft’s direct experience as a job recruiter working with a neurodiverse population of jobseekers. 

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Tips Before the Interview

Email Correspondence

  • Have a professional email address. In example, don’t use ‘one-hotmamma2@gmail.com.’
  • Use a professional signature line. Include your full name, contact information, and state you are located.

Samantha Craft | Founder and Author | Spectrum Suite
Olympia, WA | USA | info@myspectrumsuite.com 

  • Be polite and professional. First impressions do matter. Don’t send an email asking: “Hey. Are you guys hiring?” Take time to write a brief and precise introductory email that shows forethought and respect. Include your skills and background, why you are interested in the organization and how you heard about the organization and job role.
  • Don’t mention personal information such as a recent divorce, demotion, or bad experience at past place of employment. Keep initial contact brief and positive.
  • Be patient, if you don’t hear back right away. Wait a couple of weeks before sending a polite, follow up email. “Dear Hiring Manger, I wanted to make sure you received my previous inquiry . . . Thank you for your time . . . Best . . . “

Interview Prep

  • Practice a response that demonstrates you reviewed the organization’s history, an answer that demonstrates you did some research, such as years in business, locations, mission statement, founders, philosophy, community involvement. For example, if applying to be a restaurant manager, know the menu, know the clientele, off season, busy season, consumer ratings, other restaurants owned, how long the restaurant has been in business. A bit of research sets a candidate apart from the other job seekers and demonstrates attributes of resourcefulness and attention to detail.
  • Practice one clear response that summarizes why you are a beneficial candidate for the job. Include 3 to 5 specific attributes/skills that match the job requirements (e.g., able to take in vast amounts of new information and apply to task at hand in short amount of time, consistent with follow through, put over 100% effort into work).
  • List specific adjectives that describe you as a worker (e.g., efficient, quick learner, reliable).
  • Practice answering the question: “Why would you like to work for our company at this time?” List 2 specific personal attributes that make you a good match with the organization and 2 facts about the organization that you admire or find interesting.
  • Make a list of 2 personal work experiences that relate to the job. Include work for neighbors, relatives, volunteer groups, clubs, educational establishments, if needed.
  • Search for generic interview questions online and practice answering the questions into the recorder on your phone or computer. Time your responses. Note the use of “uhh,” “um,” “you know,” “ah,” and similar time filler words. Practice pausing to reduce use of distracting and unnecessary words.
  • Practice mock interview questions with a trusted friend, colleague, classmate, faith house member, professor, or family member. Ask for feedback about length of responses, word choice, clarity, staying on topic, etc. Practice a few times, minimum
  • Practice reciting an example that illustrates that you were a part of a team. List 3 reasons why you are an effective team player. If you don’t have a lot of job experience, consider sports, schooling, gaming, volunteer work, clubs, organizations.
  • Choose something to wear to the interview in advance. Have an outfit laid out, unwrinkled, and suitable for the company’s culture and professionalism required for the job. If you are applying for a position that requires jeans and a t-shirt on-the-job, still dress professionally for the interview. Choose something modest and comfortable that doesn’t increase anxiety or a tendency to feel self-conscious.
  • Watch online tutorials or read online articles related to the job role.
  • Interview someone who already has a similar job or a recruiter at another organization that employs similar employees. Find out what skills and education are desired and sought out for that job role.
  • Enroll in an educational course or study online/read articles to show a commitment to the vocational field of your choosing.
  • Consider volunteering or and internship in your area of vocational interest to gain experience, while going through the job screening process.

Tips During the Interview

  • Thank the interviewer in advance for their time and the opportunity, and add one sentence about why the opportunity is a suitable match for you. “Thank you for your time today and this opportunity to apply for the position of (insert job title). I am pleased to be under consideration for employment at an organization that (insert positive fact about organization).
  • If you present as atypical, when it comes to body language (introverted, autism spectrum condition, shy, etc.) consider being transparent about how you present, particularly if you tend to lack eye contact, don’t have a firm handshake, stutter, or make gestures that might be misinterpreted. Be self-confident in your self-awareness. It’s a good thing to be self-aware. (See article for the pros and cons of disclosing.)
  • Get a feel for the amount of detail the interviewer is looking for from the start. In example, after your second or third response, ask a question for clarity. Examples include: Was that a clear response? Did I provide enough information to create a clear picture? Would you like me to elaborate or explain further? Did that answer your question accurately? Was that too little or too much information?
  • Practice being brief in response and time spent on answering one question.  If a job role, such as software testing, requires precision and ability to be brief, practice that skill in your interview responses.
  • Weave personal skills related to the job role into your responses.
  • If you were a part of a team in the past, where you picked up most of the slack, word the experience in a positive light, without implying or stating blame. In example, “I tend to make sure a group project is done on time and to standards, even if it means putting in extra time and attention.”
  • If you share something that the interviewer might perceive in a negative light, such as missing a deadline, come back and add a blanket statement that highlights your positive traits: Example: “Although I missed that one deadline over 5 years ago, 99.9% of the time I am on track, focused, and turn my projects in early. I pride myself in learning and growing from my past experiences.”
  • Paint the scene. In example, list the exact project you worked on and the number of people involved in the project. Make your response is easy for the interviewer to picture (time, place, event).
  • Ask yourself what the interviewer might be trying to find out before answering. But don’t assume you know. If unsure, ask or rephrase the question aloud to check for understanding. “In summary, you are asking how I stay organized at my current place of work. Is that correct?”
  • If unsure what was said, ask the interviewer to repeat the question.
  • For more think time, ask the interviewer to repeat the question, or say, “I need a minute of think time. Thank you.”
  • If you have a tendency to be long-winded, pause after you answer a question, before elaborating, so the interviewer can guide you or ask follow up questions.
  • If you find yourself going on and on, stop mid-sentence, and say, “Sometimes I elaborate when I am (nervous, in a novice situation, when I am explaining something). My apologies.” And then stop.
  • Avoid words and phrases that indicate uncertainty, such as I guess, I don’t know, kind of, seems like, and I don’t think so. Use confident words such as yes, sure, I remember a time when, of course, definitely, etc. In example, don’t say, “I guess I am pretty good at working toward a goal sometimes.” Respond with, “Sure thing! I am reliable, able to work independently, know how to research to find answers, am self-motivated and GREAT at finishing what I start.”
  • If you are typically on time, but weren’t a few times in your life, focus on the majority of your behaviors, without pointing out a few discrepancies that don’t reflect your overall work ethics.
  • Don’t criticize a past employer or supervisor. If you are asked to express a frustrating time, make sure that is what the interviewer asked and be polite and professional. “I appreciate a manager who follows through and responds in a timely manner. Consistency and reliability adds to a positive workplace environment and increased work productivity. If that doesn’t happen, it can be more difficult to work with someone, but I still try my best and understand we all have different approaches on the job.”
  • Send a brief and professional, follow up email. In example, “Dear Ms. Craft, Thank you for the opportunity to interview for the position of (insert job title.) I enjoyed learning about (insert new fact) and appreciate having had the chance to share about (insert a personal skill or experience). I look forward to hearing back from you and being considered as a potential employee for (insert organization). Have a great week.” Have someone double-check the email for grammar before sending.

 

DCS_6209Founder & President of Spectrum Suite, Samantha Craft M.Ed. (aka Marcelle Ciampi) is the lead job recruiter for ULTRA Testing, an autism educator, the author of the blog and book Everyday Aspergers, Selection Committee Chair at the ANCA World Autism Festival and active in autism groups locally and globally. She serves as a guest speaker, workshop presenter, and neurodiversity recruitment specialist.

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