At Vanilla, our chosen charity is Bamboozle Theatre Company. They work with severely disabled children across Leicestershire and the surrounding area, to help enrich the lives of them and their families. The work they do and the support they give is simply phenomenal and we are very proud to be supporting them as much as we can.
Some of the children they work with have autism and although a lot of them won’t be a position to have a full-time job when they are older, some of them will. And with that in mind, and thinking about our recruitment world, we wanted to explore more about recruiting people on the autistic spectrum.
700,000 people in the UK have been diagnosed as having Autism Spectrum Disorder, ASD. Being a spectrum condition means that some people are more severely affected than others. It can mean leading a ‘typical’ life with a job, partner, children and their autism being undetectable to most, or it could mean problems with speech, social skills, movements etc, and can be coupled with other conditions and be more outwardly obvious.
Do you employ or work with anyone with autism? Is it something you would embrace?
Statics from the National Autistic Society state that,
- less than 15% of working age people with autism in the UK are in full-time employment
- 32% are in some kind of paid work
- 77% want to work
Adults with ASD have skills and talents beneficial to the workplace, just as people have who are not on the spectrum. However, there may be things you need to consider in order to help them thrive.
As well as their individual strengths and talents, autistic candidates often demonstrate above-average skills in some or all of the following areas:
- high levels of concentration
- reliability, conscientiousness and persistence
- accuracy, close attention to detail and the ability to identify errors
- technical ability, such as in IT
- detailed factual knowledge and an excellent memory
Everyone applying for a job should be treated as an individual and with respect but there are some things to consider when hiring an autistic person that can make the process run more smoothly.
The details below are from the National Autistic Society:
The job description
Job descriptions often include skills that are not essential for the job to be carried out effectively. Qualities such as 'excellent communication skills' or 'good team player' are often included as default skills, even if they are not necessary – and many autistic people will not apply for jobs demanding these attributes. This can mean that suitable applicants may assume themselves to be ineligible for a job even where they have strong skills that are directly relevant to the tasks involved.
The application form
It is not always obvious what information the applicant needs to provide on the application form. It is important to provide clear guidance on this, and to make sure that the form includes a space for applicants to highlight any support or adjustments they may need at an interview.
The job advert
Job adverts are not always concise and written in plain English. They should list essential skills, and avoid jargon or unnecessary information. The advert should be clearly presented, avoiding complex design. Try to be really objective about what abilities and experiences are genuinely essential for the job to be done well, and leave out any that are not.
The interview process
Interviews rely heavily on social and communication skills, so autistic candidates may well struggle to 'sell themselves' in an interview, even if they have all the right skills. In particular, they may face difficulties with:
- understanding body language and maintaining appropriate eye contact
- knowing how to start and maintain conversations
- judging how much information to give – especially if questions are open
- thinking in abstract ways, or considering 'what if?' scenarios
- varying their tone of voice and finding the appropriate level of formality
What adjustments can I make in the interview?
Making reasonable adjustments during an interview is essential to allowing autistic candidates to portray their skills and competencies fully, so that you can make an informed choice about who to recruit. Consider offering an adapted interview in which you ask 'closed' questions, based on the applicant’s past experiences, rather than 'open' (in other words, generalised or hypothetical) questions.
Another option you might want to explore is offering a work ‘trial’ or work experience. This will allow you and the candidate to get feel for the ‘fit’ and requirements of the job.
In the May 2017, BBC TV documentary Richard and Jaco - Life with Autism, it was stated that an employee with autism usually takes far fewer sick days and stays with a business for longer than counterparts without autism. So not only could you be employing a great asset to your team but also helping to reduce your sickness and recruitment costs.
For more information about employing a person with autism, you can visit: http://www.autism.org.uk/professionals/employers.aspx
With 1 in every 100 people being on the autistic spectrum, it is good for all of us to be aware of what it means. There are more and more people in the public eye making their autism known, for example;
- motorbike racer turned TV presenter Guy Martin
- wildlife presenter Chris Packham
- co-founder of Microsoft Bill Gates
- actor, writer and presenter Michael Palin
- American model Heather Kuzmich
- Founder of Apple Steve Jobs
This is helping to raise awareness. Hopefully this blog post has given you something extra to think about when you recruit. If we can help at all, please drop us a line: 01858 898 058, firstname.lastname@example.org
At Vanilla Recruitment, we are very proud to support Bamboozle Theatre Company and the work they do with disabled children, they are planning some big fundraising events for 2018 that we will be taking part in and sharing information about with you. In the meantime, if you’d like to find out more, please visit Bamboozle Theatre Company.