“Tell Us About Yourself”: Autistic Adults Confront the Dreaded Job Interview
As I find myself graduating from college this spring, the interview process for potential jobs seems like the most daunting and uncertain aspect of facing adult life. While this process can be stressful for neurotypicals like me, the sense of burden is only amplified for those on the autism spectrum. Interviewing can be problematic for those affected by autism across every part of the spectrum, even those who are considered “high-functioning.” It is important for autistic adults to feel comfortable throughout the process, whether or not they decide to disclose that they are on the spectrum. Both interviewees and employers alike need to be aware of the challenges that accompany autistic adults throughout the interview process to ensure that it runs as smoothly and as fairly as possible.
It is widely known that autistic adults suffer from both underemployment as well as unemployment, with the combined rate at about 80%. Part of this problem can be attributed to the struggles encountered during the interview process. A 2015 study looked at aspects of this struggle for autistic adults and found factors that pointed to their stress levels and the communication problems that they encountered throughout the interview. This study, conducted by Wendy Mitchell from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, explored these difficulties and found that only 30% of the study group would be offered a second interview. This result contrasts greatly with the non-autistic subjects of the study, where 75% of the group would have the opportunity for a second interview. Results of studies, such as these, highlight the disparity between autistic adults and their neurotypical peers when it comes to success during interviews.
The following video from the National Autistic Society highlights the struggles that those on the autism spectrum can face during the interview process.
Despite the problems that autistic adults face in regard to the interview process, there are many ways that these problems can be overcome. One way to help autistic adults improve their interview skills is by providing a simulation-type training such as the one developed and sold online by SIMersion Inc. A 2014 study of autistic adults using a program that simulates the interview process found that this type of training can help them improve their interviewing skills. Specifically, the program helps them to improve upon difficulties in communicating that they may have, as well as helping them to improve the manner in which they present themselves to a simulated interviewer. Training for interviews using a type of method and technology such as this is important in helping autistic adults become more comfortable within an interview scenario. Increasing their comfort level is effective in helping to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as helping them to present themselves in a manner that will impress employers.
While the video shown above highlights the interview experience from the perspective of an autistic adult, the attitude of employers plays a large role in helping to ease their problems as well. Should the interviewee disclose their disability prior to the interview, it is important that the interviewer makes certain accommodations in order to help put the interviewee at ease, which, in turn, will help the employer get the most out of the interview. Many of these accommodations are simple and will be effective in helping the interviewer understand the interviewee’s skills.
An example of this is as easy as providing sample questions to the interviewee beforehand so that they have a better understanding of the type of communication required. Another example is to use more experiential-based questions, rather than those that are behavior-based. The reasoning behind this is that behavior-based questions attempt to use prior work history as a predictor of future behavior, but this is something that adults with autism usually don’t have. Experiential questions, however, pertain specifically to the job at hand and may help the interviewee focus and feel more comfortable.
The interviewing process is difficult for everyone, but even more for adults with autism. It can be made easier for everyone involved, however, if interviewees are provided with the right type of training and make appropriate accommodations. These two factors are important in helping adults with autism demonstrate the value that they can bring to the workforce and help them find meaningful employment that will enable them to be more independent. As awareness regarding this issue continues to grow, more options for education on the interview process are being made available for both parties. For example, Madison House Autism Foundation has organized a workshop designed to educate employers on awareness and best practices for interacting with interviewees with autism. Within the workshop, there is a special emphasis placed on consistency, communication, and compassion, as they are an essential need for autistic adults from employers.
Understanding autistic adults and the interview process is important, as it is essential to finding a career. Click here for some examples of avenues for paid, meaningful work available to adults with autism compiled by Madison House’s own Kyle Gosweiler.
MADISON HOUSE AUTISM FOUNDATION
Jason is currently a senior at Towson University, where he studies Political Science and English. Outside of his studies, he is passionate about athletics and exercising with his friends.
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