Finding a neuro way to recruitment - Judith Thorpe

So much of our work in recruitment is about getting to know people, their personalities, their skills and matching them with the right jobs to ensure a good fit for the job seeker and employer.

I’ve worked in recruitment for more than 25 years and throughout that time employers have focused on the importance of culture fit, how well someone will fit in with the culture of their business. This perpetuated unconscious bias in the recruitment process and the “likeability” factor would contribute to who was hired.

There’s now a shift in thinking, to the importance of “culture add” rather than “culture fit” because employers want to harness and maximise the talents of people who think differently and who can bring their diverse abilities, backgrounds and perspectives to work.

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However, there’s a disconnect and recruitment processes often don’t support an organisation’s diversity and inclusion agenda.

Judith Thorpe, director at specialist recruitment agency TMM RecruitmentJudith Thorpe, director at specialist recruitment agency TMM Recruitment
Judith Thorpe, director at specialist recruitment agency TMM Recruitment

Recently, I’ve been working with Nesceda Blake, a young autistic woman based in Melbourne. I got to know her after she wrote an article about her experiences as a job seeker which went viral on LinkedIn. As she was applying for jobs she registered with an agency and they sent her a booklet which promoted professional recruitment using neurotypical standards.

The advice included tips like sit still, don’t fidget, look someone in the eye, shake their hand and wear conservative clothes, all of which she felt was so wrong for her as an individual.

It’s estimated that 1 in 7 people in the UK are neurodivergent, have a range of learning and behavioural differences, including autism. We live in such a diverse society yet we still recruit based on neurotypical – or so-called “normal” – standards.

Nesceda speaks eloquently on universal design in recruitment. Rather than expecting people to fit the traditional process, the process has to accommodate the individual, giving them an equal opportunity to demonstrate their abilities.

Having spent time chatting with Nesceda, to understand more about how we can support neurodivergent candidates, it quickly became clear that sharing the questions in advance of the interview would be the most enabling change an employer could make for her.

It’s so obvious when you think about it. Most interviews test your ability to think on your feet. Interviews are nerve wrecking for anyone, but particularly so for someone who processes information differently. Having the questions in advance greatly reduces anxiety and is the difference between a great interview experience and a terrible one.

It struck me that Nesceda’s recommendations for a more neuro-inclusive recruitment process would actually help anyone – now there’s real inclusion.

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Simplify job descriptions, avoid jargon language and be explicit on the essential skills and behaviours required for the job.

Lead with inclusive language, it’s important to promote that the environment is supportive.

Provide step by step guidance on the application and interview processes.

Offer a video interview, being in familiar surrounds at home is less overwhelming.

Incorporate sample work tests so the person can show you what they can do and demonstrate how they will complete job tasks.

I’ve learned a great deal from Nesceda, by listening to her experience and looking at recruitment from her perspective. For me, if employers don’t want to pay lip service to diversity and inclusion it is important that we all learn about neurodivergence, understand how recruitment processes so often exclude neurodivergent people, and then make constructive improvements that will really help embed diversity and inclusion in our workplaces.

To watch the conversation with Judith and Nesceda, visit:

Judith Thorpe, director at specialist recruitment agency TMM Recruitment

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