November 29, 2022

Why You Should Recruit Neurodiverse Talent

Many organizations are working to recruit and retain more diverse talent, and rightfully so – diverse workforces drive innovation and enrich decision-making. But, when thinking about diversity, some identities are often left out of the conversation. Neurodiverse candidates can take your organization to the next level, if you know how to attract and support them.

 

What does it mean to be neurodiverse?

According to UW Medicine, neurodiversity most broadly is the wide range of neurological functioning that exists among people and the way people’s brains differ from each other. Some people’s differences affect how their brain works, leading to different strengths and challenges than people without those differences. These people are called neurodivergent, which is a term used to describe people with Autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, learning disabilities like dyslexia, and more.

While being neurodivergent is often stigmatized, ultimately it’s just a difference in how brains work, and like any difference it can create challenges as well as opportunities. Some of the unique strengths of neurodiverse people are thinking outside of the box, creativity, and agility. 

“Something that one of my last bosses said is, ‘I wish everyone could be like a jack of all trades.’ I’m not scared to cross-train. Being neurodiverse gives you the option and the opportunity to be fine with change. It’s not hard for me because I’m doing that all day, every day with my brain. So, I think that’s definitely a strength.”

– 38-year-old, Higher Education Professional

Barriers faced by neurodiverse candidates

Though neurodiverse candidates have a wide range of special skills, many face barriers to employment from the outset of the application and interview process. For example, some neurodiverse candidates are immediately screened out for not having a four-year degree.

“College was not the easiest thing for me, having ADHD. Too many people in classrooms and things along those lines always distracted me. Even though I feel like I learned very well, the environment wasn’t necessarily the best for me.”

– 44-year-old, Consultant in Automotive Industry

For other neurodiverse candidates, lack of accommodations during the interview process and pre-recorded video interviews can shift the focus away from the candidate.

“I interviewed for a company and before they would even talk to you, you had to do a self-recorded response to some questions, and you were basically talking to yourself. You only got a short period to practice and then you had to do it. I failed – there wasn’t an opportunity for personality to come through to ask clarifying questions.”

– 38-year-old, Higher Education Professional

 

“[For interviews] I’ll ask for a distraction-free area, because I get easily distracted. I had one company that said they can’t provide that area. Since they weren’t able to accommodate that, I wasn’t interested in the position anymore. I felt it was something simple to ask for, but they didn’t see the importance of it.”

– 26-year-old Quality Assurance Analyst in Healthcare

Attracting neurodiverse candidates

For many neurodiverse candidates, flexibility at work is key. Rigid working schedules and in-person work can be especially difficult for neurodiverse people, as expressed by one of the candidates we spoke with:

“Because I have ADHD, my sleep schedule can often be interrupted. I’m the most productive between 6pm and 10pm, but you pretty much have to work 8-5 or 9-5 and that is really challenging for me. A lot of the jobs I’ve seen want you to go in person and there are just more hurdles I have to clear to get to a job. It’s just an opportunity for me to fail.”

– 25-year-old Health Equity Director

This candidate isn’t alone. This year, neurodiverse talent were consistently more open to accepting offers for fully remote or hybrid work than offers for fully in-office work. Don’t fret if you’re unable to offer remote work opportunities. Other flexible work arrangements, like setting your own work schedule, are also valuable to neurodiverse and non-neurodiverse candidates alike – 72% of all candidates consider an employer more appealing if they can structure their own working hours.

Work-life balance is another particular concern for neurodiverse candidates. Almost half of neurodiverse talent experience burnout at least once a week, compared to 35% of non-neurodiverse candidates, and in Q2 work-life balance became the most important factor for neurodiverse candidates when considering potential jobs. Shortcomings in this area can be costly – neurodiverse candidates who reported higher than average burnout at work had an 81% likelihood of intending to pursue different employment in the next year. Emphasizing your organization’s strengths in flexible work and work-life balance can help show neurodiverse candidates that your organization can provide the qualities they value.

Additionally, health insurance is one of the key benefits that drives offer acceptance among neurodivergent candidates. 61% of neurodiverse talent said that employer-paid comprehensive health insurance is one of the most important benefits to them when deciding whether or not to accept an offer, so make sure to mention if you provide health benefits in outreach and job postings.

Finally, one of the most important things you can do to win talent from this group is to take care not to overlook their potential through hard-line application requirements. While neurodiverse talent may sometimes present differently on paper, the person behind the resume could become an asset to your organization.

“We bring a lot to the table, and we may not always have the exact skill you’re looking for, but those things can be taught. You can’t teach passion or ingenuity or curiosity. I think employers need to be more flexible when it comes to hiring.”

– 25-year-old, Health Equity Director

 

“Be open – just because someone says they’re neurodivergent doesn’t even mean that it’s either bad or good. It’s more neutral than anything. You can always teach a skill set. Be open minded and know that there are levels of strength that you’re going to get from a person who’s neurodivergent versus someone who’s not. And I think that their tolerance for resiliency has a tendency to be much higher.”

– 38-year-old, Higher Education Professional

As competition for talent becomes increasingly fierce and with a continued focus on DEI, neurodiverse candidates could be a solution for filling roles with creative and agile talent. But in order to realize the benefits of these exceptional candidates, you’ll need to be intentional about your recruiting practices and career development. A growing number of well-known companies have adjusted their processes to attract and support neurodiverse talent. Offering accommodations and emphasizing flexibility can help set you apart to win this untapped talent.

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