Hiring Neurodiverse Talent In Tech - "Out Of The Box" Thinking


The lack of diversity and inclusion in the tech industry is a widely acknowledged problem.&n...

The lack of diversity and inclusion in the tech industry is a widely acknowledged problem.

 Companies listened, and were soon hiring with an increasingly inclusive mindset, becoming aware of the issues such as unconscious bias and the benefits of a varied workforce. But neurodivergent individuals are still often overlooked when compared to other minority groups, and this issue exists across multiple conditions and on a global scale.

The benefits of hiring a neurodivergent workforce are clear. However, many such individuals are often unintentionally disadvantaged by traditional recruitment methods, where processes favour neurotypical candidates and neuro minorities are automatically screened out.

With a shortage of skilled workers and a lack of awareness of neurodiversity in many cases, we thought we’d speak to someone with first-hand experience of living and working with autism 

Finding qualified and adequately skilled tech workers remains a major challenge for the industry. According to a report released by CodinGame and CoderPad, nearly half of tech recruiters are having difficulty finding qualified candidates. According to the same report, 'candidate experience during the hiring process' will be a priority for tech recruiters in 2022 to attract the best talent in a candidate-driven market. However, not all candidates will be the same and the hiring process needs to be adapted to accommodate neurodiverse candidates. If hiring managers don't have the right information or tools to support them at the interview stage resulting in missing out on their talent.

Expanding the talent pool, eliminating the stigma and negative preconceptions surrounding neurodivergent candidates, and considering how neurodiverse individuals could thrive in tech roles are some of the solutions to the current tech hiring challenges.

One of the solutions to combating the current tech hiring challenges is expanding the talent pool, eliminating the stigma and negative pre-conceptions surrounding neurodivergent candidates, and considering how neurodiverse individuals could thrive in tech roles.

According to the CIPD Neurodiversity at Work report, when planning an interview with a neurodiverse candidate, you should consider the entire end-to-end interview process and tailor your current interview process to support their needs. This could include providing clear directions to the interview (or assessment) location (preferably with visual cues) as well as more specific details on what to expect in the interview - including who they will meet, the length and format of the interview, and selecting a suitable quiet space free of distractions.

Peter is an IT Engineer who we recently worked with and we asked him about his job search experience throughout his career and he described it as troubling”.  

He said that from the minute someone found out he was autistic they tried to find way out of hiring him by saying he wouldn’t fit or was under or over-qualified for the job.  

“Autism is not understood and is a four-letter word to most MSPs. A lot of companies have a lack of understanding and training on all forms of neurological disorders.”, Peter says, “Lots of people [with autism] slink to the shadows, as they don’t want to cause a fuss.” 

Peter mentions that helpdesk work isn’t the easiest, it’s “a constant barrage, hence people with disabilities struggle”he says, although also adds that this doesn’t mean that they are not able to do the job.  Peter suggests it’s about “learning what the triggers are and putting things in place to help them, like a 10-minute rest break”. 

Accommodating neurodiversity in the workplace

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to neurodiversity, there are some general inclusivity measures and practices you can implement to ensure that your entire workforce or team's patterns of thinking, feeling, working, and collaborating are accommodated.

1. Implementing supportive technology

Interruptions, notifications, and other distractions can have a negative impact on focus and concentration for many neurodiverse people. It can be difficult to complete a task when you are forced to switch between tasks, projects, clients, or products in rapid succession.

Allowing your team to turn off notifications while working on a task and being accommodating to longer response times will help neurodiverse members of your team comfortably complete their work and respond to notifications when they can fully answer them.

If your team struggles with project or time management, implementing intuitive workflow applications will help them keep track of their tasks, see their priority level, and complete them on time. Trello, Teams Planner, and Basecamp are some examples of useful platforms.

2. Having a patient and accommodating attitude

Some neurodiverse people find sensory stimulation difficult, which can affect how they process information. Some meeting formats, such as group discussions, may not be as accommodating to people who find it difficult to process multiple voices expressing different ideas. Understanding this and encouraging your team to process information in the way that they prefer (whether through note-taking apps, visualisation, or mind mapping) will help.

Understanding that some people may struggle with the social complexities and unwritten facial cues of conversation will also go a long way toward assisting neurodiverse people. Again, because there is a wide range of how neurodiversity affects a person's social skills, some people are 'socially masked,' others struggle with eye contact, and some can fit in anywhere, being sensitive to someone's level of comfort or discomfort will help them feel they have a place in your team regardless.

3. Educate yourself and your team with neurodiversity training

Neurodiversity training can help ensure that your company is truly hiring and operating with diversity at its core. It can help your hiring managers understand how unconscious bias can emerge when interviewing neurodiverse candidates (for example, making a snap judgment about a candidate who isn't making eye contact), how the social aspects of onboarding and 'breaking the ice' with small talk can cause anxiety for some, and much more.

Neurodiversity training will aid your future recruiting efforts while also ensuring that your current workforce is supported by empathic and supportive processes and systems.

The technology industry is made up of numerous diverse roles, from developers, cyber security experts, IT managers to software engineers plus many more. All of which can benefit from the skills possessed by many neurodiverse candidates.

With differences in thinking, neurodiverse people can bring alternative perspectives that may not have been explored before. Businesses must continue to prioritise cognitive diversity in their workforce, as every individual brings unique knowledge, experiences, and skills to the table and can help drive progress in technological innovation.

Peter, like so many others, is convinced that neurodiverse people have a lot to offer to the IT Industry:  

“People who are neurodiverse have a wealth of talent for the IT industry. It’s a shame most people don’t trust them. We think like computers. Input and output, from completing simple tasks over and over again to tackling bigger tasks with lots of components. For example, I’m praised a lot for my out of the box thinking.” 

When it comes to attracting and hiring neurodiverse talent, Peter thinks recruiters and employers should simply “be kind, be honest […] and don’t treat us like a number or a statistic. Treat people as humans.”  

Some companies might still need a gentle push in the right direction but “all in all it’s worth it, and your company will have a better reputation”, Peter continues. Recruiters could “be changing the world one company at a time, that’s what I’m doing with my own story. I, for one, am happy to answer any questions and will happily talk to teams to help.” 

Diversity & Inclusion aren’t always easy to achieve. Still, we’re hoping to help by raising awareness, helping to educate people on the matter, tackling biases, and giving people a voice and a platform to share their story.  

Why Neurodiverse Workforces Matter

What are some of the most common soft skills when looking for strong candidates for tech roles? Job postings frequently request candidates who can think outside the box, actively develop strategies, new approaches, and so on.

These are frequently skills in which neurodiverse people excel. Of course, it's important to consider the benefits of a neurodiverse workforce.

It is a good idea to think about diversifying your workforce and introducing neurodiverse workers. Nobody should be denied a meaningful career because of the way their brain is wired.

Furthermore, neurodiversity should not be exploited for financial gain. Instead of simply hiring someone because you believe their brain-wiring will allow you to make more money, it is critical to highlight, support, and develop systems that allow neurodiverse people to thrive.

We’d like to thank Peter very much for taking the time and sharing his thoughts with us, we wish him all the best in his new job and hope to stay in touch! 

If you’d like to know more about hiring neurodiverse talent, feel free to get in touch and we can point you in the right direction.

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