Supporting Neurodiverse Job Seekers and Employees to Gain and Maintain Employment

Picture of people working in an office

Unemployment figures for neurodivergent adults remain at a staggering 30-40%, with rates amongst the autistic population running as high as 85% when both unemployment and underemployment are taken into account. There are a number of reasons why these figures are so high, and I will be exploring some of these issues that the Specialisterne Ireland team encounters frequently, with proposed solutions to each. 

The first barrier many people face is the job description itself. Job specs often list required skills that are not necessary for the position. For example, the oft seen demand for a full, clean driving license for an office job. While a neurotypical person may look at this and apply for the role regardless, from our experience of working with neurodivergent individuals, not ticking every box on the job description would often lead to candidates not applying for the role. Therefore, there should be a push for employers to consider if the job spec is a realistic description of the actual skills required for the position and not simply a wish list that could prove off-putting for neurodivergent candidates.

Another barrier in the employment process revolves around disclosure. It is very likely that an individual will hesitate about disclosing a diagnosis prior to or following an interview. Many neurodivergent people fear that they will be dismissed or discriminated against following disclosure. However, at Specialisterne Ireland, along with many of our partners, we see disclosure as a significant indicator that the individual is self-aware regarding their challenges and where they may need extra support. It is extremely important that when an individual discloses, they are met with openness and support, and that employers recognise the courage that disclosure takes. Be curious, ask questions about what they are finding difficult and have conversations about types of accommodations that may work for them. It is also essential that employers understand that the individual is the expert in their own experience and how their diagnosis impacts them.

Finally, just like many other people, neurodivergent individuals seek recognition and career advancement. The challenges one may experience and the supports they need during the initial stages of employment are unlikely to disappear as the employee settles into the role or is seeking promotion. Therefore, it is essential that the individual is met with the same openness and support throughout their entire employment experience at a company. Workplace and interview accommodations need to be easily implemented to ensure that neurodivergent individuals have access to an equal playing field when seeking advancement. 

In conclusion, it is clear that significant work needs to be done to challenge attitudes regarding neurodiversity in the workplace so that cultures of communication and support can be created and maintained. Annual training on this topic would be extremely beneficial to organisations to highlight how employees and employers can best support their neurodivergent colleagues, to reduce stigma and to raise awareness on the benefits of building diverse teams. 

It is worth noting that the neurodivergent candidates that we, at Specialisterne Ireland, place within our partner companies, are often the top performers in their respective teams. However, they may not have had the chance to demonstrate their skills and build a career for themselves without the neurodivergent friendly interviews or a supportive manager and work environment. This drives home the message that there is an urgent need for companies to re-evaluate their current hiring and employment practices so that they can tap into the amazing strengths and talents of the neurodivergent population.