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Neurodiversity Hiring Practices: How to Eliminate Bias

When you're working toward achieving your diversity recruitment goals, it's important to remember that diversity is all-encompassing and much more than skin deep. If you're solely focusing on areas like gender and racial diversity, you may be unintentionally excluding a huge portion of the underrepresented workforce that doesn’t seem as obvious: the neurodiverse population.

Neurodiverse candidates are those who have natural variations in their brain that impacts the way they think, learn, and communicate—so they may have conditions like ADHD, autism, and dyslexia. Despite the challenges these workers may face, they can be a huge asset to any workplace. In fact, research from Accenture found organizations that hire people living with disabilities earn 28 percent higher revenues than their less diverse counterparts, as well as enjoying higher rates of innovation, retention, and engagement.

While hiring managers may not overtly set out to discriminate against neurodiverse candidates, they may harbor unconscious bias towards them because of the way these workers present themselves during job interviews, or the fact that they may have difficulty navigating some companies' application processes. In order to combat any unconscious bias in the hiring process that can create a disadvantage for this talent, you can adopt the following strategies.

Neurodiversity Hiring Practices

1. Offer ADA Training to All Employees

Offering Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) training is a good place to start when working to make the hiring process fair for those who are neurodivergent, as well as people who have a variety of other disabilities. This will not only position your organization to avoid breaking ADA guidelines and creating an opening for legal liability, it can also be a way for hiring managers to better understand the capabilities these workers have, the accommodations they need, and the challenges people with disabilities face.  

2. Review Job Descriptions for Bias

If your job descriptions include a laundry list of qualifications and duties, it may discourage neurodiverse candidates from applying for a position. Job advertisements should be clear, concise, and jargon free to make it more likely that talent with neurodivergent conditions will apply. Also, consider eliminating default job description language, such as phrases like "excellent communication skills," which can make these applicants feel like they aren't a good fit for a position. In addition, it's a good idea to include a statement making it clear that neurodivergent candidates are welcome, and your organization is willing to make reasonable accommodations for these applicants.

3. Look at the Interview Process

Recruiters should keep in mind that candidates who are neurodivergent may handle body language, verbal communication, and eye contact differently than others, so it's important to conduct job interviews in a way that focuses solely on skills related to the position.  Also, be sure to make accommodations that give this talent an opportunity to shine during interviews, such as providing the interview questions in advance so they can prepare; being flexible with scheduling so candidates can interview during times they feel most comfortable and alert; and choosing a location free of noise and clutter that may be distracting. In addition, if your organization uses a panel format for interviews so several stakeholders can speak to each applicant at the same time, it's a good idea to instead arrange one-on-one interviews for candidates who are neurodiverse so they don't become overwhelmed talking to multiple people. 

4. Revamp Careers Website

While graphics can make your company's career website appealing to the eye and help attract visitors, keep in mind that sites that are too flashy can make it difficult for neurodivergent people to process information. With this in mind, it's a good idea to remove any graphics or content that blinks or flashes in order to make it easier for these candidates to read the site. 

However, your website can include information on how your company is inclusive for neurodiverse candidates. If you already have this talent at your organization, be sure to share their stories so potential applicants see there is a place for them in your workforce. 

5. Rethink Assessments

Assessments are generally used to level the playing field for all candidates, but for neurodiverse people, tests may actually hinder their ability to demonstrate skills. For example, if you conduct onsite assessments during the interview process, consider where they're being held. Make sure assessments take place in areas free of distractions and noise that can make it difficult for candidates to perform well. Also, if you use game-based assessments, like pattern recognition tasks, they can be difficult for neurodivergent candidates, so you may want to reconsider using them during the hiring process.

If you're working through your D&I plan, to ensure the hiring process is fair for all applicants, you shouldn’t overlook the unique needs of neurodiverse candidates. These tips can help make it easier to get this talent into your hiring funnel pipeline and better position candidates for success.

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