Job interviews are stressful for many people, but these processes are especially exclusive to neurodivergent job candidates, as they are designed for neurotypicals, who perform socially.
My lack of facial expression, often called “flat affect”, especially by members of the medical community, encourages interviewers to assume I’m not interested in the job. Or they assume I lack capabilities. Or they think I’m nervous. Interviewers also believe I’m challenging or joking when I ask “unusual questions” or give direct answers. I know this because they tell me.
As an autistic job candidate, I struggle to sell myself. I’m not a fan of talking about myself. Self is a confusing topic. I also don’t know how people see me, and rarely do I understand the vague, indirect questions employers ask me. I also find face-to-face communication exhausting and spend much of the interview struggling to stay awake.
What matters are a person’s skills, not how they perform socially. No one should be denied a job because they refused to give a firm handshake, flatter an interviewer, or make eye contact. I experience eye contact as multitasking, and multitasking amounts to performing multiple tasks poorly. When asked a question, I look up at my thoughts, download memories, to find what I’ve determined is the best possible answer.
This can take time, but sometimes this doesn’t take long. My reply is often met, however, with criticism that I’ve taken too long to respond. Or that I’ve responded too quickly. Or that I’m nervous, suspicious, or otherwise “weird” or “unusual” for looking at my thoughts. My honesty confuses interviewers, as does my body language. Their body language confuses me, and often feels manipulative.
Until I entered the neurodiversity community, I assumed these problems were unique to me, but these experiences are common to neurodivergents. Over half (52%) of the neurodivergents who participated in a 2018 study by the Westminster Achieve Ability Commission (WAC) reported experiences of discrimination during job selection process. This includes interviews. Nearly the same amount of neurodivergent interviewees (43%) felt discouraged from applying to jobs altogether.
Interviews are unnecessary. They are also distracting, as employers lose sight of what matters during an interview: skills. By bypassing these archaic processes, employers can focus solely on the candidate’s skills, finding the best person for the job, rather than the best talker. They’ll learn how little social presentation matters for most jobs.