These days, more employers are using pre-employment personality tests to screen potential hires, and that can be an added hardship for autistic candidates.
Legal Employment Discrimination
Because of diversity and inclusion initiatives, companies cannot outright deny anyone a job due to their disability, neurotype, or personality. However, what they can do is make it very difficult to get their foot in the door, and that, in my opinion, is a sneaky way to practice legal employment discrimination.
If you do some research, you’ll find that companies use pre-employment tests to assess candidates based on their character traits and personality, and whether or not potential candidates will fit in with the rest of the employees already working there.
According to an article published by TopResume.com:
“Research shows that if an employee is placed in a position that doesn’t match their personality traits, it often leads to lower engagement.”
Not lowered productivity, not lowered ability, lower engagement, which highlights what companies comprised of primarily neurotypical employees value above skill, education, and passion for the job–and that is the ability to engage in complex, multilayered social tactics within a hierarchy as a means to win friends, curry favor, and climb the corporate ladder.
The autistic brain does not operate like this. We are literal thinkers who say what we mean and mean what we say. We are honest, straightforward, direct, no-nonsense people, and our brains don’t automatically detect and adhere to the unwritten rules of social hierarchy.
This means that these personality tests automatically “weed us out” even if we have the right education, training, and drive, and–although it may be rough to hear, that’s the definition of discrimination.
A Personality Test for Data Entry?
If personality tests were limited to executives moving to top management positions, the use of them would at least make logical sense. After all, some C-suite positions require a certain type of personality to be successful, and people who are responsible for managing entire departments or companies also need to be able to manage the stress and responsibility that comes with such a title.
However, it makes no sense, at least to me, why even entry-level jobs seem to now require these preliminary tests. I personally know an autistic individual who has been stymied quite a few times by them when applying for remote data entry jobs! In a position like that, there’s hardly any contact with customers and only limited contact with fellow employees, so why would there be a need to assess someone’s personality to hire them to copy and paste?
Autistic People Already Struggle to Find Employment
Statistics show that a staggering 85 percent of autistic adults, with a college education, are unemployed–and current hiring practices may be a large contributor to this.
Since the entire hiring procedure–from submitting a resume to interviewing to onboarding–is geared towards neurotypical individuals, autistic people are often either passed over for the job or hired and let go before their probation period is over.
This is because we communicate and behave differently from our neurotypical counterparts, and those differences can be read as a lack of interest or ability, rudeness, insubordination, and/or underhandedness when viewed through a neurotypical lens.
For example, lack of eye contact can be read as sneaky when it’s actually uncomfortable. Not laughing at a joke can be seen as rude when, in reality, the autistic candidate just didn’t pick up on it.
Taking questions literally and answering them in great detail can be yet another strike against an autistic candidate. Furthermore, a stoic facial expression or a flat tone of voice can be seen as a lack of interest or boredom when, in fact, this is just how autistic neurology affects our face and tone of voice, and there’s no hidden social meaning in it!
On top of all that, these personality tests ask questions about imaginary scenarios that likely wouldn’t come up during an ordinary workday and have nothing to do with the job itself, and this can be very confusing and disheartening for the autistic person who simply doesn’t think this way.
Pre-employment personality tests are exclusionary to a marginalized group of people who already struggle to obtain and retain gainful employment. It’s just another barrier that keeps autistic people from living their lives to the fullest while offering their unique perspective and talent to a company that could benefit from neurodiversity.
If your company is using them, ask yourself why. Does the position really require it, or are you just hesitant about working with different brain types?
If your answer is the latter, I encourage you to shake it up a bit because your competitors are already reaping the benefits of neurodivergent hires, and your company may fall behind if you continue sticking to business as usual.