This blog is written to inspire recruiters, HR managers and employers at large to consider what a potential dream recruitment scenario could look like for an autistic person.
I’ve written it because I find that many employers seemingly expect workplace adjustments to be complicated and cumbersome, when the reality is that it’s often the small, considered and thoughtful gestures that make all the difference.
The crucial learning point to bear in mind is that each autistic person is different and therefore our needs are individual, so this is really just one example.
Our spikey profiles tend to be more enhanced than the neurotypical population and I would recommend reading this blog to learn more about this. As usual, the advice in this dream scenario blog can be applied to any and all employees, as each of us are different and will have individual needs and skills that can be enhanced with the right support at work.
The dream scenario:
The Marketing Assistant role came up in my feed on social media and I clicked onto what was a short, succinct and well written job description. It contained just the right amount of information, including testimonials of what it’s like to work at the company, photos of two people I can reach out to if I have any questions before applying, but most importantly; a job description that makes sense. It uses plain, simple English and quickly gets to the point. It even uses bullet points, which make all the difference to me in terms of my ability to take in and process information effectively.
I’ve always wanted to become a Marketing Assistant, but with little work experience and just one stint of volunteer experience at my local charity store, I wasn’t quite sure if this would be a role I could land. Luckily this job doesn’t require a degree or any prior work experience. It says that any type of experience is helpful and gives an example of someone who has created their own bake sale and managed to advertise this in their local village and raised funds for charity. This is good, because it’s very clear on the type of experience that counts, whereas I normally become quickly put off when an organisation says it wants ‘relevant experience’. I therefore feel that the job can’t possibly be for me.
Another thing I really like about the advert is that the organisation is a pro-disability employer and they actively encourage diversity, which they stipulate as including neurodivergent candidates.
The fact that they even mention the term ‘neurodivergent’ on their job advert fills me with confidence that they genuinely care for diversity, and they also have an idea of all the forms that this can come in. All too often I see adverts for roles that say they are ‘disability-friendly’, yet they have a narrow idea of what this refers too. This company appears thoughtful.
In terms of applying for the role, the organisation offers an array of choice, including a presentation, video, online interview or written output. I decide to go for the presentation option choice, as I’m hugely creative, and can really show off my PowerPoint skills whilst producing an audio output to fully verbalise my skills and experience and bring the slides to life. Other than the application deadline, I’m so happy I have no time pressure to create this presentation and love how this is targeted to bring out the best in me – much better than having to decipher interview questions on the spot and to articulate my knowledge in the typical question and answer format. I also appreciate the parameters they give for each task option, for instance with the slide and word limit. I always get so carried away, so this helps rein me in.
I couldn’t have asked for better communication at this stage.
I especially value that they have different font, size and background colour options, so I can truly customise my reading experience, or I can watch a video version or listen to an audio version of the job description if I need.
I receive feedback on my presentation and it’s so positive that I get the job! The team really like my style and how I used my intuition to add in extra examples of how I could best serve the organisation with real-life examples (I couldn’t resist adding this in as I’m so passionate about all the amazing work the company do). And the interview format enabled me to feel relaxed enough to add in these little extras.
I’m so relieved that I didn’t have to sit through the torment of a traditional job interview, where I know that I will seize up, and they’d have had no sense of all that I can create and do ordinarily – let alone at my best. I’ve never understood why they are still used so much.
I’m invited onto the premises where I’m to meet my manager, buddy and mentor, and to have a tour around the building where I’ll be working. This is before I start the job. I’m allowed to take my sister with me as a support person, as I’m currently waiting to receive a support worker via the government’s Access to Work scheme. I’ve been made aware that my manager has been autism trained, and that she will go on a refresher course in the next month, as the company understand how important it is to get regular training as concepts and terminology can quickly change. The organisation’s employees have also recently received training in neurodiversity and intersectionality, which is great as they aren’t simply looking at the various aspects of neurodiversity in isolation. This again reassures me greatly, as I get so anxious having to explain time and again what autism is and having to justify that I am autistic, as mostly people only know of preconceived ideas of autism: normally male dominant media stereotypes: Ugh.
Before going into the office for my pre-meet, I am sent a form where I can stipulate my preferred method of communication in ranked order. I love email. I am also to put together a type of ‘passport’ which lays out my wellbeing needs. It’s something that all staff starting out at the organisation fill out, as it recognises that each of us are different and therefore have some type of need in terms of how we’d like to be communicated with, as well as environmental adjustments and preferences around working days and hours. For me, I know that I appreciate regular weekly catch ups with a manager to touch base with briefly on my work tasks and priorities. I love that I can write all of this down – and can add to it at any stage. This is great, because of course I won’t know what my workplace adjustments will be until I properly start working; This is also a good opportunity to see what examples are already available to me in the organisation, which can inspire my choices. This is excellent; I’ve never seen this before and really think all organisations should have this type of wellbeing passport.
The culture it creates is that adjustments are normal, as it recognises individual needs as a no-brainer and something for everyone.
Furthermore, I receive information about my buddy and mentor ahead of meeting them; their photos and a brief profile on what they do at work, and what their role will be in terms of supporting me in the workplace. They seem so nice, and the scheme feels so purposeful and supportive. It also clearly differentiates them both, which is great as I wasn’t quite sure on the difference between a mentor and buddy. And finally, I learn about future progression in the organisation, and that once I’ve settled in I get to engage with a job coach; I get to choose when this is and at the frequency I determine, with the purpose to work on my progression within the organisation.
I am anxious about starting my new role, but I feel that this is an employer that has already made so much effort so far, and seems to really care and simply ‘gets it’. It’s not often I see this in action rather than in words or policies, so this feels really promising. Tomorrow I’ll go in with my sister who will help me with the travel aspect, and then I will meet my line manager and take it from there!
I hope this rendition of a dream scenario provides some type of inspiration as to the varied types of options that can be used to interview and onboard someone into the workplace, and what practical aspects can really help make a difference. It really is the small things that count and matter. I’d say that whatever methods are used, please always ensure that these aren’t too overwhelming; There is a balance of ensuring it is informative, supportive and succinct to be considered. Happy accessibility!