(Image is of a person in a suit holding a handbag leaping towards a hill with the word “JOB” on it at sunset.)
(CN discrimination, ableism, masking)
As part of my preparation for life after I graduate, I have been spending some time throughout my last year at university learning about the graduate recruitment system that I would have to deal with to get a job at a major employer. The workshop I attended recently was about assessment centres and what I would have to deal with. This is a long post hence it’s split into two pages however I hope there is something here that could help autistic jobseekers.
Please bear in mind that while I have not actually been to an assessment centre, I but I left the session in a meltdown. I felt that trying to engage with the typical graduate recruitment system isn’t feasible for me period. The very thought of it fills me with anxiety. When I have to deal with how inaccessible it is, I enter meltdowns. I already had this before when I attended a previous workshop on video interviews (and how some recruiters are starting to use AI to assess candidates) as well as another workshops on when I was asked to discuss my strengths and weaknesses.
I am going to discuss some of the major points brought up in this session, my thoughts on it and how they make the recruitment process inaccessible for those diagnosed as autistic and/or ADHD. Note that some of these thoughts will apply to other neurotypes as well as mental illnesses.
The importance of the telephone
This is a major accessibility issue as employers place great importance on the telephone to communicate with potential candidates which of course causes problems if someone is unable to use the telephone in any way. Allow me to elaborate further.
Employer expect candidates to call them to let them know if they running late for interviews/assessments.
A lot of autistic people have huge anxiety calling strangers which includes unexpected phone calls. If an unexpected event happens and the autistic person needs to cancel this demand may be impossible for them to do. This is especially important as employers will expect candidates to ask if it is still ok that they can arrive at the assessment centre at a later time. They may start the assessment without them especially if most other candidates have already arrived. If they are too anxious to use the phone, it is very unlikely that any other form of contact would be accepted. I would assume this includes texts and email as well.
Do not use mobile phones in the waiting rooms for interviews/assessments.
This also relates to issues with how telephones are often used for fidgeting, dealing with nerves or communicating with others. Alternatives for this could work like a fidget cube, but that doesn’t mean misunderstandings won’t happen. The expectations that employers have will include reading various materials in the lobby, watching videos playing on TV as well as talking to other candidates in the area (which can actually add stress for neurodiverse people).
Should phone numbers always be disclosed in applications?
This is something I wondered as a result of the workshop. Although it is expected that phone numbers are given on all applications as a way of being contacted, if somebody won’t answer the call due to anxiety (or another reason), what is the point of giving the prospective employer their number? On the other hand, if a phone number isn’t disclosed on the application would an employer disqualify them immediately for that? I don’t know the answer to that. Either way, this is a huge accessibility issue.
This is an area where many autistic struggle and employers assess how often you use eye contact as a way to help them assess candidates for their roles. The problem with this is that it negatively discriminates against those that don’t present in a neurotypical way. This of course ties into masking and is one reason why many autistic people learn to do it. However, there are many that can’t or refuse to mask and thus are prone to having their chance taken from them because employers judge them by fixed NT standards. In other words, the very process of recruitment encourages masking.
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