Best practice tips for neurodiversity inclusion in attraction and selection processes

Sep 9, 2021 | Diversity

Lisa Brennan, MD at Strategic Ambitions, shares top five tips to attract and select neurodivergent talent.

There are many different types of neurodivergence, including but not limited to

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder;
  • Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder;
  • Tourette’s Syndrome, Tics and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder;
  • Dyslexia;
  • Dyspraxia;

The term Neurodiversity was coined as a social category in 1998, when Sociologist, Judy Singer published her thesis. 

In introducing the term, her aim was to breakdown the stereotypes and bias against those individuals who think, process and view the world differently. 

The intention was to raise neurodiversity as a social category on a par with things like gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity etc. and to prevent individuals who identify as being neurodivergent from being seen as less than their neurotypical peers.

But in reality, neurodiversity inclusion in the workplace, has only become prominent in the last five years, some 20 years after the term was first introduced.

Why is neurodiversity inclusion important?

We hear so much from companies stating that they want to be more progressive, innovative or disruptive in their sectors.  As a result, employers want their employees to think differently.

But the processes and criteria used to attract, select and manage employees remain the same…they remain neurotypical.  Meaning they continue to recruit and retain more of the same types of people.

There is a huge neurodivergent talent pool out there, of people who do think differently and can bring so much value and diversity of thought and practice to businesses.

Research conducted by Cognassist suggests that it is likely that one in three people of the UK working-age population are neurodiverse, this equates to just under 14 million people.

Whilst this is a huge talent pool of diverse thinkers that employers can tap into, there is a big issue with education and confidence in recruiting neurodivergent employees.

A recent survey carried out by the Institute of Leadership and Management, on Neurodiversity in the workplace, informs that 50% of managers (1,100 employers surveyed) would be reluctant to recruit a candidate with a neurodivergence.

Showing that progress towards Judy Singer’s aim of breaking down the bias towards those who have a neurodivergence, has been slow and it needs continual focus and strategic consideration for each business.

What can you do to make sure that your business is inclusive of neurodivergent talent?

Of course, neurodiversity inclusion is not just about saying ‘yes, we’re open to applications from neurodivergent candidates’, it’s ensuring that your attraction, selection and other employment cycle processes are fair and equitable for neurodivergent talent.

You don’t need to spend lots of money on programmes to demonstrate that your business is welcoming of attracting and selecting neurodiverse candidates.  You can employ some of the best practice tips below to help build the sense of inclusivity, equity and belonging with candidates.


#1 Bring clarity to your adverts and job descriptions

  • Steer clear of long lists of skills and attributes that seem to describe a ‘perfect candidate’ that a neurodivergent may not relate to.
  • Be clear on what the specific requirements are for the role at the time of joining, not what you want the successful candidate to develop into.
  • State that you are open to applications from neurodivergent candidates. Make it clear that you are neurodiversity inclusive.

 #2 Align your attraction campaigns with your stakeholders

  • Make sure that everyone involved in your campaigns knows that you are neurodiversity inclusive.
  • Educate them to be comfortable and confident in meeting, conversing with and ultimately attracting neurodiverse talent into your business.
  • Don’t make promises in your attraction campaign on support and inclusivity for neurodivergent candidates that is not aligned to your selection process or what actually happens in practice in your business.

 #3 Consider how you can make your attraction activities neurodivergent inclusive

  • At events offer your materials in different formats e.g. written, video, direct to online information etc.
  • Think like retailers. Can you offer ‘quiet’ times or spaces for attendees to come and speak to you, who are noise sensitive or who experience anxiety in crowds and advertise this.
  • Allow the individual to record the discussion in-person or virtually, to play-back later.

 #4 Test your application process

  • Review every single stage of your application process, check it is equitable for neurodiverse candidates.
  • If you are not sure if it is equitable, reach out and ask some neurodivergent students to be part of an application testing session for you. Listen to and act on the feedback.
  • Make sure you know how you will handle neurodiversity disclosures. Create a clear process of what happens when an individual discloses that they have a neurodivergence and make it visible to candidates.

 #5 Be adaptable for all aspects of your selection process

  • Offering extra time for tests or exercises that require reading is great, but these are not the only accommodations you can make.
  • Speak to the individual, share with them the different types of assessment, suggest some accommodations that you can make, understand what their requirements are.
  • Be prepared to have alternative methods of selection in some cases.
  • Review your selection criteria, consider how you will make this equitable for neurodivergent candidates, who are essentially undertaking a neurotypical process.

 #6 Give specific advanced instructions

  • Don’t just say we are a five-minute walk from the train station, give specific instructions on how to arrive at your location.
  • Provide a clear outline of the selection process that the individual will take part in, what is expected of them and what accommodations you will make for them.
  • Give as much information on the selection process as possible to reduce anxiety, this can include providing a list of possible, or even the exact questions, the candidate will be asked, providing case studies and team exercise information ahead of time.

Neurodiversity should not be seen as some kind of box ticking exercise, it should be considered as an important part of a company’s make-up and culture, that candidates and employees are encouraged to be authentic, to be themselves, no matter how different they are.

If you missed Strategic Ambitions talking about neurodiversity at this year’s ISE Student Recruitment Conference you can catch up here



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