19th Jul 2017 by Adjust

Inclusive recruitment

Inclusive recruitment: Removing hidden barriers for neurodiverse candidates.

Employers may be missing out on hiring talented candidates because of hidden barriers in your recruitment processes. Often standardised testing and unclear wording can result in indirect disability discrimination.

In May 2017, Terri Brookes, a law graduate with a form of autism called Asperger’s syndrome campaigned to ensure that reasonable adjustments are made for candidates with hidden disabilities by taking the Government Legal Service (GLS) to an Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT).

As part of the recruitment process, Brookes was asked to take a multiple choice situational judgement test. Which she went on to fail by two points. Brookes argued that she should have been allowed to submit short written answers. This would have been a reasonable adjustment to the recruitment process.

The black and white nature of multiple-choice questionnaires can be a barrier for some autistic candidates.

The EAT agreed that Brookes did not pass the test because of her disability.  The tribunal found that the GLS had indirectly discriminated against Brookes and had not made relevant reasonable adjustments.

There can be many hidden barriers in the recruitment process for candidates with hidden disabilities. Autism is a hidden disability. The following recruitment scenarios outline potential barriers for autistic candidates.  At Adjust we know that employers want clear and practical tips when it comes to advice on inclusive recruitment. We have provided some clear and practical ideas for reasonable adjustments below to ensure your organisation is recruiting inclusively.

Scenario One

An autistic candidate is applying for work online. They’ve read the job description with a title that matches what they are looking for.They know the kind of role that suits them and that they have the relevant skills and experience.  The description for the job lists ‘required skills.’ One of these requirements is ‘great communication skills.’

How this creates a potential barrier: This is often included in job spec’s as standard. Even if the role in question involves mostly working alone in an office, or communicating mainly by email. If communication skills aren’t paramount (as they aren’t in some jobs) don’t include them as a necessity. Try to be more specific about the nature of communication.For instance is it written communication? Is it verbal?

By removing ‘required skills’ that aren’t truly essential, the job market becomes accessible to those with hidden disabilities.

This can help you to find the right candidate, and ensure the candidate finds a role that suits them, without being disheartened by a perceived lack of skill.

Scenario Two

A candidate has made it to the interview stage, and is feeling confident. They have been asked some very specific questions, and have answered flawlessly. As the conversation flows, they are asked a vague question: “can you tell us about yourself?”

How this creates a potential barrier: Vague or poorly worded questions with no obvious answer can create difficulties for those with a hidden disability. They may find it more difficult than another candidate to prioritise what is important and may try to put across their unfiltered life story instead. Where possible, try to ask clear and specific questions, so the candidate is aware of what information is required.

For example, “tell me about three tasks you did in your last job”. Rather than “tell me about your last job”.

Scenario Three

A candidate is in an interview for a position they have thoroughly researched. After introductions have been made, the interviewer leads with a simple statement: “the job role has changed slightly since you applied.”

How this creates a potential barrier: Small changes can be a barrier for an autistic candidate, as many autistic people can find sudden changes difficult. To ensure a level playing field ensure the candidate is informed there has been a slight change to the role before the interview day. A small, unplanned sudden change can mean you do not assess the relevant skills of your autistic candidate. And may miss out on the skills they can bring to your organisation. Individuals on the autistic spectrum have a huge amount to offer, bringing unique skills that other candidates may not be able to add to your organisation.

By making these small adjustments to the recruitment process, you can ensure that your procedures are fair and inclusive. Ensuring that you aren’t missing out on a candidate that could become absolutely vital to your organisation.

In addition, these changes are often beneficial for all candidates, ensuring managers can accurately assess candidates’ abilities and improving the recruitment experience for all candidates.


You may also consider as an alternative to an interview giving an autistic candidate a work trial. To learn more about inclusive recruitment consider booking a place on our new “Neurodiversity Works” training course or contact us for clear and practical tips on how to create an Neurodiveristy inclusive approach to recruiting candidates.

Contacts us to see how Adjust can help your organisation adjust your recruitment procedures to attract Neurodiverse talent