The benefits of hiring neurodiverse workers

Great minds don’t always think alike - and that difference can bring huge benefits for your organisation.  

Neurodivergent people are often ignored as important talent who can positively impact an organisation, so how can you adjust your recruitment processes to be more inclusive?  

Neurodivergence is an umbrella term used to describe neurological conditions that are part of the normal variations of the brain. There is no one ‘right’ way of thinking, and neurodivergence isn't framed as a limitation but rather as a unique asset. It’s also not uncommon - it’s estimated that more than 1 in 6 identify as neurodivergent. 

David Smith is Managing Director of Employ for Ability, which helps organisations understand the benefits of hiring neurodivergent people. He says that while there is no standard definition of which conditions are considered neurodivergent, the most common are autism, ADHD and dyslexia. 

“There are others, like dyscalculia, which is a condition that makes it hard to do maths,” he says. “The reasonable adjustments that one neurodivergent person needs may be different to another.” 

Benefits of hiring neurodivergent workers 

The benefits of diversity in the workplace are well documented. By hiring neurodivergent people, your organisation may benefit from a wider range of perspectives and experiences.  

This can lead to new approaches to solving problems, for example, or more creative ways to engage with customers. It can also improve your workplace culture, because everyone is welcome. 

Smith encourages employers to look at the positive side of employing neurodivergent workers. 

“This morning, I met a young person who wants to work in customer service and they're going to be amazing, because they're very empathetic and they're very friendly,” he says.  

“Not all people can work in customer service. Some people are great at it, some people are not good at it. It's got nothing to do with the condition they've been diagnosed with. Some of our clients are great at finance,  some are great at hospitality, some make great courier drivers. ” 

How to adjust your interview processes 

Along with some diversity training for hiring managers, you may need to make reasonable adjustments to attract and accommodate some neurodivergent candidates. 

1. Provide interview questions beforehand 

“One way is to give all the applicants the interview questions before the interview,” says Smith. “There's a misconception that it's not fair to one candidate if you give another one the interview questions a day before the interview, so why not give them to everyone earlier? That levels the playing field and takes some of the stress away.” 

2. Clear interview questions 

Smith adds that interview questions should be carefully considered so that they're not abstract or vague.  

“The classic question of ‘where do you want to be in five years?’ might be clear for a non-neurodivergent person – they know that you’re referring to their career. Whereas the neurodivergent brain is more likely to think figuratively. So, include the context in your question, such as ‘where do you see your career in five years?’.” 

3. Consider the layout of the interview room 

You may also need to adjust the layout of your interview room to accommodate a neurodivergent candidate. Smith recommends making the room feel less formal. For example, rather than a panel of three interviewers sitting across the table from a candidate, consider choosing a four-sided table with one person sitting on each side. 

4. Consider a work trial instead of an interview 

Smith notes that job interviews can create excessive anxiety for some neurodivergent candidates. In this case, he suggests accommodating a two-hour work trial in place of a traditional interview.  

“Fair Work allows somebody to do an unpaid work trial if it's reasonable,” says Smith. “They can show you what they can do in a condensed time frame.” 

“The other way is for the interview to become a simulation, where a candidate has an hour to do the relevant tasks.” 

Avoiding bias in job interviews 

Myths about neurodivergent people can allow bias to creep into job interviews. 

“If you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism,” says Smith.  “What that really means is that just like anyone else, an individual with autism is just as unique as the next person with autism, but there are stereotypes that assume they’re all the same.” 

Here is the truth behind some common myths about neurodiversity to help you avoid bias. 

Myth #1: Neurodivergent workers are only suited to tech roles. 

Neurodiversity is a term that cover a variety of conditions, experiences and ways of thinking, so a neurodivergent person may be suited to any type of role, depending on their individual and unique strengths. 

Myth #2: Neurodivergent people are all similar. 

A neurodivergent person is as individual and unique as the next. Like all humans, they have strengths and weaknesses. It’s a myth to assume they’re all the same. 

Myth #3: Neurodivergent people can’t form relationships at work. 

Some neurodiverse people may interact differently, but they are just as capable for forming fulfilling relationships at work as anyone else. 

Myth #4: Neurodivergent people have intellectual disabilities. 

Neurodivergence describes a range of neurological conditions that are part of the normal variations of the brain. It’s not a disability. 

Myth #5: Neurodiverse individuals do not possess valuable workplace skills. 

Neurodivergent people can be just as capable and productive in the workplace as any employee. Different ways of thinking can lead to better ideas, so embracing this kind of diversity can create a competitive edge. 

Neurodivergent conditions are normal variations of the brain. Hiring people who think differently can bring a powerful diversity of perspectives and experiences to your organisations. With some reasonable adjustments to your recruitment process, you can tap into a wider range of talented people who can positively impact your organisation.