Why You Should Be Hiring for Neurodiversity (And How to Do It)

neurodiversity recruiting

As larger organizations like Google and Microsoft create initiatives to hire for neurodiversity, other companies will inevitably follow suit, seeking to attract and recruit talent that has otherwise been overlooked. However, recruiting neurodivergent talent isn’t as simple as leveraging niche job boards. 

How can your hiring team leverage its recruiting practices to attract, hire, and keep neurodivergent talent? Let’s break down the strategic and tactical ways you can do just that. 

Why should you hire for neurodiversity?

Picture this: 

You’ve come across a highly qualified candidate named Paul who is a brilliant data analyst with a varied software development skillset. His education, professional background, and experience are exactly what you’re looking for to fill your open Developer role. And, as a software company, he’s an obvious candidate to hire—right?

Then you get to the interview stage, and you realize in speaking with Paul that he has a few eccentricities. He doesn’t seem to maintain eye contact well, takes long pauses in between his answers, and you notice he has a nervous tick. 

Would you hire Paul anyway?

Neurodiversity as a competitive advantage

‘Neurodiversity’ is a relatively new term that refers to autistic people (ASD), dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, and other neurological conditions. These include‌ ‘spectrum conditions’ with a wide range of characteristics. 

And yet, many organizations fail to understand neurodivergent talent, as neurodivergent people can struggle to fit the ‘mold’ or ‘profile’ sought by employers for open roles. 

For too long, companies (based on poor reasoning) turned candidates like Paul away, such as ‘bad culture fit,’ because Paul doesn’t fit the mold companies often have in mind for the ‘standard’ employee. Many organizations may not have understood that Paul isn’t unqualified for the role—his brain simply functions and processes things differently than theirs do. In other words, Paul is neurodivergent. 

A major step forward hiring teams must take is to recognize that neurodivergent people may display standards of friendliness, openness, and communication differently than what neurotypical interviewers and recruiters would otherwise view as ‘green flags.’ 

So, the million-dollar question is, how can you recruit neurodivergent talent? There are several tactics you can use to attract and hire this talent, but some will be strategic while others will be tactical. Let’s break down both categories. 

Strategic ways you can attract neurodivergent candidates to your company 

Before your hiring team can proactively recruit neurodivergent candidates, there has to first be an understanding across your entire organization of your DEI initiatives and what employees at all levels can do to support diversity and neurodiversity across the board. In this sense, some of your neurodiversity initiatives will be strategic, meaning they’ll help your recruiters build a foundation for hiring and retaining neurodivergent talent. 

Get buy-in from all levels 

All employees at every level of your organization must be aware and supportive of neurodiversity initiatives. Though leadership is especially important for buy-in, employees at different levels of seniority will have questions about how you’re recruiting neurodivergent talent, how you’ll set these candidates up for success, and what team members can do to support neurodivergent coworkers. 

For example:

  • Hiring managers and talent acquisition leaders should engage with senior leadership to encourage conversations with departments about neurodiversity 
  • Senior leadership should have open, transparent conversations to help answer questions as well as provide clarity and resources 
  • Recruiters and all employees alike should have the learning and coaching opportunities available to them to learn about neurodiversity 

Rethink your employer brand

Whether you have an existing neurodiversity program or want to work on developing one of your own, ensuring this initiative is part of internal and external employer branding is key to helping candidates and employees alike understand your efforts. 

For example, your company can join a neurodiversity roundtable, advertise its diversity policies and initiatives in job descriptions, make information about neurodiversity programs readily available on company web pages, and include neurodiverse stakeholders in interviews (to mention just a few ideas). 

The key here is ensuring that employees and candidates alike can easily find information about how and why your company recruits for diversity, including neurodiversity. 

Engage with your networks and communities

Engaging with networking groups and communities that support neurodivergent talent can help your hiring team source, attract, and hire neurodivergent candidates, but it’s not enough to leverage these communities as open job boards. 

Instead, recruiters and hiring managers should consider joining groups (both virtual and physical) such as online networking groups, government agencies, non-profits, and volunteer boards where they can receive crucial training, resources, and information that benefits recruitment and retention. 

At the same time, these groups can connect neurodivergent talent with organizations that are making the effort to improve their diversity recruiting while actively looking to hire for neurodiversity

Tactical ways you can attract neurodivergent candidates to your company 

There are tactical ways in which you can optimize your entire recruitment process to be inclusive of neurodivergent talent. Let’s break down these tactical tips!

Make job applications more accessible 

To ensure job applications are more accessible for everyone, consider using only those questions and qualifiers that are necessary for gathering information that helps you assess a candidate. Consider removing the need for multiple questions, for instance, and eliminate mandatory disclosure questions. 

Here are a few additional tips:

  • If your job applications require mandatory Q&A, allow for the option to write responses rather than record videos or upload documents
  • Provide a non-mandatory option for candidates to explain how they work best and the type of environment they need to perform their best, too 
  • Allow for open disclosure rather than requiring candidates to disclose whether they are neurodivergent

Review and update your job descriptions for relevance and clarity

The more clear and relevant your job descriptions are for each role you’re filling, the better off your hiring team will be in recruiting neurodivergent talent. For example, including multiple paragraphs of text that revolve around the company and its culture, along with a ‘wishlist’ of skills and requirements, can be challenging for neurodivergent candidates to consider what’s truly being asked of the person filling the role. 

This means focusing on: 

  • Who the role reports to, which team the role falls under, and what the daily tasks of the role are
  • What candidates can expect of the interview process and the ability to view interview questions ahead of any phone, virtual, or in-person interviews
  • Information about the team members themselves, such as who will conduct the interviews and who the candidate can expect to speak with 

Audit and revise your Career, DEI, and About pages

Visually impactful or engaging web pages like your Career page may be a great way to attract users to your website, but consider the accessibility of these pages not only for neurodivergent candidates but also those with disabilities. In many cases, these pages with rich media (think: GIFs, flashing imagery, fast-paced videos that play on a loop) can be overwhelming or ambiguous for neurodivergent people and can also skew the messaging of the page. 

To ensure these pages are clear, concise, and also accessible, try these tactical tips: 

  • Give users the ability to turn off rich media or pause videos, GIFs, and interactive content. 
  • Make it possible for site users to adjust or turn off any audio content, such as giving the option to toggle volume buttons on and off. 
  • Eliminate any unnecessary media (such as flashing page banners or pop-ups).
  • Run your webpage through an online accessibility checker to ensure it is accessible to those with disabilities, as well as neurodivergent users. 

Attract, hire, and retain neurodivergent talent with our Neurodiversity Recruiting Guide

In a world where more organizations are celebrating diversity in many of its forms, neurodivergent talent continues to be overlooked despite the many benefits of working with neurodivergent people. However, as with all diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, hiring for neurodiversity is not a one-and-done initiative. It requires a stringent commitment to making measurable improvements in how you hire and practice diversity recruiting.

To support your hiring team in building stronger partnerships with hiring managers to recruit and retain neurodivergent talent, download your free copy of our Neurodiversity Recruiting Guide!

recruiting for neurodiversity