By Anna Everts
This blog discusses the pros and cons of disclosing autism during a job interview. This blog is written for autistic people, by an autistic person with experience in the subject matter.
So, you’ve landed a job interview. Great! But now there probably are a million questions going through your mind; “What questions will they ask?”, “What should I wear?”, “What information do I want from them?”, and most importantly “Do I inform them about my autism?”.
For most autistic people the latter is a question they ponder about the longest. It’s not surprising, really. It’s an important question that could, unfortunately, affect the outcome of the interview. But for every reason to stay quiet about it, there is also a good reason to inform your possible future employer. Here are all the pros and cons listed for you, so you can make a decision that fits your situation.
Why you should bring up your autism during a job interview
1. Its a part of you
Autism is a part of you and it always will be. Whether or not you like it, it is most likely going to affect the way you interact with colleagues, supervisors and even clients. And that’s okay. Everyone deals with people differently, even those without autism. Some people loathe making phone calls, are a little too hyper around clients, or constantly disagree with their co-workers. No one handles social interactions the same way.
Of course for an autistic person social interactions are often far more difficult, but that doesn’t mean they’re impossible to work with. When someone hires you, they hire all of you. That includes your autism. So if someone wouldn’t want you because you’re autistic, you should ask yourself whether or not you want to work there. There will be enough other places that are in fact happy to explore your unique qualities and can give you what you need to be a functioning member of the team.
Pro: Your openness and honesty might be seen as a plus. Also you’ll know if the company is biased or not.
Con: The employer might be thinking in negative stereotypes. However Stack focuses on partnering with inclusive employers. This means that our employers understand autism and know how to support an autistic employee.
2. It prevents unwanted surprises
Sometimes us autistics need a little more help than others; a more thorough briefing, extra time to work on a task, or even a buddy who’s always ready to answer our questions. If you need these things to function properly in a workplace, it’s best to be open about it upfront. If you don’t, your employer will hire you with expectations you can’t meet and then both parties will be disappointed.
When you clearly state what you need to be a productive part of the team and also provide a solution for those needs, an employer will see that you are flexible and willing to meet them halfway into accommodating to your needs. And that might just earn you those extra points you need to get hired!
Pro: It prevents stress and miscommunication on both sides.
Con: Some employers might not be willing to meet you halfway. However, Stack Recruitment can assist in getting the employer to better understand your situation. This may just turn them around!
3. It provides an opportunity to highlight your unique skills
Your autism makes you unique. That also means you have qualities that non-autistics don’t have. You can use these qualities to your advantage. For example, during an interview you can tell an employer something along the lines of the following sentence:
“I have autism, which means that I’m really good at picking up on details. This enables me to execute a job with great precision.”
By presenting your autism in a positive light, the employer will think of the positive aspects first before making any assumptions about you. Of course you can mention any skill you think is valuable. Applying for the creative sector? Tell them about how creative autistic people are! Or does your autism make you a good problem solver? Tell them about that! Take some time to make a list with your unique skills and mention them during the interview. That way there’s less room for negative stereotypes.
Pro: It changes the perspective the employer might have on autism.
Con: Employers may still worry about supporting an autistic employee. However there are plenty of organisations and articles out there where they can gain useful advice and help. They just may need to be directed.
Why it might be better not to mention your autism
1. People are prejudiced
This is the sad truth. Many people are uninformed about what autism actually is and most of their knowledge about autism comes from extreme stereotypes. Of course, people can learn, but that doesn’t mean that they will. For this reason it might be better to not tell an employer that you’re autistic. Especially if you really need a job and cannot use another rejection, staying quiet about it might be the best way to go.
Furthermore, if you’ve noticed that people only tend to see your autism and not the rest of you, it might also be a good idea to keep quiet. You can always tell them later. In fact, you can choose not to tell them at first, let them get to know you, and then bring up your autism after a week on the job. That way your first impression isn’t tied to your autism.
Pro: The employer can get to know you without making false assumptions about you.
Con: By not telling the employer that you’re autistic, they won’t be able to provide the extra tools or help you might need. If you do run into problems, Stack can help you sort these out with your employer.
2. Your autism doesn’t affect the qualities needed for the job
Let’s say you struggle with talking to people on the phone or face to face, but talking to someone via text is not an issue at all. And let’s say in this case you’re applying for the webcare part of a servicecenter. You won’t have to talk to people face to face or assist them over the phone, so what’s the issue?
This is just one example of a case in which it might not be needed to mention your autism. If you feel your autism won’t be in the way of the tasks you need to perform at the job you’re applying for, then why bring it up? You don’t always have to tell people that you’re autistic if there’s no reason for them to know. Of course, you can still choose to tell them if you don’t feel comfortable keeping it quiet. It’s all a matter of what you think is best.
Pro: Not mentioning it when it isn’t needed will prevent prejudice.
Con: If problems do arise, you might still have to bring up your autism. But since you’ve already proven your worth, you have to worry less about facing prejudice. Your employer knows what you can do!
Whether or not you should bring up your autism during a job interview completely depends on your own situation. In the end you should do what feels best for you. If you’re very worried about the reaction of the employer and it’s eating you up inside, then don’t sweat it. Focus on the interview itself and don’t mention it just yet.
If you just want to be sure you’re accepted for who you are and don’t mind taking the risk, then go ahead and tell them! Make your own list of pros and cons so you can come to a conclusion that works for you. But no matter what you do, know that you have value. You can bring qualities to the table that others might not have. So never settle for something where your efforts aren’t appreciated.
As part of our new ‘love what you do’ blog series we are interviewing autistic adults that love their jobs.
This week we have the fantastic Maxwell, who works as a Marketing Executive.
Maxwell has provided a fantastic insight into the world of marketing and has given us some brilliant advice on finding and searching for jobs.
Thank you Maxwell!
1.Hi Maxwell, whats your job and what do you do on a day to day basis?
“My Job Title is Marketing/Content Executive at the Autism Directory and I have been here for 1 year and a half, having moved from Northern Ireland to Cardiff in September 2018.
A typical day involves checking social media, creating content and visuals using my graphic design skills, video editing skills and taking part in general marketing. I also like to research and come up with content ideas for social media.”
2.What do you love about your job?
“I love working with other people on the autistic spectrum; at the Autism Directory over 70% of staff are autistic. This means I work in an understanding environment with people who also share a passion for helping others through challenges we have ourselves faced.
This can be anything from applying to Personal Independence Payment to employment experiences. Saying that, we also have a good laugh in the office and I have made some very good friends.”
3.Why did you want to start a career in marketing?
“I wanted to start a career in marketing as I enjoy using my creative skills and creating connections with people, to tell stories.
I also have enjoyed using my copywriting skills in the past to tell both my autism story through blogging/online articles and working with other creatives to change people’s perceptions.
I would love to get a marketing or creative job at organisations like Scope or Amnesty International in the future, to help fight for more positive change and change perceptions.”
4.After you made this decision, what did you do?
“After doing a work experience placement at BBC Cymru through Remploy due to my interest in current affairs, one of my first roles in marketing was a Campaigns Assistant at NUS Wales to help encourage young people and students to register to vote for the 2016 Assembly Elections. My interest in politics and current affairs was one of the reasons why I applied for this role.
Though the interview for this role went well and I was able to communicate well, interviews in general, have always been something I have found hard. It takes a little bit of time our me to build up my confidence before an interview and I am often still very nervous, so being rejected form roles can knock my confidence quite a lot.”
5.How do you think being autistic has impacted you in your marketing career?
“I think that there are some negatives of being autistic within marketing. Sometimes people in marketing can have a pre-conception, either intentionally or unintentionally, that I might not be able to do certain things or roles, as I would find communication hard, but this also makes me very determined to succeed and I am able to think differently.
By adopting different ways to communicate, this can actually benefit everyone in an organisation and how we reflect who we are communicating with.”
6.Stereotypically, autistic individuals aren’t commonly associated with careers in the creative industry. How would you challenge this stereotype?
“I would challenge such stereotypes, as I have done through my work with The Future Is ND, by arguing that not only can autistic people be very creative but that we are human too, and like everyone else, not every autistic person is the same.
We can be sociable and work as part of a creative team in the right environment.”
7.What has been your best moment within your career so far?
“One of my best moments in my career so far has been getting an article published in The Huffington Post about Mental Health and Autism.
I have also written articles for City AM and enjoyed working at BBC Cymru, where I got a researcher credit on an episode of the Week In Week Out investigative programme.”
8.After a long day at work, what do you like to do?
“I am very interested in films, particularly ones that have something to say about society, but I also enjoy the odd cheesy or scary horror film! I sometimes write and recently started learning salsa dancing to build my social confidence.”
9.What do you think is the most important thing to consider when finding a job that you love?
“One of the most important lessons I have learnt is that it is easy to put pressure on yourself, but it is important to remember that everyone is different and we all take different paths. I still often find it very hard to compare myself to other people but I overcome this by focusing on the positives of where I work and the impact we make as a team.”
10.What advice would you give to autistic job-seekers who haven’t yet decided what career path to take?
“Don’t put pressure on yourself to find the perfect career choice straight away, it is ok to take time!”
11.What advice would you give to autistic job-seekers in regards to the recruitment process?
“In regards to advice about recruitment processes, I would say that be honest about your autism is the best approach. There will always be employers who have negative pre-conceptions but there also those who are more positive and open-minded.
Remember, your greatest strength is what makes you unique and you should never be ashamed of who you are!”
This is a strange, turbulent time for everyone, however particularly strange if you are autistic. This blog is a handy guide and some recommendations to help support autistic individuals, whether you are a parent/carer/friend or family member.
State the facts
Only state clear objective facts about the virus. Don’t engage or let them hear speculation. They will struggle to separate ‘what if’s’ from what is really happening. Try to answer their questions without giving unnecessary details that may alarm them.
There are some brilliant articles online about the facts, including this one from the NHS. A lot of the newspapers and media outlets speculate which can often make it harder to understand or decide what to believe in.
Over the past week there has been a lot in the news about stockpiling, and many items are running out in the supermarkets. Due the nature of whats happening, if you know an autistic individual that only eats certain foods its probably good to think about buying a few extras to ensure everyone remains safe and healthy.
Similarly, if someone is worried about the prevalence of the virus ask if they need anything from the supermarket. Going to busy places to even do basic things like the supermarket shop can be very worrying, especially as they are getting extremely chaotic.
Offices and schools around the world are closing, creating large disruptions to every day life. This can be a big change for autistic people may be moving to a prolonged school holiday or even a working from home situation.
Now is a great time to be talking about routines, and how autistic individuals can keep their routine as normal as possible. You can support people to continuously set their alarms, have the same meal times and interact with the same people on a daily basis. For example, if there is an office closure you can encourage someone to have a short phone call with their manager every day to keep life as routine as possible.
Mental health matters
A lot of events, gyms, cinemas and shops are limiting their hours so its really important to keep yourself active and support everyones mental health and do things we enjoy!
If you or someone you know is usually a gym goer, try doing some home workouts on youtube. Not only will you be spending some time together, but also keeping yourself moving! Other good things to do are putting a good film on or trying some home cooking.
Let them try their own coping mechanisms
Autistic individuals are pretty good at finding ways to cope. Someone has piled pillows outside his door to ‘stop the virus’. Will it in anyway help? No. Does it make him feel safe? Yes. Within reason let individuals cope how they need to.
At the end of the day we are all human and have different ways of dealing with things. We all can do our bit to support others during this situation.
If you or someone else needs additional support:
Further advice can be found on the NHS website
The latest advice from the government can be found here
Mind has a fantastic resource regarding the virus, your health and well being.
The department of education have set up a helpline to answer any questions related to education:
Phone: 0800 046 8687
Opening hours: 8am to 6pm (Monday to Friday)
And finally, if you need someone to talk to confidentially, feel free to give us an email at email@example.com and we will do our best to direct you to additional support if needs be.
As part of our new ‘love what you do’ blog series we are interviewing autistic adults that love their jobs.
This week we have the fantastic Jenni-Marie, who works as a Learning Support Assistant within a school.
Jenni has provided a fantastic insight into the world of teaching and has given us some brilliant advice on finding and searching for jobs.
Thank you Jenni!
1.Hi Jenni, what’s your job and what do you do on a day to day basis?
“I’m a learning support assistant and have been doing this job for 4 years.
My working day starts at 8:40am I get the hours that I am working from my managers.
My first class starts at 9am and lunch is between 12-1pm. I finish work at between 2 and 3pm. My timetable is set so that I am not moved around like other Learning Support Assistant’s.
Unexpected changes are something I do not cope with very well and my managers are great at minimising change for me.
My manager adopted some reasonable adjustments to support me within the role. I have a set timetable because of my reaction to change.
I have a pink overlay and writing paper for if I have to take notes in class. I also have specially tinted lenses which I wear as glasses due to diagnosed Irlen Syndrome.
I only work 21 hours a week due to the fact that this job is where I socialise the most and mask my own difficulties which leaves me exhausted. My hours were agreed with myself, occupational health and my line manager.”
2. What do you love about your job?
“I enjoy the fact that I can socialise with people and that I am helping others which is something I am good at. I like the fact that I get to learn new things all the time which I soak up like sponge. Although my timetable is set no two days are the same.
The highlight of my job is being able to understand the students I work with because of my own difficulties.
The team I work with I am so lucky to have found. We aren’t just colleagues we are like a family. Everyone is warm, friendly and accepting. When I need the lights off in the staffroom it isn’t a problem, everyone understands its what I need to feel alright. Similarly if I am fidgeting or chewing my chew necklace everyone knows its what I need to regulate.
I love what I do because I have the most supportive line managers and colleagues.”
3. Why did you want to become a teacher?
“Although I am a learning support assistant I have always wanted to be a teacher, I think it comes from the fact that I am good at maths and I love to help others.”
4. After you made this decision, what did you do?
“I looked for jobs that in my local schools and colleges.
I found applying for jobs really overwhelming and the thought of interviews too.
When I did my interviews unbelievably I didn’t ask for any special arrangements, at that time I didn’t know I was autistic. Its thanks to my job that I was diagnosed first with Irlen syndrome three years ago and then autistic just last March!
Thinking back, I enjoyed going into new places and looking around which helped to settle the anxiety. I struggled with interviews, having to think of answers, the eye contact and the dry mouth.”
5. How do you think being autistic has impacted you in your teaching career?
“Before my diagnosis of autism I was diagnosed with Irlen Syndrome three years ago which means I am sensitive to light. Light sensitivity affects me everyday at work because the lights are so bright, the walls are white and the paper too.
It was hard to read on white paper and reading the white board was difficult.
I then got my lenses which help my brain to process the full spectrum of light, they have changed my life.
Being autistic the sound sensitivity is also sometimes difficult to deal with in the college setting. I did have an anxiety attack in the classroom, I felt like I needed to escape so I went for a walk up and down the corridor.
Being autistic in college can be difficult especially when I am in a position of authority/power but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Other LSAs are flexible and will go to new classes to cover for an LSA who is off work due to illness, but I struggle with change and so although I don’t mind being moved around I like to know in advance.
I’m not moved much because I get anxious being moved, not knowing a class, the tutor makes me uncomfortable if I’ve never been to it before.”
6. After a long day at work, what do you like to do?
“This is an easy one, I get home and I like to read. I head straight for the sofa and my weighted blanket, I love when it gets dark because I have sensory lights that I like to turn on which helps me to shutdown from a day of work. I like to build lego too, I like that all the small bits fits together to make a bigger picture. I like seeing how it all fits together, I have so many sets.”
7. What do you think is the most important thing to consider when finding a job that you love?
“I think you have to consider if it is the right environment for you and what support is available to you on the job should you need it.
I did get another job that worked alongside this one in a famous fast food restaurant but I couldn’t cope with the fact there was no routine and no apparent support or help for my needs on the job. I had to sadly give it up, but I realised you can only do what you can do even if that means low hours because trying to push yourself past your boundaries isn’t necessarily a good thing.
I remember in the summer I was at a point of burn out and it was purely because I had not had enough time for my body to shutdown and switch off.
Also don’t be afraid to ask for help, no question is a silly one.”
8. What advice would you give to autistic job-seekers who haven’t yet decided what career path to take?
“I would say there is no rush to jump into a job. Find something you’re good at that you or that you’re interested in. See if you can set up a look around the place to get a feel for it, this can help you to visualise what the job entails and whether you would be able to get on in the environment and ask any questions you need around your difficulties.”
9. What advice would you give to autistic job-seekers in regards to the recruitment process?
“When you’re getting overwhelmed stop, give yourself a break.
Get someone else to read through your applications.
Instead of repeating yourself make a word document that can be copied and pasted and tailored to each job, believe me it saves you time, not only from processing the questions and also your own responses but the time it takes to fill it out.
In interviews if you need any assistance don’t be afraid to ask for it, its better to be open from the start so that if you do get the job your manager or boss will know what reasonable adjustments to put into place for you.”
10. And finally, what advice would you give to other autistic job-seekers who are thinking about starting a teaching career?
“I would say go for it, don’t let your disability put you off. College is pretty much timetable based and so routine is really easy to put into place and follow if routine is what you need. Equally if you’re not someone who likes to stick to routine but wants variety the flexibility is great in this job. This job I feel is rewarding and your needs are catered for.”