While corporate culture is important when you’re trying to recruit the right team members, sometimes overemphasis on company habits and rituals may keep a great candidate from consideration. It’s easy to miss talent with a rigid recruiting process. Simple environmental tweaks set up diverse candidates for success, translating into increased success for the organization.

The term neurodiverse was created to shift away from the negative connotations of conditions from autism to Down’s Syndrome. Neurodiversity emphasizes the positive benefits of how our brains were wired and the genetic differences that make us think differently. The benefits of neurodiversity are similar to the benefits of diversity in backgrounds, disciplinary training, gender, and culture. While management often understands the value-add of neurodiversity on project teams, it is still challenging for these candidates to get in the door in a typical hiring and recruiting process.

Regardless of higher than average skill abilities in areas like pattern recognition, math, or memory, it can be a struggle for neurodiverse candidates to fit in. Most agree that judging an individual based on whether or not they act just like the rest of the company is not a good strategy. However, it’s easy to overlook where this could be happening in the hiring process. Understanding neurodiversity and working to increase the opportunities for neurodiverse candidates to join your organization creates the pathway for better processes, procedures, and products.

The following enhanced skill sets are offered by neurodiverse (autism spectrum, dyslexia, and ADHD – just to name a few) candidates:

  • Attention to detail
  • Perceptual functioning
  • High levels of concentration
  • Reliability
  • Technical ability
  • Spatial intelligence
  • 3-D thinking
  • Holistic thinking
  • Mechanical aptitude
  • Entrepreneurial inclination
  • Hyperfocused
  • Creative
  • Inventive
  • Spontaneous
  • Energetic

Of course, the list is not exhaustive. The key is that hiring and retaining neurodiverse candidates is a win-win for both the candidate and the employer. Double check your hiring and on-boarding practices in the following areas to ensure neurodiverse candidates can get in the door and successfully adapt to a project team.

Interview Adjustments

Provide a zero-judgement way for candidates to ask for interview accommodations. Also, consider what information you need from a candidate and compile a list of different ways to extract the information, depending on the individual. If it seems difficult to maintain the conversation, ask for real life experiences or switch gears to different questions. Open-ended questions should be avoided.

Give candidates a written question and answer session

Candidates can write out their responses to questions either during a set time during the interview or in preparation for the interview. Consider these questions to either be short answer or essay responses for questions that would require increased conversation time.

Consider Temp-to-Hire

Offer a work trial or test period for candidates. Provide opportunities for neurodiverse candidates to get to work and show their abilities without the stress of a high-risk, high stakes full time position on the line. Use temporary hires to build full-time staff. A temporary or test period may help increase management buy-in on the benefits of a neurodiverse full-time hire.

Create diverse Training Options

Some candidates prefer face to face, classroom style training, while others may prefer computer-based or virtual training. When environmental stressors are reduced, it can be a better learning environment for neurodiverse candidates.

Communication and Reviews

Frankly, all of us could benefit from clear, concise, timely, and efficient direction and reviews. It’s helpful to an entire project team when management seeks to have clear communication and sensitive but brief feedback.

Office Adjustments

Everyone hates open concept offices, but it may be a real productivity killer for some neurodiverse professionals. Simple steps such as noise cancelling headphones may increase productivity for neurodiverse workers. Or consider cubicle signs to allow workers to indicate when they’re busy – and do not wish to be disturbed with drive by requests. Limited sensory issues at the office may increase everyone’s productivity.

The reality is that any adjustments made to the company culture in order to encourage diversity benefit every employee and candidate. Every organization is made up of unique personalities. Be sure that your hiring process is not leaving neurodiverse talent untapped.

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.