So, Paul was on a team building-type conference today for the banking corporation that he works for… mandatory attendance jobby, despite the fact that he’s IT and not banking. Anyway, they were focusing on all these soft-skills things and interviewing techniques (which candidate would YOU hire?) and he explained a scenario where you were shown a video in two parts – initial impression (“hello, I’m here for an interview”) and then the interview itself (about a minute long). The video was stopped after the initial impression and people had to say “to hire” or “not hire”. In one of the videos, a middle-aged woman walked into the room, was quite nervous, shy, didn’t make eye contact, and tripped over her words when saying she was there for the interview. At this point, about 60% of the room showed “not hire” cards. The video was then resumed and she continued to not make eye contact, couldn’t get her words out, and asked to look at some of the questions again. Now, just on reading that, I’m sure many of you may think that she may be on the Spectrum, perhaps at the Asperger’s end of it. Please bear in mind that while the example was not illustrating neurodiverse interviewing techniques (as she later showed lack of interest and other non-ASD related behaviours). By the end of the video, 99% of the room said “not hire” and Paul was the only one to hold up the “hire” card, but unfortunately was not called upon to explain his position. He explained to me that, after watching Employable Me on the BBC, he understands more that those who are high-functioning intellectually but perhaps lower-functioning socially do not often get a fair first impression when it comes to interview situations, and probably explains why so many people on the Spectrum end up going years without being able to successfully land a job; just because one is ‘bad’ at interviewing does not automatically mean that they would be bad at the job they’re interviewing for. I know I personally have failed at interviews because of my short-term auditory processing difficulties have let me down (before I knew that’s what they were), and I wonder if I had asked for the written questions if that would have also worked against me anyway. Paul recognises that he himself is most likely on the high-functioning end of the Asperger’s part of the Spectrum, but he is not interested in pursuing a diagnosis for himself because he reckons that he’s developed his own set of coping mechanisms to get through day-to-day interactions. He acknowledges and supports my desire to pursue a diagnosis for myself and as such “waves the flag” for those with Autism and embracing neurodiversity. While we both say that neither men nor women on the Spectrum “have it easy”, he accepts where I’m coming from in my perception that it’s almost easier for men to get through life without the context of a diagnosis, whereas it benefits women to put them into that context so when seemingly uncharacteristic behaviours present themselves, they can be explained within a framework.
Even though he didn’t get to explain his position in the training session, I’m still so proud of him for recognising that the way that interviewing scenario was managed was not inclusive nor showed recognition of neurodiversity.