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Revolutionize your outdated interview process to capture a highly skilled and underemployed group of people

By Cris Brady

Neurodiversity is a paradigm shift, enabling parents, schools and, more recently, companies to transition out from an archaic “one size fits all” method of teaching and testing.

The neurodiversity movement is based on decades of neuroscientific research, proving that brain functioning is diverse; people learn, retain and recall information in different ways from one another. This being fact, it only makes sense to expect people of all ages to reach a desired outcome using methods that coincide with the way they learn instruction and demonstrate information. Diversifying teaching methods engages all learners, allowing for more than just the students who excel in verbal instruction or paper and pencil testing, to learn the necessary material. The same is true of adults. Neurodiversity is helping managers to become aware of existing workplace barriers that prohibit productivity and accessibility from people who are neurodivergent – those with ADHD, autism and various learning differences. The sooner these barriers are eliminated, the sooner that company will take on talent they may not have known existed.

Companies like SAP and Microsoft have spent a lot of money hiring specific teams and creating focused programs to attract and retain neurodivergent learners. Why? Because as Baby Boomers age out of the workforce in record numbers and millennials continue to prioritize companies that create societal change rather than maintaining capitalism, neurodivergent thinkers are a workforce multiplier – adding attributes to a team that dramatically increases its effectiveness.

Neurodivergent thinkers are a highly skilled but highly underemployed group of people who make up more than 10 per cent of the North American population alone. Their often unique talents and problem-solving capabilities merely require the fostering of an inclusive work environment – one in which the managerial approach is environment-focused, rather than person-focused. In other words, stop trying to fit the employee into the box and start creating the shape of the box around the employee.

How do you do this?

Let’s begin at the gateway to any company: the interview process.

1. Create job descriptions that accurately describe the duties required to fulfill the job outcomes

Companies often unknowingly eliminate talented candidates by creating job descriptions with what is deemed “default” or “filler” requirements. Requirements such as “team player” or “excellent communication skills” are usually not imperative for the successful completion of many jobs. Such descriptions also don’t provide the details of when those skills would actually be used. These are not skills that need to be exercised daily nor does the required “communication” need to be verbal in many cases. Some people who may not be confident in their social abilities may interpret this more literally and feel they can’t work closely in a tight-knit team on a daily basis or do not feel comfortable verbally communicating each step of their progress. These people are less likely to apply even though they are more than qualified to perform the actual duties of the job.

“Companies often unknowingly eliminate talented candidates by creating job descriptions with what is deemed ‘default’ or ‘filler’ requirements.”

2. Provide options in the demonstration of skills

Companies have forever relied upon resumes and verbal dialogue to make concrete decisions about a candidate’s competencies. Take one minute to Google “interview questions” and have a quick look at the millions of hits providing readers with scripted answers for antiquated and predictable questions. If we’re simply gauging how well candidates regurgitate rehearsed scripts, is that a valid strategy for testing one’s overall abilities? Talk is cheap, especially in an interview. Instead, allow candidates to physically demonstrate their competence. A series of small, hands-on tasks could be required or a few hours of on-job observation. This change would provide for a much more accurate and truthful understanding of each person’s abilities. Also, don’t forget video or phone interviews, these do not need to be used for only the out-of-towners, many people would benefit from this type of interview.

3. Rethink the effectiveness of panel interviews

As if the interview process were not intimidating enough, many companies engage in panel interviews, wherein two to five people question each candidate. The perceived advantages are observing candidate’s stress performance, scheduling ease for panel members and a reduction in hiring bias. However, biased decisions tend to be much higher in panel interviews, cancelling out any other advantage. Groupthink, a psychological phenomenon that occurs when a group makes faulty decisions due to group pressure, is more prevalent in groups wherein “members are similar in background or when the group is insulated from outside opinions” (from

Further inaccurate decision-making is created when interviewees are talked about immediately after they have left the room and before the scores have been decided or when a boss’ interpretation of the candidate affects other panel members’ perspectives. This type of interview can be a huge barrier for candidates who, although highly qualified, may not excel in a socially intense, verbal barrage of questioning.

HR and managers are often unaware of the hidden barriers that may not exist for them on a personal level. Viewing the interview process from various angles enables companies to access people with unconventional talent and perspectives. Outcomes will still be met but with varied and unique approaches, leading to more diverse problem-solving, productivity and progress. 

Cris Brady is a speaker, writer and award-winning learning consultant and is the founder of LYV Educational Consulting.

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