Is an interview really the best way to recruit a candidate for a job?
Jen Blacow Operations Manager, Aspiedent CIC
16th July 2020
The key problem many autistic people have in finding a job is poor interview skills. But are we recruiting for someone who can do the job, or someone who can perform well at interviews?
Are interviews always fit for purpose?
If we think about it, do we really consider what are we actually recruiting for when we interview people? What skills we need?
Have you ever wondered how somebody in a senior position got where they were, even though they are frankly useless at their job? Unfortunately, I certainly have!
Perhaps we have all come across charismatic people who could blag their way through any interview process, but who would be a colossal waste of money if hired.
On the other hand, what happens to the skilled people who become tongue-tied at interview, but who are extremely conscientious and would make sure they did all of their work to a top standard?
If recruiting somebody to go to job interviews all day, on time, and wow a panel, then yes, perhaps interviewing them alone is the best method of recruiting them. But how many jobs require somebody to ace interviews all day?
Doesn’t it make sense to ensure that a person can actually do the job they are being recruited for?
Let’s say you are recruiting for an administrator. How can you ensure that the candidate can complete administration tasks to a high standard and fit into the team, by just asking them to explain to you why or how they can, in an interview?
Karen on Facebook tells me that she can do all sorts of things, but it does not mean that she can (bad joke, sorry).
Ways to make sure you are hiring an asset and not a problem.
Honestly, it will take some initial (but worthwhile) work if you are a small company without huge assessment centres or a HR department, and you may need some help from us. But if you are recruiting, why not start with creating a set of tasks for people to do, to demonstrate they have the skills to do the job?
For example, if teamworking is a key requirement, then get candidates to work in teams – but on a realistic task and while making sure the team they will be working with are involved.
Believe it or not, one autistic job seeker we were helping went for a job as a librarian and was expected to engage in an exercise involving surviving an aeroplane crash. This did not involve finding a survival manual in the library.
How on earth was this exercise relevant to the job? We certainly cannot explain why – and neither could the autistic adult. He did not get the job because he could not work out how to engage in what was to him a pointless and unrealistic exercise.
Perhaps it would have been better to have a team exercise that involved an everyday task in the library. I.e. An exercise applying the cataloguing and shelving system to a set of books all of which could potentially be shelved in several different places.
There are methods to help you devise tasks that test for a set of competencies. Indeed, we could help you with this.
Virtually all jobs say they want good communication skills. But why so? Do your candidates need good social skills, or simply to be able to understand what has been asked of them to do and/or the ability to explain what they have done?
Employing Autistic People
It is a huge myth that all autistic people will excel at a few restricted skills, such as computer programming or boring and repetitive tasks. During our work advising employers, we have come across autistic people who
- can easily recognise fraud in financial data,
- are brilliant at understanding a large and complex database,
- are brilliant at taking a huge body of written information and analysing it so it can be presented in a way that is easy to understand,
- are brilliant at sales (yes, sales!),
- are brilliant at both the back-end design of a system and at creating an intuitive user interface (this combination is extremely rare and valuable),
- can tell what is wrong with a motor engine by listening to it,
- are whizzes at learning new software in an area that is familiar to them,
- are good at solving problems nobody else has been able to solve.
Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to ascertain these skills at interview, and often they only come to light when the person is carrying out their duties! But that is where Aspiedent can help.