Inclusive Recruitment: A Focus on Neurodiverse Talent

Brent Herman our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 15 November 2022

When we meet someone for the first time, we mainly focus on what we can see, and we sometimes process those cues unhelpfully if our unconscious bias gets in the way. We typically assume many things from what we see or from our physical dimensions of diversity, but we also ‘don’t know what we don’t know’ - and often this pertains to hidden disabilities. 

It’s also interesting to note that an estimated 15% of the population are neurodivergent - and 50% of those people are unaware that they are neurodivergent. 

Hiring neurodiverse talent allows us to access and appreciate the differences that people bring to our business, which works to both their advantage and to the benefit of the organization…as long as we are open to differences and supporting our neurodiverse talent to be the best they can be at work. 

It’s one thing to hire neurodiverse talent (and this links to the diversity part of DE&I), but another thing altogether to retain that talent (the inclusion part), and do so through necessary workplace adjustments (the equity part). 

This article focuses on the benefits of hiring neurodiverse talent, how to ensure an inclusive hiring process and how to ensure inclusion of that talent in the long term.

What is neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity comes down to how we see the world and the mindset we take. It’s not a disability; it’s a different kind of ability. Neurodiversity describes the idea that people experience and interact with the world around them in many different ways; there isn’t a ‘right’ way to think, learn or behave, and differences should not be viewed as deficits. 

Neurodiversity is often associated with one disability, for example, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). But there are many different types of neurodiversity that we do not fully understand or appreciate, and sometimes individuals experience multiple disabilities. 

Learning disabilities, Tourette’s syndrome, dyspraxia, dyslexia, anxiety, epilepsy and obsessive-compulsive disorder are amongst the many diverse types of neurodiversity - and this is not an exhaustive list. 

In a similar way that the international sign for a physical disability is a person in a wheelchair, this gross misrepresentation of disability may cause us to become pigeonholed into thinking about visible or hidden disabilities through a very narrow lens.

4 benefits of hiring neurodiverse talent

You might think only of the challenges of hiring neurodivergent talent - but it can bring so many positive benefits:

1. It’s simply the right thing to do

Hiring neurodiverse talent boosts how well a company is viewed both internally and externally. According to the Autism Society, more than 66% of young adults on the Autism spectrum are unemployed and are not engaged in higher education 2 years after exiting high school. 

2. It’s about more than what you say you do

By hiring neurodiverse talent, companies are seen to be doing more than just ‘talking’. Actions really do speak louder than words, and this is important in how it impacts your company culture.

3. Cognitive diversity offers real business value

The value of cognitive diversity reveals itself through your range of different thinkers and attractive skill sets. You’ll get more innovation, fine detail processing, problem-solving and creativity. Matthew Syed supports this in his book, Rebel Ideas, saying: “When you can optimize cognitive diversity - that is to say, the different insights, perspectives and information - then you get a stronger result. The evidence on this is overwhelming.”

4. Business growth 

In software testing roles at Australia’s Department of Human Services (DHS), preliminary results suggest that the organization’s neurodiverse testing teams are 30% more productive than the others. What could hiring neurodiverse talent then mean for your business?

Tips for driving neurodivergent inclusion in the workplace

You may feel cautious about hiring neurodiverse talent, but we need to smash through this stigma. Here’s how you can drive neurodivergent inclusion in your business:

  • Take an individualistic approach and educate yourself on a particular person’s headwinds and tailwinds to ensure they are set up to be successful. Empathy is key. A great example is being aware of some sensory challenges for employees who sit on the spectrum. We need to make workplace adjustments accordingly.
  • Partnerships are a critical aspect of enablement between employee and line manager - both need to be on board.
  • Create networks in the workplace for support and understanding. It’s often powerful for people to know that they are not alone and to have access to colleagues who understand their experiences first-hand. 
  • Take a positive mindset - neurodiversity is there as an enabler rather than a derailer. We have a conscious choice as to whether we let our disability hold us back or not.
  • Assess your policies and procedures to ensure equity and equality in the workplace.
  • The more you talk about it, the more people will understand and the more comfortable people will have to have a conversation and be themselves at work.
  • Use data to inform your progress and agenda.
  • Involve neurodiverse talent in your agenda and decision-making.
  • Ensure you have role models in your organization who are both successful in their careers and neurodivergent. 


What to be aware of during the hiring process

Hiring neurodiverse talent means there are certain things you need to take into account or be aware of.


Firstly, it’s important to strip your processes back to basics to assess your candidates on relevant criteria only. Anything that’s biased in favor of someone who’s non-neurodivergent should be eliminated.


You must also have a safe environment in which job seekers are comfortable asking for any necessary adjustments as part of the recruitment process. In doubt? Shout. Let your colleagues and external partners, stakeholders and potential candidates know about what you are doing in your business around your disability agenda.


Your job attraction strategies must be solid. Make sure any job descriptions are inclusive and focused on job outputs rather than the type of person you need. 


It’s also important to ensure that your people are trained. Enable your hiring managers to interview inclusively, for example by giving people time to respond to questions or engage in your assessment process and to prepare in advance.


Similarly, consider sensory needs in your interview process and how technology could be critical to ensuring prospective employees are set up to be successful. For example, if you’re conducting virtual interviews, always ensure everyone’s cameras are on.


If you’re interviewing in person, ensure you have more than one person in every interview and there are clear criteria against which to measure success - and that it’s used consistently for everyone to mitigate bias.

Do you want to hire neurodiverse talent? Contact me directly to discuss hiring neurodiverse talent into your workforce and the benefits it can bring.

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