If just hearing the words job and interview together sends chills down your spine, you're not alone.
A whopping 92% of Americans report feeling fearful over the job interview process. And with good reason! What's more torturous than sitting in a room being judged on everything — from your voice and your shoes to each syllable that escapes your mouth — with your potential income and livelihood on the line?
Job interviews are tough. But they can be a whole lot tougher if you have autism.
A gripping new PSA by the U.K.'s National Autistic Society takes you into the mind of someone who has autism to better understand what a job interview might feel like for someone in their shoes:
"Employers don't see my abilities," the video description reads. "They see my autism. They see a problem."
The unemployment rate among people with autism is massive — and not at all reflective of the skills and qualities they offer employers.
While finding a job might not be the right fit for some people with autism, the vast majority are able and want to work; they just face many more roadblocks in getting an opportunity to do so.
"Autistic people can have strengths which may be beneficial to employers, such as tenacity and the ability to see things in a different light," said Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society. "But they frequently tell us they experience too much information when applying for jobs and at work — for instance, being bombarded by questions [during a job interview], by noisy open plan offices, or with anxieties over following unwritten social rules."
There are simple ways to make workplaces more welcoming for folks with autism, though.
If you're an employer, subtle changes in your application process and the work environment can make a huge difference.
For instance, many hiring managers default to listing qualities like "has good communication skills" or "is a team player" on applications for roles that don't, in fact, require it. This may dissuade someone with autism from applying even if they have the talents and skill set for the role. You may miss out on landing the perfect candidate.
Inclusive hiring policies aren't just the right thing to do, they're good for business.
Most of us aren't employers, though, and there are ways for us to make a difference, too.
First of all, understanding why your colleague with autism might interact differently or do things around the office in their own way is crucial. This isn't because they're rude or inept. They just work and socialize differently than you do.
Being able to listen patiently is a big one. When they go over all the stats from last night's game, hear them out (you might learn something interesting). Don't take it personally if they don't seem interested in your weekend plans — many people who have autism have trouble understanding all the nuances to our unwritten rules around social etiquette. And if they don't make eye contact with you, that's OK, too; it's not because they're impolite. Doing so can be stressful for some people with autism. If they're hesitant to look directly at you, follow their lead and back away from the typical in-your-face way we tend to communicate in the workplace.
Really, it doesn't take all that much to make our world way more accommodating to people with autism. We just have to make the effort.