Being neurodiverse is not a barrier to success, but traditional job interviews might be

Submitted by bobb on Wed, 5/1/2022 - 20:11
portrait shot of Emma Sellars

Antonia O'Flaherty

When applying for jobs, Emma did not reveal she is neurodiverse because she was concerned prospective employers might judge her.  

"I can relate to the insecurity, to insecurities about revealing your neurodiversity, and about whether or not you would be judged on that," Ms Sellars said. 

"Or if you feel your job would be secure if you made a mistake.

But then Ms Sellars, who lives in Brisbane, came across the Queensland education department's recruitment program, All Kinds of Minds, a neurodiversity pilot recruitment program. 

It was a pathway to a future where her skills and unique perspectives due to her autism would not only be recognised but valued.

Are job interviews best practice? 

The recruitment program looks to traditional recruitment pathways, such as typical job interviews, and disrupts them.

Job candidates instead take part in an assessment centre process which assesses candidates across a range of competencies in simulated scenarios.

Emma Sellars with All Kinds Of Minds program manager Slavica Crnic in front of tree ferns
Ms Sellars with All Kinds Of Minds program manager Slavica Crnic.(Supplied: Queensland government)

Those who are successful, are then supported as they start their new jobs.

Ms Sellars was selected for a placement and is now employed as an administration officer at the department's Autism Hub and Reading Centre.  

Individualised support makes all the difference

Ms Sellars said one of the important things the program offered was support beyond the initial recruitment stage.

"It's the kind of workplace very open to flexible work arrangements, or talks with a manager or a mentor or [support staff], whenever you need to," she said.

"Just having that circle there, I think is probably the most important thing — people that you can kind of come up to and bother with your questions or your queries whenever you need to.

"I think that was one of the most important things. And also, people not only accepting neurodiversity, but full-on embracing it — that always feels amazing.

Ms Sellars wants others, including employers, to realise that neurodiversity is not a barrier to success.

"I suppose the way I see my neurodiversity is as a difference; a different way of thinking about things, a different way of seeing the world. I don’t see it as a hindrance," she said. 

"With a little bit of support, we can actually participate just as well in the workplace as everyone else, if not better, in some circumstances.

an image of young man in a black hospital uniform in front of brick building
Patrick Fitzgerald says neurodiversity "is what it is" and urges others not to be too hard on themselves.(Supplied: Patrick Fitzgerald)

The job coaching strategy

New South Wales man Patrick Fitzgerald found it challenging to apply for jobs online, with many steps involved, on his own.

But the Illawarra resident, who has autism, was committed to finding a job.

With the help of a job coach at atWork Australia, a leading disability employment service, he received help to build his resume, do work experience, and practise interview skills.

He was able to find an employer who was willing "to give me a go and be patient while I learned".

Mr Fitzgerald was hired by yum cha restaurant Hong Kong Chef as waitstaff, with the opportunity to learn new roles.

He said that since starting work at the Shellharbour restaurant, he has become more confident, and is learning and remembering new skills, such as using the restaurant's computer system.

Hong Kong Chef owner Jackson Zhang said he liked to employ people from atWork Australia because he liked to see everyone working together.

An image of a young man pressing his cheek to his mother's temple, with both smiling
Mr Fitzgerald thanks his mum, Joanne Moffitt, for her support.(Supplied: Patrick Fitzgerald)

Mr Fitzgerald said he was also very happy to be earning money to help his mum with rental payments.

Mr Fitzgerald wants employers to know that once people with neurodiversity learn new skills, and remember tasks, they will be the most loyal employees.

"I would love to tell the world that all we need is a little patience, some support and maybe a little push to help us with our confidence and to just give us a go," he said.

He said education and support was "so important". 

"I will always do my best to learn but at the start of a job it may take me longer to remember and learn all the things I need to do.

"Neurodiversity is what it is, and don't be too hard on yourself. You get what you give."

from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-01-04/how-organisations-are-attracting-neurodiverse-applications/100709912