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Barriers that keep neurodiverse applicants out of the workforce


The barriers that keep neurodiverse applicants from getting work aren’t always obvious. While there has been an increase in cultural awareness and discourse, it is no secret that many companies still have a problem with diversity in all aspects.

In fact, it is estimated that as many as 80 percent of individuals on the autism spectrum do not have a job.
Neurological status is more difficult to track in the workplace than other forms of diversity, such as race and gender.

Suggested reading on DEI hiring: Blueprint to drive DEI hiring in the workplace

Although the value of having neurodivergent employees on board is undisputed, you need to recognize the obstacles the neurodivergent has when trying to enter the workplace. So, what are the common obstacles these applicants face and how can recruiters help break barriers for the neurodivergent?

Common barriers for the neurodivergent

Inefficient recruiting methods

One of the more obvious culprits that create obstacles for neurodiverse applicants is inefficient recruiting and screening methods. Many recruiters typically follow a one size fits all approach to finding candidates for roles.

The top one-size-fits-all approach consists of:

Resume keyword matching based on

  • Education level
  • Years of experience
  • Skills

Keyword matching isn’t entirely ineffective. Including specific keywords that are closely related to a job can fare reliable results. However, a resume showcasing specific skills, education level, or even years of experience doesn’t automatically mean the person behind the resume is the best fit. Not only does solely hiring candidates based on a technicality create risk, but it also blocks out an entire pool of candidates that could potentially be better-suited and more likely to succeed in a role.

Biased AI systems

Humans, in general, are biased by nature. Therefore, the outcomes of the processes we build are inherently biased. Because it’s so difficult for us to recognize and understand our own conscious and unconscious biases, it’s even more difficult not to feed them into technologies. When that happens, they are then deeply embedded, relearned, and reinforced in a tool’s decision-making.

There are two distinct types of bias: systematic and statistical. Systematic bias can be broadly defined as “AI and machine learning models feeding datasets that produce erroneous or inefficient results due to inherent biases or insufficient data diversity.” Statistical bias produces mistaken or inefficient results due to incorrect calculations.

For example:
Humans have repeatedly chosen to hire white males at a company or in a department when there are a plethora of competing candidates of varying backgrounds and demographics with equal or greater aptitude. When this historical data is fed to an AI recruiting tool, it predicts that white males are the best candidates. There is zero statistical bias influencing those predictions because the machine is using the data correctly. The bias is systematic. It is a result of the machine accurately processing inherently biased data. In this example, the AI has interpreted the data about hiring success correctly but has generated biased results because of the information that humans have provided it.

Therefore, it is important to gain a deeper understanding of the algorithms and methods you are working with; along with the information you are gathering.

Corporate structure

Another factor that impedes neurodiverse applicants from breaking through is the corporate structure. It is more common for employers to hire generalists rather than specialists who excel in a certain area. Neurodiverse people’s “spiky profiles” are not considered in job descriptions. Individuals with a spiky profile succeed in some areas and struggle in others.

They have a wide range of abilities, although they are not all developed at the same time. Neurodivergent individuals, such as autistics and hyperlexic people, are known to have a mountain range of high peaks and valleys, which can be seen on a graph.

As a result, the companies that prefer generalists over specialists tend to block out a large pool of candidates that are typically neurodiverse.

How Arya helps break barriers for a more diverse candidate pool

Breaking workforce barriers for the neurodivergent doesn’t always have to be tedious. Using recruiting platforms like Arya helps diversify your candidate pool. Arya is a non-biased AI technology recruiting platform that selects and finds the best available candidates from various reputable sources across the globe. Unlike the typical keyword search that is commonly used in the recruiting process, Arya goes much deeper by:

  • Incorporating deep machine learning with each new form of information
  • Creating in-house search algorithms to source top talent based on recruiting criteria
  • Producing behavioral pattern analytics from user interactions and candidate placing success
  • Using predictive analytics to decide the best performing hires
  • Including chatbot technology to automate and optimize candidate engagement, screening, and interview scheduling

Integrating better AI tools that combat biases within the recruiting process, opens a candidate pool of diverse candidates that are suitable and more likely to succeed, regardless of their status.

Benefits of hiring the neurodivergent

Although neurotypical talent is considered and hired in much larger numbers, neurodiverse individuals can be just as effective in their roles.

  • Bill Gates struggled in school due to dyslexia. But of course, he went on to co[1]found Microsoft, now one of the most valuable companies in the world.
  • Richard Branson has been open about his difficulties in school and how he lives with not one but two neurological differences: Dyslexia, and ADHD. Branson went on to become one of the most successful business people in the world, launching brands such as Virgin Atlantic airlines.
  • Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, announced on “Saturday Night Live” in 2020 that he has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism.

The stigma and unconscious bias recruiters and AI tools have surrounding neurodiverse applicants, hinder those from entering the workforce to offer creative perspectives and innovative solutions for many companies. As a result, organizations are potentially missing the boat on reaching untapped success and overall growth.

Suggested resource on neurodiverse hiring: Neurodivergent talent: the new frontier in diversity hiring

Why recruiters must transform talent search methods

Although the economic climate has contributed to workforce changes and employee shortages, there are other controllable factors that have affected the talent shortage. Traditional recruiting methods like manual sourcing, not only assume a lot of time and reduce productivity, but it prevents neurodiverse applicants from breaking through. Leveraging recruiting tools and platforms with non-biased AI like Arya Quantum will allow recruiters to not only break barriers for the neurodivergent, but also the recruiting world.



  • https://www.reuters.com/article/us-world-work-autismatwork-idUSKCN1SD0YB

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