Should neurodiverse candidates disclose their status?
The question of whether or not job candidates should disclose their neurodivergence during the application or interviewing process will never have a cut-and-dried “yes” or “no” answer.
On the contrary, the answer to that question is an unequivocal “maybe.” Disclosing neurodiversity (ND) may feel right for some candidates vying for a position, and at other times the opposite may be true. In the end, neurodiversity disclosure is a personal decision – one that each candidate must feel secure.
This article will cover the legalities of neurodiversity in the workplace, as well as the pros and cons of disclosure and how candidates should disclose (should they choose to do so).
Suggested resource on neurodiversity hiring: Neurodivergent talent: the new frontier in diversity hiring
In the end, you’ll have what you need as a recruiter to advise your clients in making an informed and comfortable decision.
The legalities of neurodivergence
In a previous post, we discussed what recruiters need to know about engaging neurodiverse applicants. One of the sections speaks to legal considerations. Here, we’ll review that information and consider how it may influence a neurodivergent job candidate’s decision to disclose their status.
Neurodiversity is considered a disability and is therefore protected under the American Disabilities Act and Equal Employment Opportunity laws.
Employers may not:
Inquire about a candidate’s medical information during the recruitment or interview process.
Make medical inquiries until after they’ve made a conditional offer of employment to the candidate. And even then they may only do so if they ask every candidate in the same job category the same questions. You can’t single out one person.
Focus on a candidate’s potential limitations rather than their ability to do the job.
Steer candidates to jobs for which they didn’t apply based on assumptions about their neurodiversity.
Disclose the candidate’s condition to any other employees or individuals.
Candidates may self-disclose their neurodiverse status if and when they so choose.
An anonymous author on the Exceptional Individuals website asserts that laws are in place to protect neurodiverse people from discrimination. They keep employers who may be disposed not to hire people with these differences from knowing about them and making such decisions accordingly. On the other hand, if ND candidates don’t disclose their situation – which by law they’re not required to do – they may run the risk of unconscious bias in the interview process based on differences that may show up which the interviewer doesn’t understand. In this case, what employers don’t know might hurt the candidate.
Individuals must decide for themselves whether they’d see more benefits or disadvantages from disclosing or not disclosing in accordance with the laws. To help them do so, you may want to point out the following pros and cons so the candidate can deliberate in light of their own situation, strengths, and limitations.
Neurodiversity’s competitive advantages
The fog of ignorance that has clouded our perception of people with neurological differences is starting to lift. In days past, people with conditions such as autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, and social anxiety disorder had a difficult time finding employment because they came across as “different.”
These days, society has come to understand that many people with these disorders have above-average abilities in areas such as:
- Pattern recognition
- Outside-the-box problem solving
Don’t those abilities sound like skills that an employer would like to have on their team?
A little research into a company could give ND candidates a feel for whether the organization understands neurodiversity and is an ND-friendly employer. This would help candidates know if divulging their differences would be a smart decision.
Other Advantages of Disclosing Neurodivergence
According to Neurodiversity Hub, other advantages of disclosing neurodiversity include:
- Neurodiverse candidates who disclosed their condition to their employers were over three-times more likely to be employed in certain sectors compared to those who didn’t disclose.
- Disclosure can afford ND candidates helpful accommodations in the interview process and the workplace.
- Disclosure leads to greater understanding and acceptance among prospective employers and colleagues.
Disadvantages of disclosing neurodivergence
Of course, disclosure may have some disadvantages that should also be considered. These may include:
- After disclosure, candidates may possibly be limited by narrow, negative, and/or ignorant stereotypes.
- Social ostracism may possibly occur due to biases, leading to an unpleasant work environment.
- Employers and colleagues may have unrealistic expectations due to rigid stereotypes.
Comprehensive research into the prospective hiring organization can go a long way toward helping a candidate choose how, when, and whether or not to disclose their neurodivergence.
If an individual decides to disclose their neurodiversity, they must also decide how, when, and to whom to disclose it. Per the aforementioned Exceptional Individuals article, here are some factors to consider:
Is the company interviewing or vetting?
Vetting is a process by which companies hire a third-party auditor to sift through candidates and decide when to send them on for an interview. The questions may be deeply personal if the job requires security clearance, but the answers won’t be disclosed to the employers. It’s in the candidate’s best interest to be open at this stage in the process.
Will they need interview accommodations?
If, to perform at their best, the candidate will need interview accommodations, it’s beneficial to disclose these needs to the hiring company’s HR department from the start.
Will they need workplace accommodations?
If the candidate feels that disclosure would work against them in the interview process, but they’ll need accommodations in the workplace, they may wish to wait to disclose until after an employment offer has been made. An explanation for not having done so before would be warranted.
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