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Neurodivergent talent: Effective strategies to engage candidates

This guide explores several effective strategies for engaging neurodivergent candidates. But first, let’s review the definition of neurodivergent talent and the key benefits they bring to the table. 

What does it mean to be a neurodivergent candidate – The short answer is - you think differently than most people. A more technical explanation defines neurodiversity as “a variation in neurocognitive functioning.”

It is an umbrella term that encompasses a wide array of neurocognitive differences including - autism, Asperger’s syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and dyslexia, to name a few. 

Historically, employers were reluctant to hire neurodivergent workers because of several societal misconceptions.  One being that somehow neurodivergent people lack the skills to perform complex tasks. A misconception that was upended by Drexel University’s National Autism Indicators Report that found 51% of workers on the spectrum have higher skills than what their job requires. In fact, there are a variety of benefits associated with having neurodivergent talent on your team. 

“In today’s job market, where jobs outnumber candidates and diversity is highly sought after, companies are responding to the challenges by widening their candidate lens to include neurodivergent talent.”

Benefits of hiring neurodiverse  talent – Simply put, neurodivergent workers think differently. But to take it a step further, they are often able to think outside the box and develop different approaches and solutions to business challenges than the average worker. Some other benefits include – 

  • Higher retention rates – According to neurodiversityhub.org, Goldman Sachs recently announced plans to run a neurodiversity hiring program and noted that neurodivergent people tend to change jobs less frequently, and often have higher retention rates. 

Unique perspective that promotes creative and critical thinking – Because neurodivergent people experience the world differently and may have had to overcome a myriad of challenges, they have a higher chance of developing a wider perspective, which can result in heightened creativity and the enhanced critical thinking skills that translate into better designs, better processes, and innovative thinking. 

 

  • Ability to adapt to your company culture – Living a life that is different from what is considered the norm, neurodivergent workers may find it easier to empathize and accept differences in others. This can result in the ability to adapt more easily to a variety of company cultures. 

How to effectively engage neurodivergent candidates – Once you understand how much neurodivergent talent can bring to your organization, there are concrete steps an employer can take to integrate neurodiversity into your workplace. 

Promote a workplace culture of understanding – Just because you understand the benefits of neurodiversity, does not mean the rest of your company does. Making sure you engage with your team companywide to communicate the benefits and dispel the misconceptions associated with neurodivergent workers. Getting everyone in the company on the same page up front, will eliminate any issues that could arise if people do not have the opportunity to revise their thought processes on neurodivergent people. 

  • Revise your hiring practices – Or more accurately, change the way you think about what makes an “ideal candidate.” If you are judging candidates with archaic notions of body language such as, how well they make eye contact, or if they have a strong handshake – you need to revise your thinking. Because some of those simple, societal norms are difficult for neurodivergent individuals to perform. 

It is also important to ask the right questions to identify an individual’s skills and capabilities. For example, interview questions that are designed to stump an individual and get them to think fast can be challenging for the neurodivergent. But if the job does not require that type of fast thinking, skip it. Also, keep in mind that many neurodivergent individuals have far more skills than you might see on a resume because they are often self-taught. 

  • Create concise, simple job descriptions – Your job description should outline exactly what is expected in the role you are sourcing. Carefully consider what soft skills to include to attract neurodiverse talent. If the role will not require much teamwork and communication, but more creative thinking and attention to detail, write it that way. You can discourage neurodivergent talent from applying by including too many soft skills that are not truly necessary. 

Ease neurodivergent candidates into the workplace – This requires patience but consider bringing neurodivergent candidates onboard with a staggered approach that begins with a week of virtual training that introduces team-based work simulations and interpersonal skills development. Week two takes place onsite and from there, onboarding and training is done by managers with formal training working with the neurodivergent. 

Expand training efforts across the board – Part of successfully building a pool of neurodiverse talent is making sure everyone on your team, especially managers, understands the different aspects of neurodiversity. Engage professionals in the space to educate your entire team about what living with neurodiversity is like and how to develop effective strategies for working together. 

Be accommodating of your neurodiverse  workers- Neurodivergent individuals, such as those with autism, may have increased sensitivity to things like noise, lighting, temperature and even being outside of their home. Be flexible and consider providing extra support such as noise-canceling headphones, privacy rooms, or flexible work from-home scenarios to set your neurodivergent employees up for success.  

Amplify the message – Integrating neurodivergent talent into your workforce can drive your business to new heights of creativity. But to attract neurodivergent candidates, you need to spread the message both internally and externally. Many companies are partnering with organizations like the Autism at Work Roundtable to actively pursue programs that brings more neurodiverse talent to the fold. 

Utilize the right recruiting tools to attract more neurodiverse talent – An AI recruiting tool can go a long way to helping employers and recruiters discover more neurodiverse talent.  Arya Quantum and Arya Fusion not only have built in diversity functions, they also have the ability to target job advertisements, and an integrated candidate communication dashboard to connect you to neurodiverse candidates quickly and efficiently.

Final thoughts – Attracting and creating a neurodiverse talent pool has a myriad of benefits. To do it effectively, it is important to maintain a candidate-centric mindset and to promote a positive work culture in your entire team related to working with neurodivergent individuals. Throw in an effective recruiting tool like Arya Quantum and you have the perfect formula to set your company and your candidates up for success.