Autism and job interviews: what it’s like trying to find work when you have ASD


By Cain Noble-Davies

Posted

April 03, 2018 05:04:52

I’ve come to the conclusion that the job application process sucks for pretty much everyone involved. However, no single part of that process feels worse than the rare occasions when I actually got brought in for an interview.

Most of the time, I’m lucky to get any response from applications, let alone someone actually taking time out to tell me that no, my application was not successful.

Hell, some employers don’t even get that far.

I remember applying for a fast food chain, only to be greeted with one of the most automated emails I’ve ever seen. Like, “Dear [Applicant Name Here]” levels of automated.

Not the best feeling when it feels like no-one is willing to meet you halfway. Or meet you at all, leaving the robots to deal with you.

But still, even that isn’t the worst of it. At least that scenario is just annoying. Going into a job interview, on the other hand? It’s incredibly daunting.

Socialising has never come easy for me, so imagine how that same mindset handles the idea that based off a single conversation, you could either be employed or sent right back to square one of the process.

Autism stops me from speaking — literally

From what I’ve been able to discern, first impressions are kind of a big thing for most people.

Well, I certainly hope employers don’t hold onto that too closely because, for pretty much every encounter with someone I’d never met previously, I become incredibly withdrawn.

I’m lucky to get any words out at all, and while I’ve always managed to bounce back on repeat encounters, job interviews don’t work that way.

Now, normally, in these kinds of social situations, I always lean back on the thing I know best: humour.

Making someone else laugh has always been my go-to social mode, as laughter is the easiest emotion to read off someone else and it serves as a good indicator of whether or not I’ve connected with them.

So imagine my chagrin when, while in the process of doing work skills training, one of the first bits of advice I was given for job interviews is: “Don’t make jokes.”

I’m supposed to be there showing off my potential strengths to an employer, and being able to socialise in the workplace seems to be part of that, and yet I can’t make jokes.

It’s like telling a boxer to fight with his hands tied behind his back: You’re not letting me play to my strengths.

The self-doubt must be visible

So, I’m in a situation where I’m guaranteed to be socially withdrawn, can’t fall back on how I usually deal with that withdrawal, and I only have this one chance to convince someone else that I’m worth hiring.

All the training in the world isn’t enough for me to overcome those hurdles, at least at this stage of my development.

So I smile and nod and try to maintain just enough eye contact with the interviewer, while a heavy feeling in my heart tells me this isn’t going to happen.

That self-doubt must have been visible because, of all the job interviews I’ve gone through I can count how many of them led to employment on one hand … with a few digits severed.

My ideal job interview situation, one that I would actually be comfortable sitting in, wouldn’t even involve talking. I would want the other person to give me something practical to do.

If I’m applying for a data entry position, put me in front of a typing speed calculator so I can show what I’m capable of.

If I’m applying for a retail position, put me in a scenario where I have to sell an item to a customer.

If I’m going to be doing a specific task, wouldn’t it make more sense to actually see my proficiency in that task and judge me based on that?

Judge us on more than just our words

Famous ‘Aspies’

  • Albert Einstein
  • Peter Sellars
  • Vincent Van Gogh
  • Andy Warhol
  • Lewis Carroll
  • Marie Curie
  • Courtney Love

Actions speak louder than words, so why do job interviews rely so much on words?

Communication difficulties are a fundamental part of the autistic experience. Putting us into situations that exacerbate those difficulties isn’t going to provide employers with the ideal impression of autistic job seekers, especially when it’s a singular chance to make that impression.

But judge us on more than just our words, and employers may find out that we can be among the most dedicated workers they’ve ever seen.

All we need is a chance to prove it.

Cain Noble-Davies has autism and is a published writer. He appears on Employable Me, which follows people with neuro diverse conditions as they search for meaningful employment. It starts on ABC tonight at 8.30pm and will be available on iView.

Topics:

autism-spectrum-disorder,

work,

australia



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