Neurodiversity in Recruitment

A relatively unspoken topic in recruitment is neurodiversity and the variety of personality traits that neurodiverse people bring to a workplace. Often likened to an ‘invisible illness’, neurodiversity is an umbrella term used to refer to people who have neurological differences. Affecting things such as mood, attention, ability to socialise, learning methods and other similar things, it can be difficult for other people to see and understand the challenges neurodivergent people face.

Diagnoses such as ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia and Dyscalculia, to name a few, are among the most commonly known conditions that fall under these criteria and although protected from discrimination by legislation, it is still often difficult for individuals to navigate the job market successfully.

It is important to not stereotype. Most forms of neurodivergence will be experienced on a spectrum meaning individuals will differ in the characteristics they display and the severity of them. For example, not all autistic people have advanced memory abilities, and it is not the case that everyone with ADHD can’t sit still.

Around 1 in 7 people in the UK are neurodiverse and research shows that just 16% of autistic adults are in full time employment. Remember, not everyone who thinks differently is neurodivergent and not all neurodivergent people will have an official diagnosis.


diagram showing common conditions of neurodiversity and their signs

This diagram created by Mary Colley shows common conditions and their associated traits. It should be noted that unfortunately, positive aspects are not as widely spoken about. People often speak about diversity in terms of culture, gender, and sexuality more positively than neurodiversity which is perhaps why some workplaces are not as inclusive or aware.


How to adapt


There are plenty of obstacles to employment for neurodiverse people and many find aspects of the recruitment process very challenging. Providing a personalised recruitment process may widen your talent pool and provide a neurodivergent candidate with a more comfortable experience.

Interviews are often difficult. Autistic people often struggle with aspects of social interaction such as eye contact or reading body language whilst people with ADHD may fidget or get distracted a lot; these behaviours can cause them to appear rude or uninterested which is often not the case.

Think about what really matters in the job you’re trying to fill, if a candidate isn’t very good at small talk or holding eye contact, how much will that affect their ability to do a non-customer-facing role? Tailoring your recruitment methods and interviews to suit your candidates needs would be beneficial. Perhaps asking them to complete a task from home, using tests or a work trial may be better methods of assessment.

Obviously, interviews are often necessary however wording your questions to be more specific and avoiding open-ended or quick-fired questions can help make them less daunting and easier to process. Some may prefer to sit side by side or at an angle rather than face to face as it often makes it easier to converse with less pressure of maintaining eye contact.

Having diversity and inclusion statements on job applications enforces the idea that as a business you are willing to make reasonable adjustments for candidates who may feel like they need them. Similarly, giving candidates the opportunity throughout your hiring process to disclose any information they deem necessary will give you the opportunity to discuss potential accommodations or simply give you a better understanding of your candidate’s true abilities. It is important however to ensure individuals don’t feel pressured to either hide or declare their neurodiversity and are allowed to comfortably communicate at their own discretion.

Being proactive and making adjustments in the workplace will also help employees feel more comfortable and work more efficiently, often these don’t cost the employer anything! This could be as simple as allowing headphones, offering a quiet space to work in with less visual and auditory stimuli such as dimmed lights, or allowing flexible working. Any changes made would help candidates feel they are in a welcoming, inclusive environment.

Simply being aware is also helpful. Taking the time to get to know someone, attempting to understand other people’s perspectives and being accommodating can make a huge difference. While many neurodivergent people may have trouble fitting in, being accepting of people’s differences, whether stemmed from neurodiversity or not, can go a long way.


What are the benefits of recruiting with neurodiversity in mind?


Think of a sports team, people will be chosen for their different strengths and brought together to make an efficient team. Workplaces should undertake a similar approach and construct a team that enhances the strength of their business as a whole. Sharing viewpoints and bouncing ideas off one another becomes a lot easier when your team is comprised of people who think in different ways, encouraging creativity and innovative thinking.

Many people focus on the negative aspects of neurodivergence rather than recognising that neurodivergent people are highly capable and usually just need small adaptations to be able to perform well in a job role. Autistic people are often highly intelligent and detail oriented; they are great analytical and logical thinkers, and some have a strong ability to focus and concentrate for long periods of time therefore often being incredibly productive. Hiring neurodivergent people strengthens your business and brings in unique skillsets, experiences, and perspectives that provide you with a competitive advantage and a better company culture.

You create an atmosphere of acceptance when hiring new candidates and providing adjustments for them; it reduces stigma and encourages more open conversations. When demonstrating your commitment to inclusion, your staff members see and are reminded that as a business you care about their wellbeing. This helps to create a safer and more comfortable environment for everyone, whether neurodivergent or not.



Making a conscious effort to hire and include neurodivergent people in your workforce is extremely beneficial to not only you as a business but your employees and working environment. Having reservations about hiring neurodivergent people, perhaps thinking they may not fit into the company culture as well as neurotypicals or will have poor job performance, is a belief that needs to be changed. Businesses should be educating themselves further and doing more to be continuously more inclusive; focus on what individuals can bring to your organisation and watch your company excel.