Autism Spectrum Australia

Working class Part 2: Interviews Strike Back!

  • Posted: 11/09/2014
  • Author: Thomas Kuzma
  • Comments: Loading.. .

Salutations readers! Welcome back to another week on Aspire. So what’s been happening in the world of TK? Well, I met up with my fellow Aspie writers, went on a date with my lovely Jenna and I went to meet my Destiny, or in this case the Destiny video game. Thank god I have had a job to purchase such items!

Over the past month we’ve had a lot of people on Facebook asking about employment. Evidently the employment blog was a popular one. So, without further ado, let’s jump into our part 2! Every job in the world has an interview stage. It doesn’t matter if you are applying for a job in a law firm, a tradesman job or a job to be an interviewer, every job has an interview stage.

 Is it just me, or are interview stages harder than playing Mega Man? I mean, I’m here to show my work, I have put a lot of hard effort into something you are passionate about, only for people to say no? I mean I know they are looking for the best candidate; at least tell me why I didn’t get the job! Oh and the thoughts that come to mind when you are in there: is my hair right?  Don’t babble on! Is he coming on to me?

 As you can see, I have been to my fair share of interviews. The great hero’s journey always has a moment where they must face ‘the beast’. The interview stage is pretty much the hardest stage in our heroic ‘jobney’. But what can be done to get that extra mile when we are facing the oncoming battle we know as the interview?

A Professional Opinion

The interviewing stage being as hard as it is, I decided to sit down and interview Vicky Little, who recently partnered up with our lovely organisation to make Aspect Capable. Here is a snippet from our interview about interviews, or as I like to call it, ‘Intception’.

“The interview is traditionally considered an important (and final) stage of the recruitment process to determine whether the employer and candidate are a suitable match. As a result there is often a lot of pressure on the candidate to make a positive and lasting impression in order to be considered above the other candidates. However, for candidates with autism, the interview is not necessarily the best way to determine their capabilities and match for the role. So it is important for organisations to consider more innovative and effective recruitment practices, such as work trials or practical testing, as an alternative to fairly assess the capabilities and skills of the candidates.

The interview is typically one of the most significant barriers to employment for individuals with autism. This is because interviews are essentially assessing the candidate’s communication skills and their ability to “sell themselves” as being the best match for the job. Autism is fundamentally a communication and social disability, so for many individuals with autism these skills aren’t innate or understood. Therefore the candidate is faced with the challenge of exceptionally demonstrating these skills, along with their skills for the job, in a highly stressful and competitive situation.

 The skills required for interviews may not be innate, but they can be learned and better understood with the right practice and support. At Aspect Capable we mentor and train job seekers in understanding the ins and outs of the interview process, in particular the important role of communication skills (verbal and non-verbal), identifying strengths to “sell” to the interviewer, understanding the unwritten rules of the interview, and structuring their answers. Most importantly we practice mock interviews to help job seekers increase their confidence and reduce some of their anxiety for the real thing.

In my experience I feel it is important to give advice and tips to employers prior to the interview. So after discussing the matter of disclosure with the individual, if they are wishing to disclose their condition prior to the interview I would advocate for them by briefing the interviewers ahead of time. This is to enable the interview panel to understand how candidate’s autism may affect them in that environment and how to address the questions to get the most from the candidate. For example, for yes/no questions (e.g. “Are you familiar with Outlook?”) a candidate with autism may not expand on their answers to explain their skills in context, they may just answer yes or no. Therefore it would be beneficial for the interviewer to know that a prompt (“can you provide me with an example?”) or asking a more specific question (e.g. “tell me about a time you have used Outlook?”) to extract all the relevant information and gather sufficient information. Similarly if maintaining eye contact is difficult for the candidate, it would be important for the panel to understand this so if they are looking out the window or at their feet it doesn’t mean they are bored or disinterested. With this awareness, the interview panel will be better equipped to get fairly assess the candidates suitability for the position.”

 

My Two Cents

I have had the pleasure of going to several different interviews. Some of these have been more proper than tea with the Queen; others have been laid back. I remember the first job I had handing out resumes to local businesses. The interview process there was two questions “what days are you available?” and “when would you be willing to start?” I started work a week later.

I left that job almost a month later for a job at Woolworths. I remember going through more interviews than a politician. One of the reasons I got the job was because I went through a disability employment agency.

After getting my Diploma in Multimedia, I did try to find work in the television industry. The main reason I never got a job from the TV studios was a lack of experience. Sadly I have not been able to understand where to get experience, if every studio says you need experience to have experience.

The best interview process I have had has been here at Aspect. They knew what to do when interviewing someone on the spectrum. A lot of companies don’t know how to take this condition, so I hope in the future more people on the spectrum will have a fair go when it comes to interviews.

 

I guess all I can say on the matter is that autism and Asperger’s are still considered ‘fairly new’ conditions. Because of this, it makes disclosing that much more difficult. By telling the interviewer about the condition, you begin to raise more questions and there is nothing worse than being bombarded with questions.

I had some experience working with Vicky before I started at Aspect and I have to say, one of the major things needed for gaining employment is people like Vicky. They help you prepare, build your confidence and make sure you are a-okay for each of the job stages.

In Conclusion

Interviews as dreaded as they can be, are the most important stage of getting a job. The problem we in the autism community face is that communication can be quite hard for us. But all is not lost. We do have ways to prepare for these eventualities. With the help provided by people like Vicky who know everything about job hunting, we can make it through those hard final steps of getting a job!

Before we go, I thought you guys should remember, today is R U OK day, so make sure that wherever you are today, if you see someone who may look depressed or down, ask them if they are okay. I would also like to give a shout out to my friend Tim. A couple of days ago he saved the life of a woman by talking her away from jumping in front of railway tracks.  Depression is a horrible thing to go through, and it is usually the silent heroes that do the best work. So make sure this weekend is an awesome one, not just for you, but for anyone!

Did you manage to guess the past two weeks’ riddles? Jazz was Kick Off’s riddle and Flags were last week’s one.

Riddle to come

Some might say I am as blue as shining sapphires

But I’m only stealing that from the sky’s colours

I’m home to many things like clowns, kings and tigers

I’ll either be as calm as a monk or as fierce as fires

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Working class Part 2: Interviews Strike Back!