Neurodiversity in Recruitment

News   –   29 September 2022

How aware are you? How proactive are you?



Over the last five years all recruiters have been facing unprecedented challenges to deliver on diversity and inclusion within their campaigns. This has built on the existing requirements to ensure representation of gender, disability, and race equality, to improve opportunities for LGBTQ+ communities, and had added impetus from the Black Lives Matter campaigns and the current debates on trans issues. However, to add to all of these elements, a new focus is appearing which also requires all recruiter’s attention and focus, and that is the emerging realisation of how neurodiversity needs to be adequately included within any truly inclusive process.




So what is neurodiversity? Well there is not one fixed definition, but it is becoming established in common parlance that the term is widely used to cover a number of cognitive diversity differences that some applicants experience. Most typically this can include autism (with it’s different labels, such as spectrum, and asperger’s), dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia and ADHD being the most common.  There are many challenges for recruiters with these neurodiverse candidates, including:

-          The fact that sometimes someone with one of these conditions may not ‘appear’ in any way divergent on first meeting, so called hidden disabilities;

-          These conditions can co-occur for some candidates;

-          Within each grouping, there is actually a huge range of different ways that people can experience these conditions, as one very common phrase says “if you have met one autistic person, then you have met one autistic person” – not every autistic person is like Dustin Hoffman from Rainman, in fact most aren’t at all, and yet stereotypes remain long in people’s memories;

-          And crucially many neurodivergent individuals choose to not declare their situation during a recruitment campaign, so a switched on recruiter, who wants to be inclusive, needs to think carefully about how they can make their processes inclusive by design, not just in response to reasonable adjustment requests.


As diagnostic skills in this area have improved over recent years, there is also a growing realisation that more people are neurodiverse than previously thought, and in particular more women are neurodiverse than previously envisaged, so to be successful in diverse recruitment it is really important that we consider the intersectionality issues faced by autistic women, for example.


So what can I do?


At Moloney Search we pride ourselves on our longstanding commitment to all aspects of diversity and inclusion in recruitment, and it has formed the bedrock of our approach for over twenty five years.  So in working with us, you know you will get cutting edge support in this area. To help with this we are fortunate to be able to draw on the expertise of one of our senior Associates, Dr Ian Iceton, who gained his doctorate by researching neurodiversity recruitment, and delving deeply into the many mistakes that organisations typically make in this area, and how they can learn to avoid them.  He trains and advises our recruiters and ensures that our processes are constantly being adapted to make them as inclusive as possible for all neurodivergent candidates. Some of the areas he encourages organisations that are undertaking recruitment to consider include:


-          How do you describe your approach to neurodiversity in company materials, especially your websites, as neurodivergent candidates often have a very particular way of interpreting what you write and say about yourself;

-          How neurodiverse friendly are your recruitment materials, have they been assessed with neurodiverse people in mind?

-          Are there assumptions built into your campaign design, recruitment materials, job specification, and selection processes, that are biased against neurodiverse candidates, even if by accident?

-          Do you know what reasonable adjustments might be appropriate for some candidates and, if they are unlikely to declare their position, how will you make them aware of these options in an inclusive manner?

-          Do you use selection tools that are inherently biased against neurodiverse candidates, as many are?

-          As an organisation have you educated and trained your line managers and recruiters to provide them with the necessary knowledge and understanding in this area, and the right language for them to use?

-          If you are utilising the services of an external search partner, do they truly understand these issues, and can they deliver on them as part of their thorough handling of all aspects of diverse and inclusive recruitment support?





So is this an area that you consider a risk to you organisation? And should you? Is there a risk you are indirectly discriminating against certain candidates? It might not be long before Employment Tribunals are asked to rule on these matters. More importantly still, are you at risk from missing out on the huge range of skills and talents that often lie with neurodiverse candidates, but who are very often overlooked and excluded from the workforce because of their different requirements. In this ongoing war for talent, can you really risk not considering these candidates fairly, because your competitors might be beating you to it.


Why Moloney Search?


We pride ourselves on being thought leaders on all aspects of recruitment, especially diversity and inclusion, and our approach to neurodiversity is no different. So we bring new and emerging solutions to this area, to build on the existing proactive steps we take to achieve all aspects of diversity in the campaigns we run. We report on diversity throughout the campaigns in a rigorous and thorough way. We have developed our own assessment tool that can be used to support neurodiverse recruitment. And we have access to deep knowledge and understanding in this area, which our entire team has been trained in.

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