By Anna Everts
This blog discusses the pros and cons of disclosing autism during a job interview. This blog is written for autistic people, by an autistic person with experience in the subject matter.
So, you’ve landed a job interview. Great! But now there probably are a million questions going through your mind; “What questions will they ask?”, “What should I wear?”, “What information do I want from them?”, and most importantly “Do I inform them about my autism?”.
For most autistic people the latter is a question they ponder about the longest. It’s not surprising, really. It’s an important question that could, unfortunately, affect the outcome of the interview. But for every reason to stay quiet about it, there is also a good reason to inform your possible future employer. Here are all the pros and cons listed for you, so you can make a decision that fits your situation.
Why you should disclose your autism during a job interview
1. It’s a part of you
Autism is a part of you and it always will be. Whether or not you like it, it is most likely going to affect the way you interact with colleagues, supervisors and even clients. And that’s okay. Everyone deals with people differently, even those without autism. Some people loathe making phone calls, are a little too hyper around clients, or constantly disagree with their co-workers. No one handles social interactions the same way.
Of course for an autistic person social interactions are often far more difficult, but that doesn’t mean they’re impossible to work with. When someone hires you, they hire all of you. That includes your autism. So if someone wouldn’t want you because you’re autistic, you should ask yourself whether or not you want to work there. There will be enough other places that are in fact happy to explore your unique qualities and can give you what you need to be a functioning member of the team.
Pro: Your openness and honesty might be seen as a plus. Also you’ll know if the company is biased or not.
Con: The employer might be thinking in negative stereotypes. However Stack focuses on partnering with inclusive employers. This means that our employers understand autism and know how to support an autistic employee.
2. It prevents unwanted surprises
Sometimes us autistics need a little more help than others; a more thorough briefing, extra time to work on a task, or even a buddy who’s always ready to answer our questions. If you need these things to function properly in a workplace, it’s best to be open about it upfront. If you don’t, your employer will hire you with expectations you can’t meet and then both parties will be disappointed.
When you clearly state what you need to be a productive part of the team and also provide a solution for those needs, an employer will see that you are flexible and willing to meet them halfway into accommodating to your needs. And that might just earn you those extra points you need to get hired!
Pro: It prevents stress and miscommunication on both sides.
Con: Some employers might not be willing to meet you halfway. However, Stack Recruitment can assist in getting the employer to better understand your situation. This may just turn them around!
3. It provides an opportunity to highlight your unique skills
Your autism makes you unique. That also means you have qualities that non-autistics don’t have. You can use these qualities to your advantage. For example, during an interview you can tell an employer something along the lines of the following sentence:
“I have autism, which means that I’m really good at picking up on details. This enables me to execute a job with great precision.”
By presenting your autism in a positive light, the employer will think of the positive aspects first before making any assumptions about you. Of course you can mention any skill you think is valuable. Applying for the creative sector? Tell them about how creative autistic people are! Or does your autism make you a good problem solver? Tell them about that! Take some time to make a list with your unique skills and mention them during the interview. That way there’s less room for negative stereotypes.
Pro: It changes the perspective the employer might have on autism.
Con: Employers may still worry about supporting an autistic employee. However there are plenty of organisations and articles out there where they can gain useful advice and help. They just may need to be directed.
Why it might be better not disclose your autism
1. People are prejudiced
This is the sad truth. Many people are uninformed about what autism actually is and most of their knowledge about autism comes from extreme stereotypes. Of course, people can learn, but that doesn’t mean that they will. For this reason it might be better to not tell an employer that you’re autistic. Especially if you really need a job and cannot use another rejection, staying quiet about it might be the best way to go.
Furthermore, if you’ve noticed that people only tend to see your autism and not the rest of you, it might also be a good idea to keep quiet. You can always tell them later. In fact, you can choose not to tell them at first, let them get to know you, and then bring up your autism after a week on the job. That way your first impression isn’t tied to your autism.
Pro: The employer can get to know you without making false assumptions about you.
Con: By not telling the employer that you’re autistic, they won’t be able to provide the extra tools or help you might need. If you do run into problems, Stack can help you sort these out with your employer.
2. Your autism doesn’t affect the qualities needed for the job
Let’s say you struggle with talking to people on the phone or face to face, but talking to someone via text is not an issue at all. And let’s say in this case you’re applying for the part of a virtual customer service assistant. You won’t have to talk to people face to face or assist them over the phone, so what’s the issue?
This is just one example of a case in which it might not be needed to mention your autism. If you feel your autism won’t be in the way of the tasks you need to perform at the job you’re applying for, then why bring it up? You don’t always have to tell people that you’re autistic if there’s no reason for them to know. Of course, you can still choose to tell them if you don’t feel comfortable keeping it quiet. It’s all a matter of what you think is best.
Pro: Not mentioning it when it isn’t needed will prevent prejudice.
Con: If problems do arise, you might still have to bring up your autism. But since you’ve already proven your worth, you have to worry less about facing prejudice. Your employer knows what you can do!
Whether or not you should bring up your autism during a job interview completely depends on your own situation. In the end you should do what feels best for you. If you’re very worried about the reaction of the employer and it’s eating you up inside, then don’t sweat it. Focus on the interview itself and don’t mention it just yet.
If you just want to be sure you’re accepted for who you are and don’t mind taking the risk, then go ahead and tell them! Make your own list of pros and cons so you can come to a conclusion that works for you. But no matter what you do, know that you have value. You can bring qualities to the table that others might not have. So never settle for something where your efforts aren’t appreciated.
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