Hiring a Neurodiverse Workforce

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Diversity makes teams and companies stronger. We’ll always sing the praises of diversity and inclusion-focused hiring because it makes workplaces more human, joyous and productive.

For neurodiverse individuals, stigma remains an enormous challenge. Many neurodiverse people don’t consider themselves disabled and are highly capable of professional success. Sadly, misperceptions about their abilities persist in workplaces and the wider community.

Neurodiverse individuals can remain undiagnosed or get diagnosed later in life, which unfortunately marginalises them further especially where employers are not attuned to their differences.
In short, neurodiverse people can struggle to find fulfilling careers because they’re not usually given a chance to show what they’re capable of. This is where employers can make a real difference.

Tech employers are starting to make headway, with the likes of Microsoft, SAP, VMware and IBM having established hiring programs for neurodiverse candidates.

But with more than 10% of people estimated to be neurodivergent, there is so much more that organisations can do to support neurodiversity in tech. We’ll highlight where to begin when building a neurodiverse workforce.

Defining Neurodivergence

The most straightforward definition of neurodivergence is cognitive functioning that is different from what is seen as ‘normal’ for much of the population. These variations can include autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, dyspraxia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia and Tourette’s syndrome.

Each of these conditions represents a potentially infinite variation in thinking style, focus and memory. With these variations, employers can access new perspectives, points of view and ways of working.

The Benefits of a Neurodiverse Workforce

Much like everyone else, no two neurodivergent people are alike. Knowing an individual’s specific condition won’t neatly explain all their strengths and weaknesses. But growing evidence points to what neurodivergent people can bring to workplaces.

Hire people from an untapped talent pool

Neurodiverse talent is clearly overlooked in the UK and the proof is in the statistics. Just 22% of autistic people in the UK are currently employed, ONS figures show, while research from the National Autistic Society shows the majority of autistic unemployed people want to work. Clearly, there is more effort employers can put into recruiting from this high-potential pool of candidates.

Improve employee retention

Neurodiverse people are known to stay in jobs for longer. DXC Technology, which helped pioneer neurodiversity in tech with its Dandelion program, has reported a retention rate of 92% for participating employees.

Boost productivity

Autistic people, for example, can bring excellent attention to detail, strong technical skills and great reserves of tenacity – all of which are necessary attributes for Software Engineer jobs. JPMorgan Chase found the individuals hired as part of its Autism at Work programme are 90% to 140% more productive than neurotypical employees. Those who have ADHD have also demonstrated a high level of creative, out-of-the-box thinking, which can help bring new perspectives and solutions to problems.

Be an employer of choice

If you’re committed to building a workplace that supports diversity and inclusion, hiring neurodiverse employees will show your company follows through on its messaging. Most importantly, every organisation that welcomes neurodiversity plays a part in breaking down the stigma faced by neurodivergent people.

Traditional recruitment processes can hold back neurodivergent candidates from showing their authentic selves. But there are small adjustments you can make today to be more inclusive.

Building Neurodiverse Teams

Here are the essentials to get started:

Tweak job ads

When it comes to job descriptions, stick to the essential tasks and competencies. Neurodivergent candidates might have technical strengths but little or no experience in managing people and can struggle with communication. If a role is mostly technical, it might be best to avoid emphasising the need for soft skills.

Understand inclusive language

It’s vital to be aware of the correct language when referencing neurodivergent candidates. For example, it’s important to say ‘autistic people’ rather than ‘people with autism’ because while person-first language was always championed, identity-first language is largely more popular and accepted by neurodivergent people.

Person-first language is always well-intentioned, but it can be seen as dehumanising. Autism and other neurodivergences are brain differences that impact who the person is, rather than become the whole person. Individual opinions differ here, but it’s important to start with identity-first language in your communication.

Make neurodiverse people feel welcome

Inclusivity starts with positive messaging. Encourage neurodiverse candidates to apply for roles and make this clear across all touch points, job ads, the company website and careers page and social media posts.

Retool job interviews

Neurodiverse people can find social interaction difficult, so a barrage of questions in a job interview might be daunting! Instead, you could start with a casual introductory chat followed by a technical assessment.

Ask candidates about what help they need

Before an interview, ask candidates if they need appropriate adjustments to the interview process. This might include giving them the interview questions in advance, more time to answer questions and detailed instructions on how to attend the interview.

Use expert resources

If neurodiverse hiring is unchartered territory for your team or organisation, don’t try to wing it. Many online resources and advocacy organisations are available that can help Hiring Managers to use sensible approaches. Partnering with a Tech recruitment specialist that has experience in neurodiverse hiring can help you get it right the first time.

Train interviewers to avoid unconscious bias

It’s astute to get coaching on how to detect bias before you begin neurodiverse hiring. Ensure anyone interviewing candidates is trained to recognise how neurodiverse candidates may present in interviews and how to accommodate them. Knowing how to minimise unconscious bias will help Hiring Managers and candidates get the fairest outcomes.


Recognising the value of a neurodiverse workforce is a major step towards equity in the technology industry. By making IT jobs accessible to neurodivergent people, your organisation can make real strides towards a fairer and more inclusive workplace.
To get started on your neurodiverse-friendly hiring, our team of tech recruitment experts can help you achieve your mission. Contact us today to begin building your team.

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