Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects around 5 per cent of children and 3 per cent of adults in the UK. It is a complex condition that affects a person’s ability to control attention, impulses, and concentration.
People with ADHD often possess qualities and skills that make them valuable assets to any organisation. Unfortunately, there are still a number of barriers in the recruitment process that are impacting the job opportunities available to them.
We have listed some recommendations below for line managers, HR professionals and senior management teams to help make recruitment processes more inclusive.
A job advertisement is essential for any organisation trying to recruit. Try not to put applicants off by asking for skills and experience that aren’t required or relevant for the role.
Businesses should clearly state that they encourage applications from all candidates with the right experience and qualifications. They should also encourage individuals to request reasonable adjustments that will help them to perform to the best of their abilities and make them feel more comfortable.
To be an attractive employer to candidates, make it known that your organisation has neurodiversity policies and training in place, and give assurances of a supportive and inclusive workplace.
It should always come down to how well the applicant can do the job. Any accidental, unconscious bias or miscommunication will only limit the talent pool, which could include the most promising candidates.
Interviews – Before, During, and After
Making reasonable adjustments during an interview could be essential to allow candidates to portray their skills and competencies to their full potential. This will help to ensure that you are making an informed choice about who to recruit.
Generally, if an adjustment is possible in the job itself, then prospective employers should allow that adjustment in an assessment/recruitment process.
Interviews rely heavily on social and communication skills. Most people with ADHD have excellent communication skills and tend to thrive when talking to someone directly.
However, candidates may find certain parts of an interview more challenging, such as:
- Waiting for questions to finish before answering, especially if questions are long or contain multiple clauses
- Focusing during a series of long-winded questions
- Sitting still in a formal setting for long periods of time
- Auditory memory (e.g. listening to a new task / holding onto and remembering details)
- Individuals could have slower information processing speeds
They may also be prone to:
- Interrupting conversations or explanations
- Speaking too much or straying off the topic
- Appearing distracted or disinterested
- Looking away from the speakers (to aid concentration and be less distracted)
- Requiring questions to be repeated (if they have lost track or direction)
However, these behaviours may mask the valuable talents and qualities of the individual, especially if characteristics of ADHD are not understood.
For example, those with ADHD may tend to answer quickly, or begin talking before the other person has quite finished, purely out of enthusiasm and engagement with the conversation. They may even stray from the conversation topic because their mind is full of innovative ideas – they could even find connections that others may miss. The interviewer may simply need to repeat the question or prompt them to help get back on track.
Employers should not overlook the wonderful creativity, energy, people skills, and problem solving abilities that those with ADHD often possess – to name just a few typical attributes.
Things to consider before the interview
Some useful examples of accommodations that you might want to consider:
- Provide a list of interview questions in advance of the interview
- Notify interviewees that notes can be brought into the interview as prompts (allow time for the interviewee to look at them during the interview)
- Send over, in writing, any case studies or scenarios that will be used in the interview
- Avoid using non-specific questions. Try to use questions that are more direct and focussed. For example, instead of ‘Can you expand on that?’, they could ask ‘What was your role in the project?’
- Try to limit technical jargon. This can be off putting for someone under pressure who may not regularly use similar terminology.
While not everyone experiences sensory differences, many neurodivergent people are acutely sensitive (hyper) or under sensitive (hypo) in one or multiple senses. People with ADHD are predominantly hypersensitive. Consider:
- What might be going on in the room, or in and around the building on the day of the interview that could act as a distraction?
- If a candidate has problems with visual or auditory distractions, consider ensuring the interview room is free of background noise and movement to allow for better concentration. E.g. other staff talking or moving visibly across the office
- Check the interview room’s temperature. Ask the candidate if the room is okay and not too hot or cold.
- Ensure that the lighting isn’t too bright or intimidating
Things to consider during the interview
The general adjustments suggested below do not give an advantage to candidates; they remove the barriers that may prevent some candidates from demonstrating their suitability for the job.
- Give the candidate questions in advance. Many people have difficulty retaining verbal information, especially when experiencing anxiety, which will likely occur at a job interview
- The interviewer should be aware that people with neurodevelopmental conditions can become verbally muddled when asked to give details or describe a situation, so perhaps ask them if they would like to make notes before providing an in-depth response
- Allow the candidate to make notes on key points they’d like to discuss – this may help them to remember the details/direction of the question
- Be ready to repeat questions or parts of questions
- Verbally prompt the candidate if they have given sufficient information
Inclusive workplaces are those where there is a whole organisational understanding that simple adjustments can be necessary to support those who need to work in different ways in order to thrive.
Katherine Kindersley is a Neurodiversity Consultant at DMA Talent. She is also the director of Dyslexia Assessment & Consultancy (DAC), an organisation which has long specialised in working with adults in employment. DAC works with private and public companies, government organisations, as well as individuals, providing assessment, training, and advice on reasonable adjustments. Katherine and her team run regular training courses for dyslexia professionals on employment consultancy work and for managers on dyslexia awareness.