As it has long been described, the hiring market is a battlefield; from each direction, firms fight it out to attract the right talent as competitors flank either side. More recently, markets claim that the talent pool is dwindling as the tech skills gap widens, but what if this is not actually the case at all, asks Sally Walker.

The truth is, the entire recruitment process is fundamentally flawed, and the talent shortage is not as substantial as everyone thinks it is.

At the same time, neurodivergent individuals are grossly underrepresented in the workforce, yet they possess a lot of skills that are desperately needed for the tech industry. However, time and again, they’re overlooked in the recruitment process.

An untapped source of talent

WithYouWithMe’s research shows that neurodivergent individuals have so much to offer; in fact, they were found to be most suitable to roles in the tech industry, scoring 10 percent higher than the general population. Given the current technology skills shortage, this should come as good news for the industry.

It has also been found that autistic individuals typically score 10 percent higher in their digital skills aptitude than those with neurotypical traits, with neurodivergent groups scoring 32 percent higher in spatial awareness and 10 percent higher in digital symbol coding, two important skills for roles in IT systems administration and user-experience.

This problem is current hiring processes no longer suit the modern market, so groups of extremely talented individuals are being excluded from consideration. The workforce needs to be diverse, featuring groups from all walks of life with unique backgrounds and experiences to ensure diversity of opinion and skill. But oftentimes, that does not necessarily translate on a sheet of paper in the same way. At this point, CVs are more of a measure of privilege than skill, comprising of all the opportunities certain individuals have been exposed to.

After all, given that most of the tech roles being filled did not exist five years ago, how can we expect candidates to demonstrate the qualifications and experience that is expected?

Insufficient hiring methods

It is widely understood that a person’s potential extends far beyond their experiences or opportunities, so why do we continue to base recruitment processes on such a restrictive approach?

Awareness and training sits at the heart of the issue. Research reveals that half of managers have had no training on inclusive hiring prior to interviewing applicants. In addition, only 14 percent of employers have had neurodiversity awareness training, with less than a third (32%) having had mandated interview coaching for cultural awareness, sensitivity, and competence.

Revolutionising the market

Given that 62 percent of businesses still rely solely on CVs, cover letters and reference checks, it is clear that drastic changes are required.

When recruiting a new team member, employers consider several factors when deciding if a candidate is best suited for the role: personality, interpersonal skills, past experience, aptitude and availability are a few.

‘Potential’ mapping for skills, aptitude, psychometrics and more are therefore valuable exercises to help identify candidates with the right skills for the job. It is a strong predictor of job performance and helps employers make data-driven recruitment decisions. Currently, only 11 percent of employers in the UK use psychometric or aptitude mapping for applicant screening.

Neurodivergent individuals, as well as other overlooked communities such as refugees and ex-servicemen and women, are currently being denied a career pathway because of their CV, rather than their aptitude and ability to perform in a role. Restructuring the way we recruit will trigger major change within the market.

The road to inclusivity

Great strides have been made to enhance EDI (equality, diversity and inclusion) practices within the workplace, so now it is time to turn our attention to those waiting outside the front doors.

Not only will making hiring processes more inclusive expose businesses to a wealth of skills and knowledge, but it will also help address the wider industry challenges. As I said before, the talent shortage is not as great as we perceive, businesses are just overlooking a huge portion of potential candidates.

‘Potential’ mapping empowers organisations to tackle this issue. Tens of thousands of diverse individuals that hold invaluable skills are out there seeking meaningful work.

If businesses prioritised aptitude and skills mapping to source candidates from overlooked talent pools, they would be better placed to build a resilient and future-proof workforce.


Sally Walker is Non-executive Director at WithYouWithMe.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.