Accompaniment during the interview
For people with AS, it may be particularly helpful if they are accompanied during the interview by a friend who knows them well. This friend can take on the role of ‘translator’. Questions which may be difficult for the person to understand (such as open questions) can be formulated by the friend in such a way that the person is in a better position to answer. This is not only beneficial to the person but can also be a major help for the interviewer.
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People with Asperger Syndrome (AS) may possess a number of skills and abilities which could be particularly attractive to an employer (see separate section on Skills and Abilities). However, due to sensory issues or difficulties with communication, finding employment can be particularly challenging for someone with AS.
Some of the issues, and possible solutions, include:
People with AS may have difficulty following panel interview discussions or may not be able to judge when it is their turn to speak. They may also have difficulty speaking in front of a larger number of people. Ideally, the interview should be held on a one-to-one basis.
Open or vague questions, such as 'Do you have computer skills?' may be difficult to understand and may be answered with a simple 'yes' or 'no'. In order for the interviewer to receive the appropriate information, closed questions should be used. Be specific. To avoid misinterpretation, offer a selection of responses that the person can choose from in order to help them focus their response.
Avoid the use of ambiguous questions, such as ‘What are your strengths?’, as these can be confusing and difficult to interpret. Be clear. Let the person know what information you require.
People with AS like to focus on facts and information and may have problems visualizing events they have not yet experienced. Hypothetical questions such as ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?’ or ‘Do you think you will enjoy working as part of a team?’ can therefore be difficult to answer. Ask about specific situations and events the person has already experienced.
People with AS may not understand when it is necessary to provide more detailed information about a particular topic. If you require more information, ask the person to tell you more but be specific with regard to the type of information you require. Alternatively, some people may not realise if they are speaking too much. If a person's response becomes too detailed or elaborate, change the topic.
Job advertisements often mention requirements such as ‘team spirit’ or ‘good communication skills’ which are not necessarily essential in order to fulfill the role. People with AS may not apply for such jobs because they may have difficulty in these areas even though they may possess other skills and abilities which may be essential for the role. Job advertisements should only include information that is particularly pertinent to the role.
During an interview, social interaction and communication skills are essential if the interview is to be a success. Due to sensory issues or difficulties with communication, people with AS may have difficulties interpreting non-verbal communication, understanding when to speak and how much information to disclose, interpreting open or hypothetical questions or keeping eye contact. In order for the discussion to be successful, certain adjustments may need to be made (see Interview Tips).
An internship as part of the interview process is an ideal opportunity for the employer to gain a full picture of the skills and abilities of the person, and for the person to meet the other members of the team. Introduce the person into a small, quiet and understanding team rather than a large, loud and possibly hectic environment so that they can adjust more quickly and can focus on demonstrating their skills and abilities.