Recruiters and employers are becoming increasingly conscious of the dangers of unconscious bias in the recruitment process. These unspoken biases can put talented candidates at a disadvantage when going for top jobs, on account of their background or other factors.

But unconscious bias can also manifest itself with regard to neurodiversity. Many candidates from neurodiverse backgrounds find themselves hindered by recruitment processes that don’t take their needs into account – or they’re simply deterred from applying in the first place.

A more diverse workplace, embracing a broad range of skills, perspectives and backgrounds, is proven to be a more innovative one. But what does a neurodiversity-friendly recruitment process actually look like, and what can employers do in order to be more open to applicants from neurodiverse backgrounds?

Neurodiversity and unconscious bias

The term ‘neurodiversity’ refers to the multiplicity of ways in which people may learn and interpret information. Neurodiversity may encompass a wide range of conditions, including autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD, as well as conditions acquired through brain injury or illness.

People from neurodiverse backgrounds are often the subject of stereotypes and may not conform to social norms, which can hinder them when trying to make their way in the world of work. The unemployment rate among people from neurodiverse backgrounds has been estimated at 30-40%, while among autistic people specifically, only 21.7% were in work in 2021, according to the Office for National Statistics.

When trying to find employment, people from neurodiverse backgrounds may find themselves excluded from the recruitment process through no fault of their own. Although awareness of neurodiversity has improved in recent years, misconceptions still persist among some employers.

However, people from neurodiverse backgrounds can bring unique talents and viewpoints to the table, which can make them a huge asset to the organisations that employ them. This, as well as employers’ obligation to treat all applicants fairly, is why hiring processes need to be more inclusive and take neurodiversity properly into account.


When trying to make your recruitment process more neurodiverse-friendly, you need to start from the very beginning – with your job advert. You need to think carefully about how you do outreach to marginalised communities in general, and consider how this applies to neurodiversity in particular.

Job adverts should be written concisely and clearly, including all the key details – such as the salary and required skills – along with an outline of the hiring process itself. By giving people from neurodiverse backgrounds a clear overview of what’s required of them, this will enable them to prepare much more effectively for the interview stage.

Think about where you advertise roles as well. If you’re only advertising on LinkedIn, which not everyone uses, or your own website, a lot of talented applicants may not see it. It’s worth sending job adverts to colleagues before posting them, so that they can perform a kind of sense check in advance of them being put in the public domain.


Take steps to redress unconscious bias

Employers talk a lot about unconscious bias, but there’s a danger that this can become a mere tick-box exercise. It’s not enough just to pay lip service to the notion of unconscious bias – you have to take effective action to counteract it, as it can seriously affect people from neurodiverse backgrounds during the recruitment process.

Approaches and behaviours have to change to accommodate applicants from neurodiverse backgrounds. This cannot be treated as a formality but must be part of a genuine cultural transformation, and a serious commitment to diversity and belonging. You should make sure that hiring managers are properly trained to understand unconscious bias and how it can manifest itself.

You can also take more active steps to ensure people from neurodiverse backgrounds progress through the hiring process. A specifically targeted recruitment strategy, actively reaching out to such candidates, can attract more applicants from neurodiverse backgrounds.


Reconsider your approach to interviews

Even where applicants from neurodiverse backgrounds do get through to the interview stage, they very often progress no further. This is in large part because factors such as eye contact and body language play such a central role at interview – something which does not generally favour neurodiverse candidates.

In addition, candidates from neurodiverse backgrounds may have a harder time with verbal communication and coming up with a suitable response to questions they’re being asked for the first time. To accommodate these candidates, therefore, you should consider sharing questions with them in advance of the interview so that they have time to consider them and prepare responses.

People from neurodiverse backgrounds may also struggle with panel interviews, and may instead perform best when talking to a single interviewer. Some neurodiverse candidates might also prefer practical tasks to demonstrate their skills, rather than recounting them orally.

The important point to remember, however, is that people from neurodiverse backgrounds cannot be lumped into the same bracket. They are, as the term implies, diverse – which means your interview process needs to be flexible in order to make allowances for this.

Intuitive recently held a webinar on the topic of neurodiversity in the workplace, which you can watch on our YouTube channel.

Ian Chapman of AtkinsRéalis offered tips on best practice, while Harry Saville of Lexxis provided general advice on neurodiversity at work. Both sessions are available to watch for free, in full.

At Intuitive, we’ve been connecting diverse leaders with supportive, forward-thinking employers in the transport sector since 2013. Get in touch with us today to find out more about how we can help you find your dream executive-level job in the transport.

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