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The Secret to Richer and More Diverse Talent Pools

open minded hiring



We’re blue in the face highlighting the benefits of practising a more open and inclusive hiring strategy. Diverse companies consistently outperform non-diverse companies.

Nikki Hayford, beloved SocialTalent presenter and founder of Unikseek has worked tirelessly to help companies become more open-minded in their hiring practices.

The benefits of open-minded hiring

There are so many advantages of a more inclusive hiring structure. Embracing open-minded hiring can benefit your company, wider society and individuals on a very personal level.

Here are some of the countless benefits of open-minded hiring:

  • Commitment to diversity and inclusion
  • Enhance your corporate reputation
  • Improve communication
  • Enrich the lives of your workforce

As a recruiter, you can benefit personally by having a major impact on your company and empowering minorities. Open minded hiring is a fantastic opportunity to tap into a vast talent pool and source unique talent.

Autism in the workplace

Nikki Hayford’s work with Unikseek was inspired by her autistic son. She noticed that there were many autistic qualities that although listed as symptoms, could in fact, be treated as superpowers.

Creative, analytical, meticulous, persistent, conscientious, hyper-focused and
Independent-minded are all words we associate with modern geniuses like Steve Jobs and Stanley Kubrick and many more successful people on the spectrum.
Applying these superpowers to the workplace could prove an amazing growth opportunity for autistic people and companies who are tyring to becoe more diverse.

Autism is often thought of as a hidden disability. People can be diagnosed late into their adult lives or even not diagnosed at all. This tardiness and disregard can have a domino effect later on as it leads to delayed funding and support for autistic jobseekers.

16% of autistic adults in the UK are in full-time employment. This leaves over 80% of people with autism who struggle to break into the working world despite all the skills they possess.

Autism and the STEM industry

The war for talent skills is prevalent in every realm of the recruitment role hotly contested in the STEM industry (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). There is a typical skillset that are central for roles in the STEM industry…

  • Visual learning skills
  • Ability to recognise patterns
  • Attention to detail
  • Strong concentration
  • Perseverance over time
  • High diligence
  • Low tolerance for mistakes

Do they sound familiar? Maybe you know them like the back of your hand as an experienced recruiter filling roles in the STEM space… Or maybe you’ve come across them more recently…

Visual learning skills
Ability to recognise patterns
Attention to detail
Strong concentration
Perseverance over time
High diligence
Low tolerance for mistakes
Hyper focussed

That seems like a pretty good match. Practising open-minded hiring could help you join the dots and encourage you to think of other people you should start incorporating into your sourcing strategies.

Imagine all of the amazingly skilled people who are waiting to be discovered.


Breaking into the world of work can be a tricky process for people with autism. There are plenty of barriers both conscious and unconscious that prevent a smooth jobseeker experience.

This problem can be magnified for women who are on the autistic spectrum. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention state that autism is 4.5 times more common among boys than girls, however, recent studies have proven this may not be the case. Autistic symptoms are less obvious in girls, they are more adept at mimicking the social behaviour around them and therefore their symptoms can appear less apparent.

How can recruiters help?

There are several steps recruiters can take to help make the job seeking experience better for people with autism. These small steps will also help them create a rich talent pool

Job Specs

The job spec is one of the first barriers that people encounter while searching for new jobs and opportunities.

While you may have spent time crafting the perfect job ad there may still be some very obvious changes you can make to open up job ad and include more jobseekers, specifically those with autism.

So many job ads include trite words and phrases that are industry standard but not always hyper-relevant. Instead of padding out your job spec and filling up a word count with ‘excellent communication skills’ and ‘complete team player’ question whether these traits are 100% necessary for the role you are trying to fill

To encourage people with autism to feel more comfortable when reading your job ad keep the following criteria in mind

  • Only include details that are essential to the role
  • Use clear language; no long-winded metaphors
  • Advertise on autism-friendly job boards

Remember- up to 84% of autistic adults in the UK could be available to work but struggling with an application process. Open up your talent pool to them and help drive inclusion in society and the workplace.


Interview procedures can be the next challenging aspect of job-seekers with autism.

There are several qualities that we look for in social interaction without interviewees that can cause problems when interviewing an autistic candidate.

Eye Contact

Every interview guide, both for recruiters and job seekers stress the importance of maintaining good eye contact during a meeting. However, this can be a big struggle for autistic candidates.

They may feel more comfortable averting, their gaze; concentrating on a particular object or part of the room. This doesn’t indicate a lack of interest in the role or disrespect to the interviewer.

Social Cues

The behaviour we take for granted can prove difficult for people with autism. Handshakes or taking off jackets/coats may seem standard when greeting people and showing them into an office for an interview. Be conscious of this and how someone may prefer to keep their coat on or not shake your hand.

Literal Responses

A typical trait of autism is bluntness. Be aware of how you ask your questions and don’t be surprised if the answers seem a little curt and a bit too honest for your liking!

How to make interviews easier for recruiters and autistic candidates.

In order to make the interview process as pleasant as possible for both interviewers and candidates, there are several steps you can take that will help.

Avoid open-ended or hypothetical questions. Keep your questions concise and clear. This will help candidates understand the exact question you are asking and provide an accurate answer.

If the candidate begins to go off on a tangent, tactfully prompt the candidate for a more direct answer to your question. On the other hand, if the candidate’s answer is too literal learn to recognise this and try and rephrase your question.

Try not to place too much importance on body language. Allow the candidate to be comfortable and appreciate the direct eye contact or looking chirpy and enthusiastic may not come as easily to them as other candidates. The way they position or themselves does not indicate how they feel about the job.

Interview alternatives

Perhaps you could try something other than traditional interviews. Many companies find that when hiring for technical roles a test-based approach works very well.

Is there a support process on offer? For example, an advocate who can join interviews and help the process by rephrasing questions and offering general support.

One of the most popular alternatives to the traditional interview is offering a work trial to autistic candidates. Invite them to join the team on a trial basis and let them demonstrated their specific skills.

How to prepare your team

Once you have a successfully hired someone it is then crucial that you have a strategic onboarding procedure in place. This will help your new hire feel comfortable before starting and ensure your current employees are prepared and ready to welcome their new colleague.

Induction Packs 

An induction pack can be a great way to give people a taste of what their new workplace will be like and will help reduce feelings of overwhelm.

Written instructions are a great way to help them assimilate into the way the company works. If they are written down there is less room for error or misunderstanding.


Be aware that someone with autism may be particularly sensitive to light or loud noise. Can lightbulbs be changed at their desks? Is it possible to move them to a corner position that may be a bit quieter?


Help them create a routine that will help them relax in the workplace. Ensure that the rest of the team understand the importance of this routine and provide necessary support and respect.

Differently Abled People in the workforce

After taking all of the above information on board we can now look for examples of which companies are leading the way in diversity and inclusion.

SAP currently employs 100 people who are on the autism spectrum. This is already an impressive statistic, but SAP is not stopping there. They have an aim for 1% of their entire workforce

SAP are slowly achieving this goal thanks to the amazing work of companies like Specialisterne who provide a comprehensive support service for jobseekers with autism.

If you would like to learn more about promoting open-minded hiring, you NEED to learn more about the SocialTalent Diversity and Inclusion training presented by industry experts like Nikki Hayford and Torin Ellis

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