If you are neurodivergent, interviews can be daunting and if you encounter an interviewer who doesn't understand your condition, it can be frustrating and even anxiety-provoking. However, there are steps you can take to educate the interviewer and ensure that they understand your needs and abilities, whilst also heading into your interview with the right preparation and mindset, so you can ace your next interview and impress potential employers.
Here are some tips to help anyone, regardless of their neurodivergence, succeed in interviews.
Owning your narrative and being on the front foot when talking about your neurodivergence can seem risky, but if you can introduce it as part of the interview it can be empowering! Most companies are now banging the drum for Diversity & Inclusion, so asking them about their D&I policies and practices more generally can be a great way to introduce your neurodivergence. Try quoting something from their website for extra brownie points; interviewers love research and love talking about positive things they are doing! Following the structure “explain, example, enquire”- explain your condition (how does it present/feel, what does it look like etc, what makes things better or worse), example (be specific- have a couple of clear examples of what happens in particular situations), outline a strategy that works for you and ask if that’s something that could be supported
Research the company and the position beforehand. This will give you a better understanding of what the interviewer is looking for and will allow you to tailor your answers to fit their needs clearly and objectively.
Practice answering common interview questions with a friend or family member. This will help you feel more comfortable and confident during the actual interview, as well as giving you an opportunity to sharpen your answers so they leave no doubt in the interviewer’s mind.
Take deep breaths and try to relax. It's okay to take a moment to collect your thoughts before answering a question. In fact, a thoughtful pause can make you appear to have more authority and credibility than if you rush in straight away! It's also okay to ask for clarification if you don't understand something.
Bring a portfolio or samples of relevant work to the interview. This will give the interviewer a sense of your skills and abilities and will help demonstrate that you understand what they are looking for and why you are a good fit for the position.
Focus on your strengths and abilities. Don't let your neurodivergence define you. Remember that you are just as capable as any other candidate, and that you have unique talents and perspectives to offer that can be of benefit to the client.
Be yourself. Don't try to hide your neurodivergence or pretend to be someone you're not. Authenticity is key, and the interviewer will appreciate your honesty and openness. Depending on the type of condition you have, you may be protected from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010; so you should feel confident that as long as you meet the hiring criteria and can demonstrate that you are capable of performing in the job, your condition shouldn’t affect your chances of success.
In short, the key to succeeding in an interview if you are neurodivergent is to own your narrative, prepare ahead of time, focus on your strengths, and be yourself. By following these tips, you can impress potential employers and land the job of your dreams.
First, it's important to remember that not everyone is familiar with neurodivergence, and doesn’t necessarily mean the interviewer isn’t open to learning about it. Take this as an opportunity to educate them and help them understand your condition.
One way to do this is to explain your neurodivergence in simple and positive terms, which means focusing on what you can do. For example, you could say something like, "I have ADHD, which means I work best in short bursts of intense productivity. I have developed strategies to maximize this and manage my symptoms to excel in my work." This will help the interviewer understand your condition and how it might impact your performance on the job.
Another tip is to share examples of how you have successfully navigated your neurodivergence in the past. For example, you could talk about how you plan your days/weeks to boost your productivity, how you have used technology to help you stay organized, or how you have worked with a mentor or coach to develop strategies for managing your symptoms. This will help the interviewer see that you are capable and resilient, despite your neurodivergence.
It's also a good idea to be open and honest about your needs and accommodations. If you require certain accommodations in order to perform your best, don't be afraid to let the interviewer know. For example, you could say something like, "I have found that I work best when I have regular breaks and a quiet workspace. Can you tell me more about the accommodations your company offers for neurodivergent employees?"
Overall, the key to handling an interviewer who doesn't understand your neurodivergence is to educate them, share examples of your success, and be open about your needs and accommodations. By doing so, you can help the interviewer understand your condition and show them that you are a capable and valuable candidate.
For support finding your next role in the tech and digital space, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or browse our current opportunities online.