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What barriers do neurodivergent candidates face in the application process?

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Lillie Ubeid
by Lillie Ubeid

Recite Me is back for the second episode of our 'Ask the Expert' series, with Keith Moutter sharing insights on the barriers that neurodivergent candidates face in the job application process.​

Too often recruitment agencies design their candidate experiences based on their own lived experience of the job search and application process. In doing so, this often leads to these processes not being accessible to neurodivergent candidates, because barriers exist for them that many of us would not experience in our day-to-day lives.

Keith sheds light on this as he answers our question: What barriers do neurodivergent candidates face in the application process?

To learn more about the types of barriers that candidates can face, check out our video below! We have subtitles available or scroll past the video and you can read the full transcript.

"I think a lot of these barriers can be personal and we can't really generalise them too much, because each individual is different. So it is always difficult to to really put these into a category because you can get five people in a room who are very different from a neuro-diverse perspective or hidden disability perspective, and their needs and challenges can be so different.

But just to offer some kind of insight into this, I think some of the barriers that candidates might face, there is certainly a lack of provision, education and understanding by the recruiter and the agency they're approaching.

So some of the questions that they may ask themselves as the candidate, so does the recruiter understand my challenges? Are they aware of what they are and do they know why I may struggle with an online assessment? Will they still persist in putting forward for online assessments when they know this is a particular challenge? And what changes can be made to that process to make it a little bit more amenable to me as an individual? Do they empathise with my challenges? Do they simply care? Do they show that understanding? Do they want to? Are they that driven by revenue, by just sending CV's that actually me as an individual isn't that important, and they don't empathise with the fact that I'm dyslexic or I have ADHD and I need some extra care and attention when I'm going through the candidate experience.

It's a people-focussed sector. We're dealing with people, with dealing with personalities. We're dealing with certain sets of skills and abilities. We need to be amenable to those different people, not just those who are. I guess, you know, for want of a better term, an easy catch in terms of a candidate, we need to challenge our own perceptions and understandings and try and be empathetic to to everybody as a candidate, because that candidate, although they need a little bit more attention, a little bit more support and and understanding, they may end up being the key candidate for that particular role, because they've got all the skills in place to do that role.

And is the job description provided in an accessible way? So even just reading about the job, you know, is it delivered in a way that I can read it that my, you know, vulnerable friend or colleague can read it, something that you really need to explore and see if the basics of this is delivered on. And that's just delivering the basic information about what job, is it done in an accessible way?

A rule that is heavily driven by demand. It can be so easy as a recruiter to be distracted by the importance of servicing clients getting lost in the "I must satisfy my client by just sending CVs or by sending the allocated number of CVs", actually showing a client that you're attracting candidates and providing the necessary skill sets, but alongside that, taking into consideration diversity and making sure that the inclusion piece is underway. So sometimes candidates can face that because recruitment is a very competitive sector. You know, I worked in it for ten-eleven years and it was very competitive, very revenue driven.

Sometimes you felt the pressure of not having those CVs available for clients. Elements of your own understanding and awareness and education can come into play and and maybe disregard people for certain reasons and moving into that kind of area, there can be a level of subconscious bias as well. It's kind of controversial to say. But again, you know, it's such a populated sector, so many recruitment consultants, so many agencies of trying to work for the same rules, the same companies. I'll be sitting on a fence and not doing anyone any favours by saying that there wasn't an element of that competitive nature and letting kind of subconscious bias play its part and just looking for what you perceive to be the best candidate and not necessarily what is the best candidate in general.

And these elements can be profoundly impactful, certainly on a number of candidates. And the last thing we want to do as a recruiter is for your actions and your perception to be a big part of why these candidates can't make their way into a role that might perfectly be well-suited to them and certainly a great skill match for them as well. A high level of digital processes is a massive barrier. And this is what we're talking about. How the digital process and inclusion can play its part in stopping candidates from applying for roles and getting into those dream jobs that they've, you know, they've wanted to to get to. And they've studied for and they've had the work experience for. So in the modern world we live, we have accustomed we've become accustomed to the fact that digital process will always be the champion. You know, whether we're applying for jobs, whether we're shopping, whether we're looking for holidays or researching information. Digital seems to be the easiest and the most common way we do that. It's easy to manage, easy to design, and easy to navigate. But is it for everybody? Is it that easy? We perceive it to be easy. And we kind of go along that lines because it's the modern way of doing things. And it seems to be the easiest way of doing things a lot of the time for recruiting, it's not even you designing, it's a recruitment design agency. Marketing agency. There needs to be more thought put into the concept of it. Is it supporting everybody? Yes. In general, it will provide a large proportion of candidates, a great and easy and branded way of getting through to job opportunities.

But there will be based on the numbers that I mentioned to you at the start. There will be a large proportion of people who find that navigation and that design and that process so difficult to get through. And this will be the case for many candidates. The online process will be a convenience and a very easy way to register interests or apply for roles, as I mentioned. And again, kind of going back to the stats in the original question, there are a worrying number of candidates who will find this digital process in general a genuine challenge and impact their success as a candidate and then whether they acquire those fantastic opportunities that they are striving for."

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