Neurodiversity Inclusion in Your Organization’s Recruitment Strategy

An illustration of a human brain with colorful doodles of arrows, targets, and flowers.

Have you considered neurodivergent applicants in your hiring strategy?

An estimated 15-20% of the world’s population identifies as neurodiverse; this group of potential candidates often experiences high rates of unemployment, which means there is an abundance of untapped talent looking for a career with impact.

As a hiring manager or HR professional, understanding exactly what is meant by “neurodivergent” and “neurodiversity” is a great first step in considering whether your recruitment and hiring practices are accessible and welcoming to all individuals.

What is neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity refers to variations that exist in the human brain with regard to mood, attention, learning, and sociability. Rather than classifying neurodiverse conditions as a disability, neurodiversity focuses on how individuals with autism, ADHD, Tourette’s syndrome, dyslexia, dyspraxia, and other neurodiverse conditions bring forth unique skill-sets, experiences, and points of view.

A blue, yellow, and green pattern with pie charts, thumbs up,  and a line graph, with a red 'We're Hiring' sign. The accompanying text reads: Ready to share a job, internship, or volunteer listing? Post your opportunity today -->

How to screen your recruitment process for bias

Oftentimes, traditional recruitment processes are not set up to be inclusive of neurodiverse people—here are some things to review in your recruitment process to ensure it is inclusive for all candidates.

  • Build neurodiversity into your staff diversity, equity, and inclusivity (DEI) training. Providing the opportunity to learn about neurodiversity can help your staff prepare for recruiting, interviewing, and welcoming neurodiverse candidates. This could include everything from making interview accommodations to thinking about building neurodiverse inclusive activities in your organization’s culture. 
  • Simplify your job listings. By simply implementing an accessible format, tightening up language, and removing industry jargon you can make your job listings more accessible to a wider audience of potential applicants. Be sure to clearly convey the most important details like working hours, location, role expectations, and salary. And be selective with the language you use when describing the required skills so that you are not unintentionally preventing neurodiverse candidates from applying.
  • Audit your website for accessibility. Take into consideration that some neurodiverse individuals can be sensitive to things like rich media and flashing content. The Web Content Accessibility Initiative has put together Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which is a great starting point for guidance. There are also several tools, including Wave Evaluation Tool and Siteimprove Accessibility Checker, that test your site for accessibility and provide feedback.

Review your interview process

Here are some recommendations to help your organization develop an interview process that is inclusive of neurodivergent candidates.

  • Be mindful of the location. Neurodiverse candidates may be hypersensitive to stimuli and holding an interview in a noisy or otherwise distracting environment can have a negative impact. When conducting interviews, pick a quiet location (reminding others that an interview is in process if it’s taking place at your office) and avoid bright lighting and distracting smells. You may consider suggesting to all hiring managers and interviewers that they go “scent free” on interview days. 
  • Ask direct questions. Questions that ask a candidate to explain what someone else might do in a situation, or use hyperbole or metaphors can be confusing. Ask specific questions, relating them to the individual’s personal experience. For example, rather than asking “What would you recommend a manager do when an employee is underperforming?” be direct and ask something like “As a manager, how would you start a conversation with an underperforming member of your team?” And avoid using overly creative questions like “If you were an animal, what animal would you be?” to assess skills or personality.
  • Avoid judging social cues. As hiring managers and HR professionals, we’ve been told for years to read a candidate's body language and energy in an interview, so this is something that will need to be proactively unlearned by your hiring team. Neurodiverse individuals may experience differences in social cues, so it’s important to avoid judging applicants based on any body language. Your hiring team should really be prepared for a variety of candidates including individuals who may display physical tics, fidgeting, or inconsistent eye contact.
  • Practice patience. A neurodiverse candidate might need more time to answer questions, so allot for this when planning your interview. This added patience should even extend to punctuality. While it has been a long held standard to connect timeliness to commitment and professionalism, it can be more challenging for some, especially if very clear and specific instructions aren't offered in advance.

Neurodiverse applicants can bring unique skill sets and experiences to your organization. By building a thoughtful and inclusive recruitment process, you can ensure every step enables these candidates to feel valued and empowered to reach their full potential as candidates and future staff.


If you’re getting ready to post an open role at your organization, download our customizable Pre-Hire Checklist to organize the process ahead of time.