Learning difficulties, autism and employment

‘…6% of people with a learning disability and 15% of people with autism are in full time paid employment

I would like to say I’m surprised with the number of people with learning difficulties and autism who are in paid employment but I’m not. Unfortunately a large number of employers can’t get past the conventional way of employing people; CV, Interview then a choice is made to hire the appropriate person. In most cases this is the standard hiring process and works for many companies but not for those with a learning disability and/or autism.

This topic is close to my heart with a brother who is diagnosed with Asperger’s who finished university last year and is looking for work. His degree in graphics and animation and in my opinion he is talented; he is constantly working on something and expanding his skills and knowledge. However I also know that the conventional type of interview is a daunting experience for him. The interview tips that are given to people are not going to work for him. His body language and lack of eye contact doesn’t mean he’s not interested in the position it’s just he doesn’t understand that what is the right amount of time to hold eye contact or that crossing your arms are the slouching can show him in a negative light. He is passionate about what he does and has a great imagination not to mention his witty and sarcastic sense of humour that occasionally makes an appearance. But an interviewer will not see all this because they may not understand Asperger’s, have not been able to make changes to the interview setting to accommodate him or they just can’t be bothered to think outside the box. I may seem like I’m making sweeping generalisations here and unfairly vilifying interviewers and companies but the statistics don’t lie, they can be manipulated but in this instance they don’t lie. I am biased but personally I think employers are missing out on a valuable talent pool.

‘Normal’ is such a generic term

A disability of any kind does not automatically mean that person is incapable of being employed & being brilliant at their job. Like the rest of us they want to have some kind of self worth, feel a sense of achievement. Despite all the attention surrounding the lack of people with a learning disability, autism or both, I wonder just how many employees ‘get’ what it means to have learning disability, autism or both? What cookie cutter employee mould do they consider normal? ‘Normal’ is such a generic term these days, what is normal? We live in a day and age where people decide to pick which gender they relate better with or no gender at all, they are gender fluid. Yet there is difficulty finding gainful employment for those with a learning disability, autism or both.

So what can, needs and should be done about this?

As I sit here ploughing my way through a box of Mikado I browse through the intrepid world of Google seeking answers to this very question. To begin, with autism and learning disability are not the same.

Autism is not a learning disability, but around half of people with autism may also have a learning disability, which will affect the level of support they need in their life. Some people may also receive a ‘dual diagnosis’; ­ for example, they may have Down’s syndrome and autism.

A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability and difficulty with everyday activities – for example household tasks, socialising or managing money – which affects someone for their whole life.

Network Autism offer useful pieces of advice for both Jobseekers and prospective employers. If you prefer a more visual guidance visit autism.org to view the video’s.

I know I am biased but do think employers are missing out on a valuable talent pool. With a bit of tweaking here and there, a bit of adaptability and understanding employers could tap into this hidden workforce which for far too long has been ignored.

The National Autistic Society
Network Autism


Time to make that recruitment video

With social media playing a much bigger role in every day life, the way society chooses to receive information has adapted. Breaking news is likely to be reported with a constant stream of updates before the major news networks have had a chance to send a reporter to the scene!

We are able to convey a message in 140 characters, text speak has infiltrated language and in some cases becoming the norm.

Take a mixture of words team them up with images and you’ve got yourself an infographic. You’ve heard the phrase ‘a picture can say a thousand words’, hence the growing popularity of infographics. They are usually easy on the eyes and can showcase statistics in a much more user friendly way.

How does this affect the recruitment industry?

newspaper_vector_illustrations_147953The recruitment industry has come a long way from posting jobs in the classified section of the weekly / daily newspapers. You can still find jobs being advertised in the newspaper but the industry has also taken advantage of the technological changes with advertising vacancies online, you can find a job board for almost any employment sector. Job boards not only open job seekers to a much larger number of jobs not just in their own country of residence but across the globe but also allows recruiters to access to a large candidate database.

These changes have increased the level of competition for jobs. It is because of this, the way job seekers market themselves, apply for jobs and the way their applications are received have had to change. Candidates are advised to make their CV’s SEO friendly so they can be easily found by potential employers. How to effectively brand themselves using social media and networking so prospective employers can get a 360 degrees feel for their personality instead of just looking at a bog standard CV.

Candidates who are brave enough have become more creative so they stand apart from their fellow job seekers by creating short movies, online interactive CV’s and video CV’s to accompany their conventional CV.

Job seekers are not the only ones taking advantage of online videoing, some companies will choose to carry out a video interview in order to cut travel time and expenses. There are two forms of video interviewing, two way interviewing and one way interviews.

Two way interviewing involves using video conferencing software such as Skype where both parties can see each other and speak in real time.

One way interviews involves the interviewee being recorded answering a list of set questions from the interviewer. With this method the interviewer can ensure all candidates are asked the same questions and can view the interview several times.

Video interviewing can be effective though not everyone will be comfortable being videoed, this can become apparent through body language and the answers given in the interview.

With a standard list of questions, job seekers can give standard answers they think the interviewer will want to hear. Through dialogue a job seekers personality can be seen, being able to do the job is one thing, being able to work with future colleagues is another.

Online recruitment has made jobs more accessible to job seekers who may not have known about jobs that were in different parts of the country / world, though the quality of applications received cannot be guaranteed. There can be a number of reasons for this:

–          Job seekers are applying for jobs they are not qualified for.

–          CV is of poor quality, even if the job seeker is qualified this is not evident from their CV.

–          The job seeker was perfect on paper, then the recruiter saw their social media pages.

–          Poorly written adverts. Many adverts do not contain relevant information such as location, salary or even a recognisable job title.

–          The job advert contains block text or streams of unnecessary information about the company and not enough detail about the job itself.

So why not create a recruitment video? What information written adverts lack, video adverts can make up for. As well has highlighting the current vacancies, these videos can showcase the company culture and what qualities they are looking for in future employees.

There is the risk of these video’s being over the top and cheesy but also the potential to attract the attention of job seekers who may have glanced over a mainstream job advert but not applied for the position. The feel of the video all depends on the company, companies like Google, Microsoft have a longer, corporate approach to their recruitment videos whereas the video created by Shopify is more relaxed and just as informative.

Looking to fill a vacancy, have a look at these videos from Plexonic, socialdriver and HowToMakeMobileGames. All three videos have a different approach to advertising their vacancy.

It’s time to blow the dust off those camcorders and start making those videos!




Can body size affect your job search?

On WordPress I follow the topic ‘Employment’ and came across the blog ‘Dieting To Get A Job’. The writer mentions their size doesn’t bother them that much but feel that losing some weight will benefit their job search.

This got me thinking, if a person is more than capable of doing the advertised job and they would fit in with the rest of the team would size really matter?  I’m most likely being somewhat naive here, being a particular size is part of fitting in with a team.

Size has always been a hot topic of conversation, you only have to look in the media to find the latest diet craze, or pictures of the latest female Hollywood star who has gained / shed weight.  Not to mention the discussions on obesity and how countries have to deal with subsequent problems. So is it any wonder these attitudes filter through into the world of job-hunting?

With my curiosity piqued I decided to look into this a bit more. Browsing through the search list on Google I came across articles relating to this topic.

In the article ‘Get a job at my size? Fat Chance?’ written back in May 2012, the lady in question had 160 interviews but no job offers, not due to her lack of skills but due to her size. ‘When she told me I wouldn’t be getting a second interview, I asked why. ‘The partners wouldn’t like you,’ she told me.’

It would seem that image alone is not the only deciding factor why employers are reluctant to take on a larger candidate, regardless of their skills.

Being overweight can lead to a variety of health related problems such as diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol etc.  These can be detrimental to a person’s productivity and where it applies an increase in health insurance premiums.

The lady in the article Get a job at my size? Fat Chance?’ may have had other contributing factors to why she wasn’t suitable for all 160 jobs she applied for but felt strongly enough to believe that her weight was a factor. Like the writer of ‘Dieting To Get A Job’ both women have decided the only way to get that job is to lose a few pounds.

‘So after more than 18 months of constant rejections, I decided that there was only one way I was ever going to get another job, and that was by slimming back down to a normal size again.’

My question would be ‘what is a normal size’? A size 0 is not normal, but then the average dress size for a UK woman is 14-16.

It would seem that not only do we have to deal with gender bias, age bias, race bias (I’ve probably missed out some other bias), but now also have to contend with weight bias. How far are employers willing to go to find their super-duper candidate?

Has the illusion of the perfect candidate reached the point where we now take into consideration the size of a person’s waistline? At this point my imagination wandered and I started comparing this idea to the 90’s film Universal Soldier – The almost perfect super soldiers are ‘created’. Wonder how the ‘perfect candidate’ will be achieved, maybe the Hollywood blockbuster movie industry will have the answer.

Interviews Part 1 – What to wear

You’ve been looking for your prefect job for the past ‘x’ amount of days, weeks, months and the day has arrived where all that stands between you and the perfect job is the interview.

Interviews are not to be feared, they are the opportunity to showcase your skills and ability to do the job. Show the interviewer that you are the more suitable candidate for the position.

From the minute you walk into the building and meet the interviewer you are being assessed how you look and clothing plays a big part in your appearance. First impressions count, as well as having the necessary skills and ability to do the job, you also have to look the part and fit in with the company’s culture.

Times have changed but this does not mean you should turn up to an interview dressed as if you are going to the pub to meet your friends. Nor should you dress as if you’re off for a night on the town.

If you don’t already know what the company’s dress code is you will have to do a bit of research. A suggestion in http://edition.cnn.com/2012/06/25/living/oprah-wear-to-interview was to ‘Have a cup of coffee in the morning near your potential new office or drive by during lunchtime and watch people going in and out’ to see what existing employees are wearing.

Alternatively if you are in doubt as to what to wear, when told about the interview ask what the company’s dress code is or ring their reception.
You don’t want to turn up to a corporate style company dressed casual smart and vice versa.

Corporate Style

Men Women
Wear a shirt and a suit. Depending on the company a tie is optional. Wear a trouser or a skirt suit with a blouse.
Skirts should be an acceptable length, knee length.
Keep colours simple, doesn’t mean you can’t wear stripes or floral prints in moderation
Clean shaven / neatly trimmed beard. Hair should be neat and tidy Hair should be should neat and tidy.
Keep makeup and jewellery to a minimum
Shoes should be clean and polished Avoid open toe shoes and overly high heels
Make sure your clothes are clean and ironed

Some company’s dress code maybe slightly more relaxed, it will be just as important to dress accordingly. Some of the corporate dress rules will still apply but you will have more options on style, colours etc.

Casual Smart

Men Women
Smart jeans with a casual clean shirt Smart dark jeans with a simple top. Or a casual style dress.
Shoes should be clean. Depending on shoe type also polished Clean shoes. Avoid open toe or overly high heels

Give yourself plenty of time to decide what you are going to wear in case you need to go buy something new. Remember to iron your clothes and make any necessary alterations. You don’t want to be tripping over your trousers or noticing a stain on your shirt during the interview.

Another tip offered by http://edition.cnn.com is to take the sit down test. This is to see that your outfit looks just as good sitting down as it does when you are standing up. You don’t want your buttons to gape or your skirt to ride up during the interview.

Now you look like you would fit in with the company on to the next step. The Interview.

You can view the article on JobServe.com