A young woman sits at a table being interviewed by a young man


While the autistic individual is interviewing, they will often be acutely self-aware and preoccupied by their own nervousness and internal coaching, and be simultaneously experiencing two conversations at once—one that is shared aloud between the interviewer and interviewee, and one that is an ongoing internal dialogue. Often the internal voice will overshadow the external conversation and, as a result, gaps of time in the interview will be lost. What might appear as being not being present or distracted, is typically the individual attempting to balance the internal voice with the external conversation.

533: Interviewing Autistic Individuals – Everyday Asperger’s

Candidates on the spectrum will sometimes panic with open-ended questions, as most are very quick thinkers, able to connect information at rapid speed and reach multiple conclusions in a matter of seconds. While deliberating over a question, the candidate is also contemplating about what the interviewer expects, wants, and is hinting at. The more specific and direct a question, the better.

533: Interviewing Autistic Individuals – Everyday Asperger’s

Often times, the autistic job candidate will want to be seen, heard and understood; as is such, it is commonplace for an jobseeker to provide information that the interviewer many not deem appropriate, necessary, or beneficial. Most autistics will in fact share thoughts and insights to their own detriment, unable to stop the need to be transparent and forthcoming.

533: Interviewing Autistic Individuals – Everyday Asperger’s

Partaking in an interview can cause extreme stress for days before the interview. The interview process will more likely than not be over-thought and imagined repeatedly, with multiple outcomes and scenarios. The candidate on the spectrum will typically relive the actual interview itself, repeatedly after the event.

533: Interviewing Autistic Individuals – Everyday Asperger’s

What might appear as a simple ‘not a fit’ or ‘no thank you,’ to the hiring agent, can be devastatingly crushing to a person with autism. It’s common to obsess over the reasons for failure and to catastrophize the outcome, incorporating all-or-nothing thinking, and self-torture, in the form of repetitive, obsessive thoughts regarding the ‘whys’ and ‘what ifs.’

533: Interviewing Autistic Individuals – Everyday Asperger’s

Before an interview, some candidates on the spectrum will create scenarios in their mind of failure and miscommunication, and have fear of not being able to express their true intentions and true self. They often have a fear of not appearing genuine and honest enough.

533: Interviewing Autistic Individuals – Everyday Asperger’s

Some autistics will have little to no trouble expressing self in various communication venues. But the large majority will have specific triggers to communication that can bring on various outcomes, including panic attacks, insomnia, inconsolable anxiety, and nonstop, rapid thinking.

533: Interviewing Autistic Individuals – Everyday Asperger’s

In most cases, people on the spectrum communicate better in written form with time to process, rethink, and edit thoughts and ideas, than spoken form. When possible, some type of written assessment ought to be utilized during recruitment screening, such as an essay or instant messaging service.

533: Interviewing Autistic Individuals – Everyday Asperger’s

When applying for a job, autistic job candidates are likely to face a number of challenges. Job interviews are one of these challenges – they require communicating and relationship-building with unfamiliar people and involve expectations about behaviour (that may vary between companies and are not made clear to job candidates). Given autistic people communicate differently to non-autistic people, autistic job candidates may be disadvantaged in the interview process. Autistic candidates may not feel comfortable or safe sharing with organisations their autistic identity and may feel pressure to hide any characteristics or behaviour they feel might indicate they are autistic. To explore this issue, we interviewed 10 autistic adults about their job interview experiences in Australia. We analysed the content of the interviews and found three themes that related to the individual person and three themes that related to environmental factors. Participants told us that they engaged in camouflaging behaviour during job interviews, feeling pressure to conceal aspects of themselves. Those who camouflaged during job interviews reported that it took a lot of effort, which resulted in increased stress, anxiety and exhaustion. The autistic adults we spoke to reported a need for inclusive, understanding and accommodating employers to help them feel more comfortable disclosing their autism diagnosis in the job application process. These findings add to current research that has explored camouflaging behaviour and barriers to employment for autistic people.

‘If I’m just me, I doubt I’d get the job’: A qualitative exploration of autistic people’s experiences in job interviews – Mikaela Finn, Rebecca L Flower, Han Ming Leong, Darren Hedley, 2023

Of all the challenges autistics have to overcome in order to acquire a job, it is needing to make a good impression during a job interview that is the most challenging and where most fail to succeed. The fact that autistics are assessed using the exact same criteria and methods as that of their non-autistic peers means that autistic candidates do not compete on equal terms and, as such, are at a significant disadvantage. What follows is an attempt to explain why.

All jobseekers are expected to demonstrate a high degree of competency in performing tasks that are exactly what autistic people are especially bad at:

  • Dressing properly or at least as expected
  • Looking someone in the eye for the appropriate amount of time
  • Engaging in small talk
  • Shaking hands with the right grip
  • Feigning enthusiasm when in fact you’re nervous as hell and have every expectation that you won’t be offered a job
  • Smiling even

Now imagine trying to enter a professional environment where you will quickly need to establish rapport with someone. An inability to make small talk is an immediate barrier.

Individuals with autism are “neuro-atypical.” Thanks to their unusual brain structure, they struggle to cope with fundamental differences in the way they perceive the world, including:

  1. Sensitivity to the environment (lights, noises, smells, touch, etc.)
  2. Problems with social skills
  3. Difficulty with empathy and understanding another person’s point of view
  4. Repetitive behaviours and strict adherence to routine
  5. Oddly enough, clumsiness
  6. Literal use of language, inability to process or understand nuance or subtle signals/body language

When one thinks of how nervous many interviewees are, if you were to couple that feeling with any of the challenges listed above, it’s easy to see why autistics do so badly in interviews.

Maybe you’re wearing a formal suit and tie, and the fabric is extremely uncomfortable to you due to your sensitivity to certain types of fabrics and textures. Meanwhile, as you wait nervously in the reception area, the harsh fluorescent lighting is painful to your eyes, and you can smell the heavy perfume of the receptionist. Suddenly, your senses become overwhelmed, and you experience something akin to a migraine, and you feel ill throughout the interview, causing you not to perform well. Asperger’s Syndrome (a form of autism) sufferers describe it as a painful “red band” across the eyes that can take hours to subside.

During the interview, you tap your leg, rub your head and look extremely disinterested and preoccupied throughout the conversation. Your apparent lack of interest (almost certainly not true) causes problems in the interview, and you don’t get the job.

Why Interviews Exclude People with Autism – Disability Employment & Recruitment

I would argue that for a lot of graduate jobs, there’s a significant barrier to entry for neurodiverse and disabled people. I like to call this barrier the “glass staircase”. YouTuber Gem Hubbard is a wheelchair user and has a great video on the concept, but I’d like to extend her metaphor beyond physical impairments because I believe it provides a useful framework to understand the job-hunting process for those with invisible or neurological disabilities too.

For all intents and purposes, the “staircase” is the relatively streamlined application process for jobs, that appears simple to non-disabled people, but which has plenty of obstacles for disabled people.

While it’s possible to negotiate the staircase when companies meet an individual’s access requirements, this often requires disabled applicants to put in significantly more time and effort than their non-disabled peers. We are constantly dependent on other people to allow us to continue in the application process without disadvantage.

Having to explain the same thing again and again at different stages, to different people, at different employers, is mentally strenuous and time-consuming – and used to regularly makes me wonder if what’s at the top is even worth it if it’s so much of a hassle getting there.

To make it even worse, the whole time you’re watching non-disabled people tackle the staircase without even thinking about it. Of course, I’m not saying that non-disabled people all find job applications super easy – but I will say that they don’t have the added stress of ensuring that their access requirements are met.

I applied for at least 25 different graduate training jobs and for most of them the process was equally non-accessible.

Serena Bhandari – Jobstacle Course | Touretteshero
How employers are biased against autistic people (and how to fix it)

If there’s a hell for autistic people, it’s just an endless string of job interviews of ever-increasing pressure.

The entry into the job market is basically kryptonite for autistic people.

How employers are biased against autistic people (and how to fix it) – YouTube

This suggests that traditional interviews lead to biases against autistic people, causing autistic people to lose out on job opportunities, and causing employers to lose out on employeesthat may actually be better employees.

How employers are biased against autistic people (and how to fix it) – YouTube

Job interviews are an integral component of the hiring process in most fields. Our research examines job interview performance of those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) compared to neurotypical (NT) individuals. ASD and NT individuals were taped engaging in mock job interviews. Candidates were rated on a variety of dimensions by respondents who either watched the interview videos or read the interview transcripts and were naïve to the neurodiversity of the interviewees. NT candidates outperformed ASD candidates in the video condition, but in the absence of visual and social cues (transcript condition), individuals with ASD outperformed NT candidates. Our findings suggest that social style significantly influences hiring decisions in traditional job interviews and may bias evaluators against otherwise qualified candidates.

Seeing is Disliking: Evidence of Bias Against Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Traditional Job Interviews | SpringerLink


Autistic people face significant challenges accessing the job market1 reflected in low labor force engagement and high rates of unemployment or underemployment (e.g., 25%–60%).2–4 Unemployment has multidimensional impacts on autistic adults, including financial hardship, social exclusion, increased mental health challenges, and reduced quality of life and well-being.5,6 It is imperative to understand these barriers to employment, given that many autistic people have strong ambitions to work,7 and can make exceptional employees.8

The job interview

Job interviews remain the most frequent method of recruitment,9 but pose a significant barrier for autistic job seekers.10,11Applied social skills (e.g., being able to quickly build rapport with interviewers), account for at least 75% of the evaluation of job candidates.12,13 Autistic individuals report challenges with job interviews, such as uncertainty around the level of detail required for responses to questions14 and having to practice social “niceties.”15 Moreover, autistic people are likely to be literal and honest8,16,17; thus, they may fail to downplay their weaknesses and/or amplify strengths.

First impressions

First impressions of others are formed rapidly and are resistant to change.18,19 Candidates who are perceived more favorably during the initial moments of a job interview receive higher post-interview ratings.20–23 However, experimental research suggests that autistic people are judged less favorably than non-autistic candidates, with this bias emerging early in an interaction or observation (i.e., within 10 seconds).24,25

Disclosure and knowledge

Disclosing one’s diagnosis may have a positive influence on how people are perceived. Indeed, autistic people tend to be rated more favorably when they are labeled as autistic compared with when they are not,26,27 and autistic adults who have disclosed their diagnosis to their employer report higher rates of employment.28 However, although disclosure may lead to improved awareness and accommodations, it can also lead to stigma and discrimination.29 Knowledge about autism may reduce stigma,30 and has been shown to improve perceptions of autistic job candidates in a simulated context.31 There may even be interaction effects whereby diagnostic disclosure might engage positive effects of knowledge.19 To date, the impact of diagnostic disclosure of autism and potential benefits of providing information about autism within the context of a job interview has received little attention.31

Barriers to Employment: Raters’ Perceptions of Male Autistic and Non-Autistic Candidates During a Simulated Job Interview and the Impact of Diagnostic Disclosure | Autism in Adulthood

Autistic perception is the direct perception of the forming of experience. This has effects: activities which require parsing (crossing the street, finding the path in the forest) can be much more difficult. But there is no question that autistic perception experiences richness in a way the more neurotypically inclined perception rarely does.

Histories of Violence: Neurodiversity and the Policing of the Norm – Los Angeles Review of Books

Further reading,