45

I was recently diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome (AS), a form of autism. My AS is fairly mild.

I am employed (software developer), but I am looking for a new job at the moment. For various reasons, I want my future company to know about it before they hire me:

  • Honesty: I have something which legitimately affects the way I work, I feel that my employer should know.

  • I don't require specific handicap arrangements, but it would make it easier for my colleagues to understand my weaknesses and how to work with them: calm, no distractions, written communication as much as possible instead of oral, etc.

  • It actually brings a lot of good stuff: I'm a bit obsessed with order, protocols and quality.

  • My case is mild enough that I can function somewhat OK still. People see me as quirky, but my employers have always been happy with me.

  • I don't want to end up in a company that doesn't understand or discriminates against that kind of stuff. Finding a new job isn't a matter of life or death at the moment, so I can afford being "picky". Besides some companies start seeing AS as a desirable thing.

When and how in the process is it best to bring it up?


Note: I am not asking if I should do it. I am aware of the other questions asking that and I have made my mind on that subject already. I want to focus on the best way(s) to do it.

marked as duplicate by gnat, mhoran_psprep, scaaahu, Chris E, Retired Codger Nov 17 '17 at 18:48

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

65

OK I know this isn't what you wanted to hear, but my answer is that the time to bring this up specifically is never.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that you hide your needs or quirks, but making any big points about a personal situation that does not require accomodation is quite awkward when it's done without context, and it is not likely to accomplish much that is positive, unless your aspergers actually relates directly to the position.

You most definitely can and should communicate your needs (order, quiet, distraction free environment, etc) and you should also highlight your strengths. I really don't see the qualities you mentioned to be overly specific to those with aspergers, per se, and depending on the company/team your personal qualities will be valued to varying degrees.

You just have to accept that in some teams, being obsessed with order, for example, is just not going to work for anyone (yourself included). In another team/office you will fit like a pea in a pod. You can't ask an employer to make this work, based on your asperger's, you just have to suss out, like we all do, whether you and the employer are a good match.

I can understand why you might want your coworkers to be aware of your aspergers, but I think that is better addressed with your coworkers directly, on an as-needed basis. I myself HATE phone calls, and I simply request that people email me instead. There is no need to explain why I prefer it that way, I just make my preference known, and the overwhelming majority of people respect that. There's not always a need to go so deep with these things.

I don't want to end up in a company that doesn't understand or discriminates against that kind of stuff.

I think you can still accomplish this in the standard way we all do: during interviews, be forthcoming in describing yourself, and ask plenty of questions to see of the environment will suit you. Interview "filtering" works both ways: they will see your quirkiness and be ok with it or not. You will see their style as well, and you will be ok with it or not.

19

I'm in the same boat as you, the difference is that I told my employer during the interview process, and I really wished that I hadn't. I thought the same as you, that they would see the strengths that I bring and it would help the process. But, it ended up being a pity party that made me feel like I was different, and not in a good way.

Needless to say, I got the job and have been at it for almost a year now. But HR, my boss, and others (word spread quickly apparently) treat me like rain man apparently. I get invited to tons of meetings because of my "unique perspective" on the world. Or I get tasked with problems that no one can solve because I'm "good with stuff like that". Essentially I feel like I've become an attraction and not an employee.

A word of advice from someone who did what you're thinking of doing...don't. I'm constantly bothered and annoyed now and looking to change companies. I can't tell you that I won't do it again. I'm not ashamed that I have ASD, but I am ashamed at the reaction it brings from people who think I'm some kind of coding and problem solving savant.

8

NB: I understand and sympathize with the reasons you are looking to make your potential employers and colleagues aware of your ASD but from my own experiences I think you are asking for a world of hurt by doing so. That said you have stated that you have made your decision so I'm going to respect that in my answer.

The earliest I would say anything about it is after they have made an offer as you know by then that they are sufficiently interested in working with you.

I'm not familiar with hiring discrimination laws in Denmark but I'd presume they have something similar to the UK or the US where it would be illegal not to hire you on the basis of your ASD alone. That being the case employers do have something of a get-out-of-jail-free card at the pre-offer stage. They can simply not offer you the job and not mention that it's anything to do with the ASD, it's not fair but it happens.

So if you'd like them to be able to make accommodations for you from day one but don't want it to affect the hiring decision then this still gives them enough lead time to do so, including discussing with you how you'd like to be accommodated but minimizes the chances of them running a mile at the mere mention of it. It also gives them time to actually get a sense of what interacting with you is like in a non-prejudiced way - ASD is generally poorly understood by Neurotypical people, all too often their only ideas of what ASD people are like is having watched Rain Man or maybe reading about some of the more extreme examples where people are non-verbal etc. So giving them a chance to know you the individual is immensely valuable.

3

I think you should just stick to mentioning how you prefer to work and don't get into your diagnosis. One problem will be dealing with all of the misconceptions about Asperger's Syndrome or anything else on the Autism Spectrum. People are more informed these days, but there are still too many people who don't understand it. What is typical or atypical is irrelevant in your case.

So unless you feel comfortable and will have the time to educate everyone, I wouldn't mention it.

  • 1
    This does not add anything to the answers already provided. – Mister Positive Nov 17 '17 at 12:49
3

Typically, as part of the hiring process at various companies I have worked with, there is a section asking whether you have anything that could impede your work, along with a section to provide information on things that remediate this.

For example, I have damage to my lower back, so I can answer with the impact it has on my work (pain, discomfort etc if sitting for long periods) and include information on remediation (standing, stretching, walking) and things my employer could provide (sit/stand desk, ergonomic chairs etc)

It's not mandatory to respond, but it helps an employer know what they may need to provide for you, so I'd suggest mentioning it at that point if it affects your work.

0

For the question when one should disclose their disability: it depends.

In your case I would think about the possible advantages for your next employer. You said you are obsessed with order, protocols and quality. Great, you can advertise yourself in this way in your cover letter and make your disability an advantage. That being said, I would not use the term "obsessed", because it is quite a strong word and might not make a good impression.

If you are legally disabled and still work like "a normal human being" even better. In Germany there are requirements for big companies to hire a certain percentage of disabled people, so someone who is disabled on the paper but can still produce good work is quite desired.

On the other hand, if you have the feeling that your condition may cause inconveniences for your employer, I would not mention it in the cover letter, but when you meet them. As Dukeling said in the comments you can ask them questions first and if you have the feeling you made a good impression you can drop it in a personal interview.

  • +1 I'd go with something along the lines of "I value order and well defined protocols" etc. – Brent Hackers Nov 17 '17 at 13:33
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    Who said anything about a disability? – Wilson Nov 17 '17 at 14:51
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    @Wilson as the definition of disability is “a physical, mental, cognitive, or developmental condition that impairs, interferes with, or limits a person's ability to engage in certain tasks or actions or participate in typical daily activities and interactions“, I think aspergers can indeed be seen as disability. As I am “disabled“ myself, the word may not be nice, but that's just what it's called. Additionally I thought questions and answers should be generally applicable, so I wanted to include persons with other (medical) conditions as well. – Lehue Nov 17 '17 at 15:13
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    @A.Hue I'm sure I will disagree with you. In my head, Asperger's is more similar to left-handedness or tonedeafness: OP might be different in some way, but it's hard to actually argue that it'll actually affect a software developer's day job. But well I guess that's up to OP to decide. – Wilson Nov 17 '17 at 15:24
0

There is an appropriate time and place to mention this...

...however, the interview is not that time and place.

The purpose of the interview is to shine, to impress, to wow them with your abilities, skills, and company / project compatibility, and to otherwise up-sell yourself to them as the best candidate for the job they are going to see.

Most applications have a section about Disability and/or Reasonable Accommodation. What this section is called varies from country to country. Some don't have a separate section and just lump it under the "schedule availability" section or a question about "can you perform the duties of this job?"

If the application has such a spot, there is where you should mention whatever reasonable accommodations may be needed to enable you to perform the required tasks and duties of the job.


You will need to familiarize yourself with the laws and rights of people who have conditions that the local government qualifies as deserving of accommodation, as well as the legal rights and obligations of workplaces towards said qualifying individuals in said jurisdiction(s). Not all countries acknowledge / protect such individuals equally.

-1

I myself am ASD and work in the same field as the OP. I commend him for his honesty.

Since he says he doesn't suffer any serious detriment to his work, brings certain desirable traits, has not had complaints from past employers and needs truly minimal adjustments and allowances to do his job well (I've asked for what he states as a requirement before and received it without any difficulty), I really don't see why he needs to say anything at all until the very last moment. They do have a moral right to consider it in their decision, but they should be allowed to make up their mind about him "the worker", not him "the ASD carrier".

If I were him, I would not tell his peer colleagues. There's an awful lot of quirky people in IT, and no one will notice quirks of his as unusual - they just don't need to know, and I've certainly never told anyone.

Best of luck.

  • @peter Mortensen I appreciate the edit to correct my spelling and punctuation. I'd appreciate it if the down-voters would comment on what their reasons were, so as to improve my understanding – bigbadmouse Nov 20 '17 at 8:50
-2

(Recalled a joke video): Yes, tell everybody and demand at least $200k: employers should be chasing you in flocks: http://vooza.com/videos/the-perfect-engineer/!


On a more serious note, it's a very good and non-trivial question.

I'd say - don't tell. Maybe tell how it works, don't tell how it's called. Tell them what to expect of you and what special requirements you have if you have any - in simple words without mentioning the diagnosis.

Motivation:

1) Managers tend to avoid the risks and will pass on you

Your potential employers are not all M.D.'s and diagnosis (implications of which are not obvious to them cause they're not M.D.'s) might scare them off.

Considering the fact that managers tend to avoid taking unnecessary risks and making tough decisions (to keep their names in black), they might prefer to stay safe and pass on you, rather than take responsibility for hiring you and potentially bearing the stigma of being "Boris, who hired that misbehaving Ewakunnale" (or who knows how they might imagine people with Asperger's, again, they are not M.D.'s).

2) "There is no such thing as "healthy" person - there are only undiagnosed"

God knows, how many people have ADHD or CDD that affect their performance greatly, but they've never been diagnosed. I believe it would've been way harder for them to find a job, if they started including the diagnosis into their resumes.

You know, we all have some alterations from norm which results in a bunch of diagnoses (don't trust me? go do your genotyping - you'll have a bunch), so if everyone included every diagnose we have into our resumes, we would've all been unemployed or underpaid - so don't feel guilty.

3) Don't expose your downsides in the first place while looking for a job (unless ...)

Generally, if I feel bad about something in my resume, I never lie about that if asked, but I don't bring that up for discussion myself - unless it's something critical for performance - e.g. if I missed a leg, I would've mentioned that, cause it will become apparent anyways in the first workday.

So, if you feel like your condition makes you really hard to manage or forces you to miss the deadlines or something - I'd explain how it works, but still wouldn't mention the diagnosis.

  • 2
    This does not add anything to the answers already provided. – Mister Positive Nov 17 '17 at 12:49
  • @MisterPositive Come on, what about the Vooza folks? :) Although it might not be all that fun for a real person with Asperger, but generally we quote them a lot and their videos depict my experience in startups pretty well. – Boris Burkov Nov 17 '17 at 13:49
  • 2
    While your answer interesting, in the end your answer is No. – Mister Positive Nov 17 '17 at 13:50

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