26

I was recently (in the past year or so) diagnosed with a form of high functioning autism. I have been with my current employer for several years. In the past I have always tried to "Fake" being normal during the interview process. I have been fairly successful with the occasional blip, but mostly done well in interview process.

However when I get on the job my condition means that I seem, for lack of a better word, weird. My facial expressions are often off, and when I get focused I forget to maintain any expression which has been commented that it makes me appear disinterested, tired, zoned out.

It has caused quite a bit of problems, and my not understanding why it was happening, along with other issues associated with the condition often compounded them.

This question:

What are the pros and cons of disclosing a spectrum disorder when applying for a job?

Indicates what I already know. This condition is not a positive quality for a candidate when applying for a job. And that the answers indicate that you should not openly address it in the interview process.

My problem is, that history has taught me that in the first few weeks of my employment my condition will result in some sort of disruption. I am weird. I am also highly skilled and competent technically. I have problem solving, and pattern recognition skills that put me near the top of my field in abilities. I have the ability to fake being normal enough to usually get by most meetings. But, as with most things fake, eventually I slip up and forget to "Act Normal." And worse sometimes my reactions leave other people feeling like I was being hostile, aggressive, or just socially awkward.

It has been my experience that an employer will work with disabilities to make accommodations. But because of the behavioral component of my condition ASD seems to be a third rail that employers will avoid if possible.

So my goal is to address my condition with my either prospective, or new employer, in a way that does not result in my termination/rejection. But also set myself up to have a chance to make a name for my self based on who I am and what I can do, rather than my quirks, ticks, and general weirdness that tends to gain early attention.

From an employer perspective what does an employer want to see out of a candidate that has High Functioning Autism that will require some accommodation, in order to give them a reasonable chance at employment?

By accommodations I mean mainly tolerance of little tics, and an understanding that I miss social cues. It can result in problems, but I quickly correct with direction. For example, I get "Drop it" every time, but miss indirect guidance like "Well, moving on" a good percentage.

  • 1
    I'm sure you've seen this, but I'll add this question so it shows up in the linked questions as well. – David K Mar 8 '18 at 17:47
21
+250

Full disclosure: I have Asperger's Sydrome, a form of high functioning autism.

Given the exposure autism has had in recent years, we are no longer treated as if we have some contagious disease.

That said, it doesn't mean that we are entirely understood either.

I have found that the best way to address it is head on.

ASSUMING YOU HAVE ADDRESSED THE FACT THAT YOU ARE AUTISTIC

Hi as you know, I have mild autism. This won't be a problem in most instances, but until I get more situated, I may have a few symptoms of the syndrome acting up. This isn't going to affect my performance, and there's nothing wrong, but I might seem a bit off to you. If you notice anything, feel free to ask me about it.

I also know about the difficulty with taking cues. I've addressed it with humor.

If you need to tell me something, just be as direct as possible, I tend not to get subtle hints or even obvious ones. Actually, I tend to miss anything less subtle than a 2x4 to the back of the head. I won't take bluntness as an offense or being, rude, I actually prefer it.

Obviously, substitute your own words/jokes for mine.

I say use humor when possible, because I have found that one thing that puts people at ease more than anything else is demonstrating that I am not sensitive about it.

If I joke about having autistic super-powers or saying something like...

Sorry, sometimes I get so deep in thought, the building could come down around me and I'd not notice.

Yes, we are different from most people, but everyone is fighting some battle and dealing with some unseen difficulty in their lives.

This may seem counter-intuitive, but it has worked for me.

The best way to get people to look past the elephant in the room is to point it out

If you want to be seen for your talents and have people look past the autism, bring it up, let people know that it's no big deal. When you have symptoms, just dismiss it as nothing.

Ah, sorry, these tics happen when I'm a bit stressed. Just ignore it.

or, when you miss a subtle clue..

Ah, quick, someone hand me a clue-by-four!

What I've done with coworkers is explicitly tell them

Sorry, I don't get social clues very well. If I'm talking your ear off, just let me know, I won't get offended.

TLDR:

The key to it all is explain, but don't be embarrassed and don't treat it like a big deal. Most people are understanding, and if they are not, that is a reflection on them, not you. Yes, it does narrow down our options, but when you do find an understanding group/company, it makes for a very satisfying work experience.

  • 2
    @HLGEM there is sort of a dark art as when to do The Reveal which is why I skipped over it. I've actually done it as a selling point as a response to "How do you know you won't get bored doing repetitive work". But again, when to reveal it is really a case by case basis. Some employers see it as a strength, and we have overrun IT to such an extent, you may be interviewing with someone who has it. – Retired Codger Mar 19 '18 at 15:14
  • 3
    "clue-by-four" I hope you know my +1 is secretly a -1 for that pun. – Ethan The Brave Mar 20 '18 at 18:32
4

I found Tylon Foxx's answer to be quite interesting, thought I'd note that first off.

Briefly

Basically, an employer wants to see job fit, regardless of other medical/physical conditions.

Longer

To answer OP's question, well, it depends. And what it depends on is the role. If you're being hired by a hedge fund to crank numbers and make them money, then I suspect they won't really care much on how charismatic you are. If, on the other hand, you're being hired to work in sales, well...

Your question is subtle about it, but things like "So my goal is to address my condition ... in a way that does not result in my termination/rejection" implies you've been fired before for, one assumes, your social etiquette (or lack of).

This leads me to believe you might be applying for positions where team work is considered a high priority.

Look, from an employers point of view, they just want to earn money. Being a business owner can be stressful - you need to focus on earning money to keep the company going. Typically, employees are brought on with the sole purpose of helping earn more money. So if your new employee earns a bunch more money, great. IF they start impeding overall money-making, well, not-so-great.

As a result, you - regardless of "spectrum-ness", always want to be in a position where you can contribute the most to money making. Charismatic? Go into sales. Good at analysis? Then work in a hedge fund. But within these two simplistic examples, there are further categories - charismatic but terrible in teams? There's a sales position for that I'm sure. Great at analysis but only when it involves fish? You can find that role too.

END

You're going to struggle if, as you note, you don't work well in teams and you work in a team. When you apply for jobs, you've already narrowed down too much - your local recruiter (internal or external) will know which roles are best suited to people who don't work well in teams. I'd consider targeting those roles. I personally enjoy working with others, so I would not like working away from other people. Even so, I know roles exist where team-work isn't a priority - and I imagine they're actually hard to fill given many people prefer working in teams.

I'm 100% not saying that people with Autism or on the spectrum - I hope that's the sensitive way to express it - should all work in a cave somewhere away from humanity. I am saying that everyone should find a role that suits them, and that there is always that role.

In OPs case, OP indicates a difficulty working with others, so instead of disclosing this, applying for roles where working in teams is less of a focus is a neat work-around.

  • My favorite answer of yours thus far. – Mister Positive Mar 19 '18 at 13:18
  • @MisterPositive thanks, always happy to be complimented. I do feel that RicardU's answer is far superior for this question though! – bharal Mar 19 '18 at 14:14
1

Although I am neurotypical , I'm not really "business typical." I act, talk, and dress differently at work compared to other places in my life. I don't think I'm an exception. Many people have to regulate themselves when they're on the job. Personally, I don't use any where near the amount of profanity I use in the rest of my life.

I realize this is not the same as what you're experiencing. Society has many misconceptions and stereotypes about people on the spectrum and business may be worse.

You will need to decide if you want to work for a company that cannot cope with your diagnosis. If you explain how you've excelled at other jobs and your strategies for managing yourself and they still don't want to hire you, it may not be such a great place to work. That's easy for me to say, but I don't have to pay your next bill either.

Start with the people in HR. Hopefully, they have some idea on how to properly handle these type of situations and may do a better job of "selling" you to the company than you may do yourself.

Also, consider discussing this with personal and professional references. They may be able to explain how your "ticks or quirks" in no way affect you or your job in any negative way.

There's no reason why you should feel like you're hiding things or faking it much more than everyone else.

  • 2
    "in no way affect you or your job in any negative way." thats the thing. It does. Because a big part of the job is dealing with other people. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Mar 8 '18 at 19:05
  • It won't be completely eliminated, but someone vouching for you should be able to frame what may normally be seen as hostile or aggressive as being really passionate about your work. I went from being a sports coach to working as a programmer. I would make what I thought was just a suggestion, and people in the meeting thought I was being too forceful and unaccepting of other's opinions when they didn't even say anything. I'd like to think I'm confident in what i say or I wouldn't have said it, but I've learned to tone it down over the years. It hasn't been easy. – user8365 Mar 8 '18 at 19:16
  • 2
    @Dukeling - Not sure your location, but HR would have major problems putting a health issue into a file especially if they intended not to hire or fire you. – user8365 Mar 8 '18 at 20:43
1

This probably seems somewhat obvious, but consider declaring your autism up-front - before or at the interview stage.

Companies are gradually getting better at inclusion, and autism in the technology industry really isn't a rare thing any more. Some companies seem to prefer autistic employees for certain roles because they have a high technical aptitude, and can remain focused on tasks that would be difficult for others.

You know this already, I'm sure.

So, take autism to your interview and discuss it. See how your prospective employer can accommodate your behaviour and use it in a positive way for both your career growth and the company. Discuss how this can enhance your role within this company and what roles/responsibilities could be affected by your autism and agree to find ways of mitigating those problems.

Those mitigations could be as simple as letting your team-mates how to interact and what body language to look out for.

1

I have ASD and I noted my condition upfront in both my resume and my first interview. On the one hand I have my ticks that I use to navigate the corporate world. On the other hand I am really good at analytical thinking and execution. I revealed my ASD because I thought the latter would outshine the former. Which it completely did. I firmly believe in laying my cards out on the table so my prospective future employer knows exactly what I'm about. I say this to preface why my employer hired me knowing I had ASD.

I asked why the company chose me over another applicant who had better experience with programming. The answer was that because of my ASD I have a different perspective to solve problems. Which shined in the coding and technical tests of the interview process. The company valued my thought process and tactic over a ton of experience. Which is a positive check mark in my corner. So, in that aspect revealing my ASD was beneficial. I don't try to "act normal" but I do make an effort to be more professional. Which my company is helping me with via training and mentoring.

To answer your question with my particular experience, my company was looking for an innovative thinker and a different perspective to the problems that they faced. The fact that I have ASD played a part into the stereotype of the genius mentality that is associated with ASD. My logical perspective was what they knew they needed and they jumped at the chance to scoop me up. I believe a company is looking for all of the perks of having an ASD employee, and will be sympathetic to the not so great parts of the social side. I like puzzles and solving problems and my company loved that despite my lacking experience versus the other candidate that was considered.

  • how doyou put it on your resume? – Retired Codger Mar 22 '18 at 15:36
  • @RichardU I have an "Get To Know Me" section of my resume where I include it. – Noble-Savage Mar 22 '18 at 20:53
  • That's fascinating I've never heard of that before. – Retired Codger Mar 23 '18 at 17:24
1

I've worked with quite a few people who have Autism. One of my manufacturing clients works with disabled adults, some are low functioning and others are high.

The high functioning individuals are usually able to go on to get a normal manufacturing job once the project they were working on ends.

What I look for in these individuals is their track record, most times I find that they have great attendance and produce more parts than their peers. Which is exactly what my clients are looking for.

If you can convey your accomplishments on your resume with actual numbers behind them, that will count for a lot.

For example, let's say you worked at a company that makes shoes, you can say the average was 15 per hour but you were able to consistently produce 25 per hour. That's something that will open the door for you, or if it is in a sales environment, say the quota was 75 calls an hour but you are able to do 100, there you go.

Like others have said, it might be a good idea to explain your situation during the interview. Employers can't really ask about it, but if you discuss it openly that will help us understand. Especially if they have never worked with anyone with autism before, it can be difficult to know what to expect.

Best of luck to you!

0

If you have any kind condition, any employer mainly wants to make sure, you can improve upon that condition

If you indicate to any employer that you are constantly working to improve your personal quirks and improve yourself, that's one of the best arguments that you can give. You just indicated that you DO NOT GIVE UP.

To tell you the truth, many I have met with ASD, especially ones that got diagnosed late in life, have simply accepted it. This diagnosis is not a death sentence an excuse or a sickness. It is, if anything a revelation. You now know how you and your mind works, take it as a tool not a limitation.

Considering the rest of your text here's some insight, tools and possibly help:

Having been diagnosed with Asperger's myself, as well as recently moved into a new job with a vastly different culture than i'm used to, I have learned the following:

  • It's okay to be seen as a bit wierd, at least the first few days: It happens to everybody. A new job requires a lot of time and energy to adjust to new procedures, new people and a new workplace culture. It's a lot to take in, even for neurotypicals.
  • Even neurotypicals don't have constant control over their behaviour and emotions: this is a very important thing for autists to know... basically everyone has a condition or quirk according to modern psycology, from the manipulative and psychotic boss to the shy programmer. If you have an otherwise normal life that doesn't interfere with your work, don't think too much about doing a wierd thing or having a tic.
  • Be wary of using history to fall back on: While in many cases it's our best option to gauge social cues and reaction, it can also be a hindrance. If the workplace culture and procedures are vastly different, most of your experience will be moot. You'll have to stand tall and adjust the best you can.
  • Your main power is your skill: If you have a record of excellent work and learning new skills rapidly, keep it up in the new job. If your work shines, at least the people that are higher up in the hierarchy will be more likely to accept your quirks. Remember that as a basic rule, company leaders focus on _money_and that quality work, as well as high productivity gets them more money and more customers. As long as you deliver that, no proper leader will have any reason to fire you. My own special interest (everything computers and IT) ended up being my main asset. I ended up, not only being a skilled programmer, but also a skilled self-taught IT and network technician, which in turn got me a job as a system administrator.
  • Learn to use your weirdness constructively: In my case, I trained my sense of humour (which many autists have a hard time to get a grasp on) and learned to integrate my own quirks into it. While I don't consider myself to be a funny guy to be around others, including my colleagues and friends have commented that I have given them some of the best laughs ever! This also brings up:
  • Challenge your diagnosis and train yourself: Don't let the diagnosis hinder you. Constantly work on making yourself better and train your interactions with others. Push your limits of what you can take before having a meltdown (if you get those). In my case, I was forced by society to do this, as my meltdowns often ended in violence when I was a child. On the ther hand, I have grown so good at cloaking my autism that most people wouldn't know I had i dagnosis when taking to them. Remember that it takes time and patience.
  • Find out whether or not you can legally get fired on the sole basis of your condition in your state or nation
  • It may not be you that has a problem: Humans are naturally and instinctually inclined to sort out people that are different from themselves, this goes for ASD quirks as well. Some are better than others in ignoring it. In your case, because you have a better ability to focus on a task, you should know that other employees may see it as a threat to their position (which is the bully trigger).
  • Learn to ignore: Ask yourself, when you get called out on your weirdness, whether or not that person's opinion is actually important or valid. For example if your boss comments on your behaviour at an important meeting or during a phone call, that may be reason for an apology, as well as training and self-improvement. On the other hand if there's no valid reason for being called out (eg. you're not in a social setting).

In addition to the last point i'd like to point out that it, of course, depends on your job. If you service customers, you often can't get away with rudeness or hostility. If you "service" coworkers (like an IT dept), you're not expected to be polite.

In my case (Software develeoper and system administrator roles, even in a leading role), I have been called out on being rude or hostile to coworkers numerous times, however in the majority of cases it was their fault because they started trying to boss me around without valid authority (even to the point of calling up and harassing my boss if they weren't satisfied with my "service" or prioritization). Numerous times i've been called to drop very important work that could affect tens of thousands people (eg. a crashed server) because little "Ms. Important" couldn't read a dialog box. For that majority of times, I have ignored "Ms. Important", but accepted and used input from my boss to handle further cases from "Ms. Important" better.

This bring up the very final point:

  • Learn to differentiate critique from bullying: This is a point even many neurotypicals fail at. But remember that critique is calling out your weirdness (or other problems) in a constructive manner.

Personally, I have never told an employer that I had a diagnosis, and I have never had to reveal it down the line legally or by query, as it has never interfered with my job If anything, the gifts of my autism has helped me perform better, to the point of impressing my peers and my superiors. The other reason is that a revealed ASD diagnosis severely limits your chances of getting a new job (especially in my country). In most cases any apparent psychological diagnoses or problems will indicate to the hirer that:

  1. It's just a bad excuse; I haven't experienced this with employers, but I have experienced it in cases where I had to explain my condition to government workers...
  2. You'll become a problem down the line.

That is not to say that there are no companies out there that are tolerant of people with ASD... in fact there is at least one Danish company that mostly hire autists (Specialisterne). I strongly suggest you read the story of how the company came to be.

The same company has, especially in the US and Denmark, made great effort to help other companies to hire, train and accommodate employees with ASD.

While a highly social job (like sales) is not suitable for most autists, these guys (and others) are making progress in making sure that an incredibly valuable work force is not going to waste.

However, there are ways to subtly indicate that you may need special accomodations without instantly pointing to your condition and diagnosis.

For example, if a hirer queries you about your weaknesses in that particular job (a question you should always prepare for), you could mention that you have a few problems with large crowds and social gatherings. Improve your chances of getting hired by showing that you can at least mostly accomodate yourself. It enables some freedom down the road to find the middle ground, but make sure you indicate that you are working to push yourself forward and improve on the quirks you have.

Remember, you got this far without help or special treatment for your condition! You can still adapt, and you have done so for years already. Be proud of yourself, you deserve it!

Also remember, that many out there will call you out on your wierdness.

  • 4
    While this may be useful commentary, it doesn't really answer the question. – AffableAmbler Mar 9 '18 at 21:08
  • 1
    I updated the post with further info that should hopefully answer OP's question a bit better... Further commenters should know, that since both OP and I have ASD diagnoses (in my case, diagnosed in childhood) I'm not adressing the problem from the usual angle, but taking basis in his condition and offering him tools to cope in the future. Many autists cook up bad or wrong images of the perception of them from others because of our skewed or non-existant perception of their emotional state. – Tylon Foxx Mar 10 '18 at 12:37
  • AffableAmber: to boil it down for you; if you have a condition, the boss mainly wants to see you improve on that condition. If that condition involves your behaviour, improve your behaviour. I'll add this above too. However I answered (also originally) in context of giving him tools to improve in regard of his condition. – Tylon Foxx Mar 10 '18 at 12:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.