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I have Asperger's and have major issues passing job interviews. In the past I have had a large number of job interviews (haven't kept count but probably somewhere between 60 and 100) and failed all but one. I have had plenty of different jobs over the years but almost always got them by passing some test, going through an agency without interview or being referred to by someone.

One way I have tried to get round the interview issue is building up a large amount of academic qualifications to try to outdo the competition and try to dampen the effects of my poor interview skills.

All the usual interview technique stuff I'm generally aware of - prepare answers to anticipated questions before hand, try make eye contact, try build rapport with interviewer, be presentable etc.

Knowing that and putting it into practice are two different matters though. If I can say something awkward (very often honest words) in an interview, I almost certainly will - by accident. I struggle to come across as presentable and I tend to have a blank look on my face, look distant or unenthusiastic about the job/interview (I'm not unenthusiastic, I just dont show it well, I'm definitely not a good actor/salesperson). I've had plenty of feedback about this before and do my best to act on it.

This stuff I'm well aware of and try to do what I can to deal with it, but after so many failed interviews I just accept my brain is never going to handle this situation as well as most other people out there, as much as I try. I am not put down by this and do what I can to try improve on each interview, but accept that my ability to deal with formal social situations are limited and do not expect to ever perform well in this respect for the rest of my life.

The question I have is how to try get this point across to interviewers beforehand without it making the whole process awkward before it even starts?

I don't want to sound rude or arrogant to the interviewer, but how much eye contact I make, how well ironed my shirt is or the tone of my voice sounding blunt and plain has little to do with my ability to do the sort of technical work I'm applying for (which is much better reflected by qualifications I have, the references I can get etc). Unfortunately the social stuff/personal presentation in interviews has a huge bearing on getting the job, even if it has little impact on my ability to do the work well (depending on the job you're applying for obviously). At least giving them a heads up that a glazed look in my eyes etc is no reflection of my eagerness to work at the company.

I'll point out that I have looked through other similar questions on here and they almost all recommend NOT pointing out Asperger's/autism at an interview. However I think at this point I have little to lose by trying, so I'm not asking whether it should be disclosed or not, only how to do it in a reasonable way.

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  • In many places Asperger's is considered a disability and employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations. Have you shared your condition with the HR dept. at the company and asked for accommodations that would put you into an even position with non-disabled candidates in advance of the interview?
    – jwh20
    May 11 at 16:59
  • No. I have seen applications that ask whether any accommodations need to be made, but I generally took this to be something that has to be done to make the interview possible, such as ensuring wheelchair access for a wheelchair user for example. Guess I can try flag this up in future at the time they ask this. May 11 at 17:27
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    Different disability, different accommodation needed. But if you aren't up-front how will they know you aren't just weird or rude? What if you had Tourette's. It might be obvious but they may never have encountered a person with that syndrome. Some persons with Asperger's don't show much in the way of symptoms but it sounds like yours are more obvious. If the interviewers don't understand what's going on you may not do well.
    – jwh20
    May 11 at 17:38
  • @jwh20 I show quite a bit, but I have trained myself to mirror behaviors May 11 at 18:51
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    "I don't want to sound rude or arrogant to the interviewer, but how much eye contact I make, how well ironed my shirt is or the tone of my voice sounding blunt and plain has little to do with my ability to do the sort of technical work I'm applying for..." Unfortunately, many jobs, even technical ones, require significant social interaction. When I'm interviewing I need to know that the candidate will fit the team as well as be able to handle the tech stuff. May 13 at 10:55

3 Answers 3

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I have Asperger's syndrome as well.

I have never disclosed this during the interview, but if you must, go through autistic job placement services and companies such as Hire Autism

The department of labor can also help you find agencies to place you. More importantly, they have good relationships with the companies, and these companies know what to expect.

There are also hubs like Life in Progress which contain a wealth of resources. Any of these options are good because you are going into a situation where they understand autism and want to hire people with it, and your behaviors will not be misconstrued.

Now. as to why you should not limit yourself to these options.

You need to develop your people skills to maintain a job.

Now, I fully understand how superfluous and needless these social dances are. They have nothing to do with how well you will do on the job. But they are important, nonetheless. Many thing that we do seem unnecessary, rude, quirky and even odd to them.

It is important to learn and develop to at least a rudimentary level, otherwise your life will be needlessly difficult. Unfortunately, things that come easy to the Nuero-typical do not come easy to us.

I have a bookshelf populated with books on closing sales (useful for interviewing) How to Win Friends and Influence People, the Seven habits of highly effective people, as well as Brag: How to Toot Your Own Horn Without Blowing it.

Social skills can be learned. Do not define yourself by your diagnosis. It's hard, DAMN HARD to learn, but it can be done, and I think you should at least put in the effort.

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The question I have is how to try get this point across to interviewers beforehand without it making the whole process awkward before it even starts?

Since you appear to have decided that you will indicate your Asperger's beforehand, the best way to do this is in the cover letter.

Explain your condition, how it manifests, and why it won't stop you from being a terrific employee.

And expect to talk through it at least during your initial interview.

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I'm autistic and I have also done some recruiting; I've probably reviewed about 200 CVs and interviewed about 50 candidates in my time.

Whether to disclose is always a dilemma. Some people are prejudiced, and disclosing to them may well kill your application. On the other hand, plenty of people are not prejudiced, and disclosing may help your application there. There's a balance between "I want to work somewhere I can be myself" and "I need a job to pay the bills", and the decision depends on your individual situation and on what you know about the ethos of the place where you're applying. (If they have something like a disability or neurodiversity internal network, that's often a good sign.)

Over the years, I've shifted more towards disclosure. There are a variety of reasons for that, but one of them has been my experience from the other side of the interview table.

I'm going to highlight this exchange from the comments:

In many places Asperger's is considered a disability and employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations. Have you shared your condition with the HR dept. at the company and asked for accommodations that would put you into an even position with non-disabled candidates in advance of the interview? – jwh20

No. I have seen applications that ask whether any accommodations need to be made, but I generally took this to be something that has to be done to make the interview possible, such as ensuring wheelchair access for a wheelchair user for example. Guess I can try flag this up in future at the time they ask this. – joeblogg2323

From the interviewee's side, asking for accommodations like this feels like an imposition. But speaking as an interviewer, you're actually doing me a favour when you ask for what you need to give me a good interview.

When I interview a candidate, I'm trying to figure out how they will perform if we give them the job. But interviews are an artificial situation that doesn't look very much like the normal working environment, and that makes my job as interviewer harder. Is the candidate floundering because they don't have the professional skills to answer the question? Or is it just stress and an unfamiliar context and a lack of thinking time that's getting in the way?

I want to know what the candidate is capable of when they're not under that kind of pressure, in a normal environment with time to think about what they're doing, yada yada. When the candidate has the accommodations they need, that makes it a little easier for me to gauge their potential.

Outside accommodations, some of this is stuff you can flag with the interviewers: "By the way, I've been told I have a fairly flat tone when I'm speaking, and I tend to stare off into space when I'm thinking - I just want you to know that doesn't mean lack of interest." Again, for an interviewer who is trying to assess you accurately, this kind of information is useful and welcome. I can't promise that all interviewers will treat that information as they ought, but the good ones will.

If eye contact is a major sticking point, you might try angling for video interviews. Depending on camera angle, this can also make most of your wardrobe choices irrelevant.

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