I'm trying to get my first corporate job as a software engineer. I have autism, and this makes me a potential victim of unconscious bias. Therefore, my one non-negotiable is that the company has to have some sort of program or initiative to create an equitable, "neurodiverse" workplace - for example, maybe all employees go through neurodivergency training.

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    – Kilisi
    Dec 14, 2023 at 22:05
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    "this makes me a potential victim of unconscious bias" - Can you please elaborate on what kind of bias you have faced in your past experience as a software engineer (you state 10+ years in your profile "About" section)? The question is inordinately vague, as you can already judge by the amount of answers and debate already generated. Are you really wondering how to politely bring up non-negotiables in general, or are you asking how to ensure getting treated equitably (which is already protected by law in many places)? "Neurodiverse" and "equitable" are not the same thing. Dec 16, 2023 at 1:18

12 Answers 12


It's pretty simple and straighforward. You do the same thing for any non-negotiable requirement you have.

Ask "Do you have some sort of program or initiative to create an equitable, "neurodiverse" workplace?"

If the answer is "No", then you thank them for their time and leave.

If the answer is "Yes", you ask "Can you tell me a bit about it?" If the answer meets your criteria, then you continue. Otherwise, you thank them for their time and leave.

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    I don't get why the other answers think this is such a bad thing to ask. The question you phrase here seems perfectly mild and reasonable. If the hiring manager does know of a diversity program, they will probably be pleased you asked, it gives them a chance to boast a little.
    – Clumsy cat
    Dec 14, 2023 at 12:37
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    Taking this answer literally - dropping an interview process mid-stream, with a "thanks, not what I'm looking for" and unilaterally stopping - might get a candidate a reputation for unusually rude behaviour. It would be more usual to say "no more questions, thanks", let the current interview end naturally without trying to extend it, and afterwards inform people that you don't wish to take things further. I think the answer perhaps assumes "thank them for their time and leave" is well understood code for that more measured/polite interaction? Dec 14, 2023 at 17:25
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    @NeilSlater True, normally I would consider it a bit nit-picky on the details about a social interaction, but since this question is about autism in the workforce, it's not a bad idea to be a little more specific here, lol. Dec 14, 2023 at 17:47
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    I don't agree with the asker's question, but if we're giving them advice from the best possible position, this is the correct answer.
    – Zibbobz
    Dec 14, 2023 at 18:55
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    Unless you are getting multiple offers, I wouldn't turn down anything for a first job. I turned one down and ended up outside the window where most companies were hiring graduates. Then spent the next year job hunting before I accepted an offer that was equal to the one I turned down. I certainly wouldn't abandon it during the interview process.
    – rtaft
    Dec 14, 2023 at 19:43

So, I'm going to answer this as nicely as I can.

You appear to believe in a number of Ideas/Concepts which I personally disagree heavily with.

I've worked in IT for the last nearly 20 years - In every team I have worked with, there has always been at least one person who is on one spectrum or another. In most cases, the overwhelming majority of the team could be considered as 'Neurodiverse' (As someone who fits that category, can't stand that term).

In almost all cases, I have seen people succeed and fail on their own merits, not due to unconscious bias. I have seen Engineers commit faux-pas in ways that only Engineers on the Spectrum can.

My strongest advice is this: The ideas that you are drinking from are poisoned. If you believe you are a victim, you will interpret every action taken against you from that perspective - without giving anyone any benefit of doubt.

Don't worry about 'unconscious bias' (which as a concept was not statistically derived), don't worry about toxic DIE training, don't paint yourself as a Victim. Go out, interview, work hard, take your mistakes on the chin and learn from them - and you'll do just fine.

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    – Kilisi
    Dec 14, 2023 at 17:59
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    The worst example I've seen of this was a neurodiverse person demand (they suffered from anxiety) that as I made them nervous, their justified medical compensation was to have me immediately fired from the company. That company bent over backwards to make that person happy, and they quit in a fury two months later anyway. No, I wasn't fired for the event, but it did damage my reputation for a while, which never fully recovered till after I changed jobs. Being neurodiverse doesn't grant you corporate superpowers, so be kind instead.
    – Edwin Buck
    Dec 17, 2023 at 15:36

To be blunt, most organisations are not going to be willing to implement things like company-wide training for all their existing staff because a potential candidate asks them to - so really what you're looking for is companies who are already doing these things.

So as part of the interview, you can ask them whether they have that kind of program in place. Pitching it as a question ("Do you have a program for $foo") comes off as much less confrontational that stating is as a non-negotiable requirement - and if they say they don't have what you want and do end up making you an offer, you can decide whether or not you want to accept it.

Although one thing to bear in mind is that by asking this type of question, you are also telling them something about yourself, which may also harm your chances of getting the job in the first place. So looking for places that advertise that they already have the policies you're looking for in place may be a good starting point. Depending on where you are, you may find some some areas (such as the public sector) are more likely to have that in place.

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    +1, though I would recommend that OP rather asks about "how do you address the issue of unconscious bias", rather than making it a hard criterion to have a specific kind of training. Trainings can work, or they can turn people off badly. I work at SAP in software development, we do not have compulsory specific neurodiversity training, but we do have programs supporting people on the spectrum specifically, and I do not have the impression that inclusion is an issue for us. TL;DR: take a larger view. Dec 14, 2023 at 13:08

There is a point at the end of every interview where the interviewer will ask you if you have additional questions. You are certainly free to ask at that time whether the company has a program to create a supportive workplace for neurodiverse individuals.

Practically, however, this does not seem like a great strategy.

  • You don't hire software developers without hiring more than a few folks that are somewhere on the spectrum. IT departments are very likely to accommodate autistic applicants even if there is no program to teach the ins and outs of neurodiversity to every associate in a retail store.
  • Your eventual manager's attitude toward accommodating autism is vastly more important than a 15 minute training video that everyone has to watch every year along with sexual harassment and security compliance training. You should be able to ask your manager very specific questions about how he or she would be able to support you in particular and act on the answers to those questions. For example, if you know that you would need to have feature requests given to you in written form rather than orally in meetings, ask about that particular accommodation. A good manager at a company that has no specific program is almost certainly vastly superior to an average manager at a company that has a great neurodiversity program. Particularly for your first corporate job.
  • Asking the question in the first place is a risk. There are a lot of people applying for entry-level positions. Many of the people you are competing against aren't going to require accommodation. If you have significant needs that need to be accommodated for you to be successful, it's probably worth the risk because you don't want to start somewhere and find that you have to fight to get the accommodations you need even if that costs you some offers. If you have less significant needs, however, it may be a better strategy not to ask questions during the interview process and to trust that any large company is likely to have reasonable policies about accommodating employees with disabilities.

It's okay to have non-negotiable asks as part of being hired.

It's okay as long as you're okay with not getting the job. Asking for this one will get you exactly zero offers because you sound like you will be litigious. Unless you are bringing a portfolio of patents the company can use, no one will be interested in dealing with the issues you are telegraphing that you will have.

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    Great language re "telegraphing". This, absolutely. By behaving like this in an interview, you're signalling that you're not easy to work with. It doesn't matter if you're autistic or not; a difficult person is a difficult person. Dec 14, 2023 at 16:44

Take a less direct approach

I have worked both in places that did and did not have the kind of initiatives you are mentioning. As a slight challenge to the framing of your question, I would suggest that you want to be cautious using the existence of these initiatives as a way of deciding whether the environment will be a positive one for you. I am going to assume that your goal is to find an inclusive and welcoming environment that you can work well in, and be happy to be a part of.

I would suggest asking these somewhat open-ended questions:

  • "What is the company culture like?"
  • "What does your company do to create a healthy workplace environment?"
  • "How does your company approach equity?"

There's probably variations of these that could be added, but to keep it simple I'll leave it at that.

The point of asking these questions is to see how the person you asked reacts, and what kind of answer they give. If a person hears these questions and gives lots of detailed information about how they strive to create a healthy work environment, you at least know the company cares about being perceived as valuing a healthy work environment. If the answers are short and don't contain much detail, then that generally means that either a) they don't put much thought into it, or b) they actively disagree with trying to take action to make the workplace a more inclusive environment.

Note, that when I say the answers given to these questions could be "detailed" or not, those details may take different forms. Some companies might not have specific equity programs, but they may say that they highly value a healthy and inclusive environment, and describe their personal or company philosophy on how to achieve that. Or, they may have the kind of programs you imagine. What I would see as a warning sign is someone who responds to "how does your company create a positive work environment" with something curt, like "we are all very welcoming, and people can always speak to HR if they have a problem".

Usually, you will get a chance during the interview process to speak with other employees who would be closer to your level (vs those who would be your superiors). Those people are probably the best people to ask the question "what is your company's culture?" or "how does your company create a positive workplace environment?". The same principle of detail applies when judging their answers.

Finally, if you ask these more vague questions and aren't yet sure whether the company is a good fit, you can get more specific and ask about diversity initiatives or how the company supports neurodivergent employees. The unfortunate reality is that these terms have become so politicized that some people will immediately have a strong, negative reaction to the mere fact you used them. They may become suspicious, and see you as "woke" or a troublemaker. I imagine that a company where this attitude was prevalent would not be a good fit for you. Asking directly about these things can lead to more positive, details answers, or it could potentially cause the person you ask to start acting differently. They may become more brief or withdrawn. That would be a warning sign. If they start ranting about how you are letting yourself be a victim, and your ideology is toxic, then you can probably write off that company entirely.

On the other hand, if you hear things that sound positive to you, then you should consider the company. There isn't really a magic bullet thing you can say to ensure the company accepts a healthy workplace environment as "non-negotiable". Many places will attempt to portray themselves as taking that stance, even if they don't in practice, so such a promise would be largely useless (unless you are seeking a particular accommodation, in which case perhaps such a promise could be enforced depending on your locale).

Instead, unfortunately, it will be up to you to look elsewhere if your workplace ever becomes toxic and does not support you the way it should. That is the only way to truly make your conditions non-negotiable: to leave if those conditions should stop being met.


As the parent of 2 successful adults that are on the spectrum. Accept who you are.

The @TheDemonLord is 100% right.

If and when you need an accomondation, then ask.

No, this doesn't answer your question as asked, but it is what is truely helpful.

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    One thing for OP to consider is that it may be impractical for employers to have trainings for all the differences that people can have. If they did there would be 1,000's of trainings needed. Employers may not consider it their job to teach everything to everyone. However, we all bring our interpersonal skills that we learn throughout our lives to the workplace, but we are all at different points in our journeys learning about those things, so some people may be better than others.
    – jwils
    Dec 15, 2023 at 0:29
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    @jwils : also, sometimes these trainings (even if organized in good faith) are not that effective, and might even be harmful. Being forced to watch videos (especially when having lots of work to do instead) about how privileged you are and therefore 'less privileged' people are always right, might make people bitter instead of more accepting.
    – Val
    Dec 15, 2023 at 6:09
  • This answer has been bothering me since I first read it, and only now do I know what's the problem (besides saying TheDemonLord is correct). The OP seems to accept who they are. The problem is getting others to accept who they are and that's the point of the training. Also, what worked for your kids isn't a guarantee it'll work for anyone else, let alone everyone else. And no, to many of us, this answer is not "truly helpful". Dec 20, 2023 at 17:34
  • @computercarguy I wasn't going to respond and didn't for months. I decided to because besides being a parent, I own a business and have an employee on the spectrum. We accomondate his issues. We haven't trained our employees about Autism, etc. Team members are expected to act like professionals. If and when an issue arises then mitigate it. Accomondate as needed. Expect all professionals to be trained to "Act Right" in front of a person on the spectrum? Then they aren't professionals. That is what bothers me about your comment.
    – DogBoy37
    Mar 19 at 19:52
  • @DogBoy37 what you are doing by expecting people to "act professionally" in ways they've never encountered before or have been taught the wrong way to react is to set people up for failure. Different work cultures react to people on the spectrum in different ways, from simply ignoring the person to actively abusing the person on the negative side of things. Expecting everyone to act in your version of Professional, where people on the spectrum are treated well and with respect, simply is unrealistic. Even when not related to Autism, professionalism is very different between companies. Mar 19 at 21:29

I've seen a lot of complaining about this question or answers being political, but equal civil rights in the workplace is absolutely a political battle that continues to be fought today.

In the US, we have the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that specifically, if incompletely, addresses many of these issues. I'm sure many other countries have a similar set of laws and regulations that companies have to follow in order to be ADA compliant.

The ADA explicitly includes Autism, "Intellectual disabilities", and other concerns related to neurodivergence as part of what the laws intend to cover. That same page includes protecting them in employment situations, such as hiring procedures.

General requirement: Employers must provide people with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from the employment-related opportunities available to others. This includes things like recruitment, hiring, promotions, training, pay, and social activities.

The ADA includes specific requirements for employers to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to employment.

It's your right to be treated without discrimination. Unfortunately, proving that you were discriminated against during a job interview is nearly impossible.

But it's absolutely your right to ask if a company has policies and procedures in place to deal with problematic situations and/or people. If they don't, then you probably don't want to work there, anyway. That's the way I feel about a lot of topics.

In fact, it's in your best interest to ask this type of question. You get to learn more about the company and whether it has a company culture of inclusion or exclusion. This can be just as important as someone in a wheelchair asking if there are ramps and elevators for them to use in the building they are going to be working in.

The CDC estimates there are roughly 27% of all people in the US that have disabilities, with 12.8% of them being cognitive issues, so this isn't just a "you" problem.

This is another issue that people want to sweep under the rug and forget because it makes them uncomfortable. Because of that, we need to make sure to ask these types of questions. Ignoring it won't make the problem go away.

I agree with Joe Strazzere's answer, but the wording and the timing could use a few tweaks. Such as, you might not immediately want to end the interview there, but working to end it in a reasonable time is suggested. You don't want to completely insult them, but you also don't want to waste any more of your time, either. Having read quite a number of his answers in the past, I'd have to assume the "you thank them for their time and leave" means that you leave at the appropriate time, rather than just immediately walking out of the interview. Sometimes that needs to be more explicitly said to neurodivergent people, as we tend to be super literal. (I've never been officially diagnosed, but I find myself relating to people who talk about being neurodivergent.)

Job interviews are for you to judge your future employer as a good fit for your life, just as is it for them to consider if you'd fit the role. These aren't one way streets and only for the benefit for the business, as much as some people want them to be. I've had no issues with talking to a recruiter after an interview and saying that I wasn't interested in the position any longer. It didn't matter what they could have offered me for compensation or if they liked me, I didn't like them so it wasn't worth wasting anyone's time going any further than the interview.

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    Protecting you from being fired for a disability and requiring reasonable accommodations is very different from requiring all employees to go through neurodiversity training, though. Requiring extra training of every other employee in the company isn't a reasonable accommodation for most things.
    – reirab
    Dec 16, 2023 at 21:57
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    @reirab, the same was said for sexual harassment training, yet with the amount of sexual harassment in the workplace, it was absolutely necessary. Looking at the US population and the CDC estimates, there are roughly 11.5 million Americans with cognitive disabilities. There's a lot that still needs to be done to address the bias against them, and other disabilities, too. Heck, we've been trying to fight against physical biases for decades and those still aren't fully addressed. Why is being treated with basic compassion and respect not a "reasonable accommodation"? Dec 18, 2023 at 18:11
  • @reirab, btw, training doesn't necessarily have to explicitly and only be "neurodiversity training" for it to work. The OP did say this explicitly, but any training to de-stigmatize physical, mental, and other disabilities goes a long way for people to not be an SOB, which some people apparently and unfortunately missed that education in school. Even just getting managers (especially hiring managers) this training can go a long way. Dec 18, 2023 at 18:16

So first and foremost, I am a fan of DEI initiatives (DON'T @ ME) but I think that for neurodiversity, there's ways to understand if a company's culture is able to support your specific needs, and those things are often above the workings of a neurodiversity DEI initiative.

The big questions will be around how the team handles async schedules, remote work, hybrid work, transparency, emergencies and failures.

You'll find that a lot of teams that have a 'don't finger point, question the system' mentality for tackling failures work well for, well, everybody.

You'll also find that a lot of teams that have a 'only bleeding counts as an emergency' mentality work well for, well, everybody.

You'll also want to ask how they tackle performance measurements. How does the company recognize value in people who work hard but are modest about their accomplishments?

So instead of focusing on whether there is a neurodiversity DEI (or TEI) initiative, try to dig into the cultural aspects of the team you're looking at. Do they have a lot of support for new grads? Do they often use RCA's, retrospectives, RACI graphs, etc? Do new people get a lot of instruction or a lot of autonomy? Are you told what to do, or how to do it, or both? How often is code reviewed? Will you get a mentor? Do clients have access to the software engineers, or are there business analysts and product managers who can map out actionable items for the teams? Is there a lot of multi-tasking expected, or does the team support 'getting in the zone'?

If all those answers sound good to you, then an official initiative might just be icing on the cake.

All that being said, I have a friend who's basically starting the neurodiverse initiative at his new company and he LOVES it.


Context: managing various IT teams worldwide for 35 years.

I like very, very much to work with people "on the spectrum" (I hate this expression because it does not make any sense - everyone is on the spectrum, just not in the same spot. Anyway).

I find that the effort-results ratio is very rewarding and when there is a good mix in the team miracles appear. Everyone does what they do best.

This means of course that I hire people who will be a fit in the team (as everyone should). This means that some people technically good will not be hired because they won't be a good fit.

So you need to look for a manager who is strong enough to push such an idea through the company and their management. This is not always easy, but not too difficult either in IT / R&D environments. On top of that, there are probably some legal/financial/whatever incentives for the company to be something-friendly (the "something" comes and goes).

You may want to take into account that getting into such a team means going through layers of hiring people (HR, managers, ...) and your very straightforward question may be met with a rejection. Even if you are not told so, you will be set aside as potentially problematic.

Finding out if someone is a problem vs having a specific way to express their thoughts takes time (and willingness). Statistically, you are better off trying to fit and at least reach the step where you meet your manager, then try to assess if the chemistry will be there. This is not easy, though so good luck.


Like a few others I feel you are asking the wrong question.

Now, you can ask your question like Joe indicates, but it has drawbacks. For one, you may well come off as having strange priorities even to people with training if you make a (particular kind of) training a non-negotiable. But more importantly you are asking for a particular measure as a metric to gauge whether the company is what you are presumably looking for. Your underlying goal seems to be to find a company where you get a job, can hold onto that job without getting fired over your autism and feel at least okay working at the company. While the presence of a program can be an indication of whether the company satisfies what you look for, it may not be a particularly good indicator and may severely limit your options (and you already seem afraid of your hiring chances).

Instead address the practical issues and check for their general support and openness to accommodate

Imho a similarly direct but better (or possibly additional) question would be "I'm on the spectrum, this manifests mostly in these issues. (Summarize what you would feel the main issues that could specifically arise with you, because being on the spectrum is...well a broad spectrum...). Do you think any of these would be a problem at your company, how could you accommodate me / what would you expect me to do about them if anything?"

Someone who received training should be able to accommodate that question but it also allows companies without proper training to present themselves and give you an impression at how well they can deal with "odd" behaviour in general (on the spectrum or not) and what they would expect from you. On the other hand, even if there is training, but your particular team only works in in-person standups and with clients on the phone, but you cannot properly concentrate while talking then all the company wide training might not help you be satisfied with the job.

Imho the best approach with any personal limitation is to bring up the practical issues and limitations that come with it as soon as possible - up to you whether you mention the actual reason, sometimes that is avoidable sometimes it is hard to not mention it. Figuring out early whether in practice there will be problems, what tools and processes are already present to help you and what perhaps you can do to overcome the most rough edges on your end. No matter if someone has character flaws or a medical reason for some sort of behaviour that annoys others, it typically helps a lot to be clear and reflective about them, ask for help but also in turn offer to work on oneself where possible (and be that just to find the right tools/processes that works for all sides).


Note that either approach will obviously open you up to discrimination if someone wants to discriminate and not hire you because of your status. But that's the same with your original question, it just beats more around the bush and lets people guess more with what type of impact they would have to deal with. And the smart choice from a hiring committee is typically to play it safe, if you know someone needs support and you don't know whether it will work out, you prefer a candidate that does not come with that baggage. On the other hand, if you know the pros and cons of a candidate and you know you can accommodate them, another candidate who so far has no cons might just be a wild card (everyone has some drawback). In other words, if you out yourself anyway, then I would suggest to make it specifically about you and the practical issues you might have without focusing too much on whether the company so far has thought about your specific medical background.

If you want to filter by superficial means, filter early

If you want to stick to your guns, I'd also recommend trying to look at the level of neuro-diversity friendliness before reaching the interviewing stage. At that point both you and the company have already invested quite some time and you made it through their first filters. If you want to really filter strongly against companies that might have a bias, you could even mention your special circumstances in the cover letter/application. That way, you don't need to make asking for a training program a hard check in the interview, as those with a conscious or subconscious bias, training or no training, will simply sort you out before interviewing you. This saves yourself and them time. Note however that any filtering you do (or basically help them to do that way), limits your chances to land a job, so be careful and first look at the job market to gauge how picky you can be.

Conscious reservations vs subconscious bias

Note that I think that subconscious bias is probably the least of your problems. For any form of special illnesses/disability/special circumstances that have an actual effect on how you can perform your job, the problem for getting hired is likely not subconscious bias but very conscious objective concerns regarding costs and limitations of hiring you. When you have an alternative that does not need special accommodation, that's just the more economic choice. Is that cool, no, but rational for the company. So the question then is not how to overcome subconscious bias but how to overcome these potential obstacles or make it clear to the people you will work with what exactly they will have to deal with and whether that will be a problem to what degree. Perhaps one can clarify that with the right tooling/support performance isn't really an issue. Or the company calculates in a certain amount for disability support anyway or they have a general working approach that fits you already etc. All in all, clarifying the individual circumstances of the job should be more helpful and give you an insight how open the company is to support individual needs way better than asking for general programs.


I think this is something you may need to work through after getting a job, or otherwise you’ll need to select a company which is very liberal, woke etc.

My experience has been that if you want something 'extra' to be delivered at your company, then 99% of the time, you have to do it. That doesn't necessarily mean that you have to be the one to do it, maybe just organise it. Most times you are better off with organising these things yourself, because then you can have the training meet your expectations. For example, maybe you know the organisation which does the training you want, maybe they are a charity and won't even cost anything. Or do you simply want everyone to watch those staff training videos with a quiz at the end I had to do in big corporates? How long do you want this training? A whole day? Probably not feasible. A lunchtime talk? Doable! Do you want mandatory attendance? Probably a big ask. Maybe bake a cake to encourage attendance if not mandatory! For some reason I myself, no matter how much money I've been earning are a sucker for free food. You can get help promoting the event so people are keen to come and learn about this topic! Rename training to learning session with cake!

Otherwise you could send an email introducing yourself to the company, with information on your condition, how to best work with you, what not to misunderstand as rudeness etc., thank everyone for reading it, etc. Further reading links if they are keen to know more and have 10 minutes free time to do some reading.

I've found you you have to approach these things with:

  • good will
  • willingness to facilitate/organise
  • willingness to compromise
  • reasonable expectations of your peers
  • not get upset from people not doing what you want all the time

This helps build your organisational/professional skills and fosters the positive culture you want. I encourage you to set about initiating something yourself than trying to build expectations on others, even if you do feel these expectations are reasonable, as you’ve seen in answers here there are very diverse workplaces.

  • If someone does all of this planning on company time, they will likely get get fired for not doing the work assigned to them. They will also likely get major pushback from management as it's not part of the OPs job description and trying to change company culture when "no one asked them to". Dec 15, 2023 at 17:14
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    BTW, this isn't a "woke" or "liberal" issue, it's a human and civil rights issue. The CDC states that around 27% of the US has a disability and 12.8% of that have cognitive disorders. cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/… Dec 15, 2023 at 17:58
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    @computercarguy I guess an (over-)focus on particular trainings can be seen as "woke virtue signaling" and one could argue a company is likely more welcoming if it just aims for a healthy work life balance and fair treatment in general rather than pushing various trainings.Though one does not exclude the other and I'm not saying this is objectively the case here, but one could argue along that line. If this is somehow what Snickers means, then perhaps they should flesh that out a bit more. Otherwise: selecting such a "woke", "liberal" company might be exactly what OP is looking for^^ Dec 16, 2023 at 1:20
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    I personally agree that this isn’t just a political or ideological issue, but your typical engineering company may be a bit dismissive YMMV. That’s why I believe putting forward an approach which is likely so succeed in any case. And yes it may be in the OPs interest to be in a company of shared values if that is something important to them(as suggested by Frank), and they have an expectation the company is solely responsible for meeting their needs, rather than a partnership to deliver a training together, or an alternative such as emailing colleagues. Dec 16, 2023 at 11:40

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