I have Asperger's syndrome and have been blessed with a few Savant skills, one of which is a near photographic memory, another is pattern recognition.

These make me both a fast study and an excellent trouble-shooter, as the problems stand out to me, even in programming languages I have never used before.

My employers have always been impressed with my skills once I'm hired, but I would like to find a way to express these skills in an interview or a resume, or both. I would like to be able to communicate these strengths without them seeming implausible. What would be a good way to communicate extraordinary abilities in a manner that makes them realistic.

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    are these not indicated in your references? That would be the most realistic to me, because a third party is saying it. – Kilisi Mar 21 '16 at 21:38
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    You say your previous employers have been impressed, did you not get references from them? If someone leaves me, I write them a reference giving my viewpoint on how well they performed and if they had any particular strengths while I employed them. – Kilisi Mar 21 '16 at 21:45
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    @Kilisi Due to personal illness (stroke + other health issues) I was out of the workforce for more than five years. The ones since then have strict policies against references due to security concerns. In short, if any of my former coworkers say anything other than, "Yes, he worked there", they could be fired. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Mar 21 '16 at 21:48
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    if you are on linked in, you can ask for their personal references without getting them into trouble with their workplaces. Anyone can give an opinion about anyone else, without being subjected to legal troubles. You can ask them to write a recommendation note on LinkedIn for you, emphasizing your strengths. – MelBurslan Mar 21 '16 at 22:02
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    "I've also memorized code, run it through my brain..." I'd be careful how you word that, if you decide to use it. This could possibly make you come across slightly loony. People might start picturing Data from Star Trek – jmorc Mar 22 '16 at 20:25

Show, don't tell.

In most fields hiring managers don't care about "unusual talents". They want to know why you're the person who can get the job done. The goal of your resume is to highlight relevant and useful experience that makes you a good candidate for the position. The cover letter does most of the same but offers you the opportunity to add a human touch and sell your profile. It's a marketing document but one that should be grounded in reality, which is to say your work experience. It doesn't matter if the talent is unusual, all that matters is if it adds value to your resume.

Anyone can claim an excellent memory or good pattern recognition skills. You have to back that claim up. The way you do that in an application is by referring to specific accomplishments, milestones or praise from your work experience. Every mention of an experience or skill in your cover letter should also be linked to your work experience. As an example, if you're trying to sell your excellent memory as a skill, say something along the lines of: "quickly developed working knowledge of multiple new programming languages to achieve [X]" where X is a significant project or accomplishment.

Again, the point is to highlight skills that you'll be able to use in the position that you're applying for. Find ways in which you used them in the past that you can also benefit from in the future. As for interviews: anything that makes you a better candidate should have already been contained in your resume or cover letter. Don't ever "save" something for the interview as that will likely have an undesired negative effect as I'm going to wonder why you didn't include it in your application.

As a general note, do not ever list a medical condition on a resume, cover letter or anything else. They simply do not belong there and including one is a great way of having your candidacy immediately rejected without so much as a phone screen. Hiring managers and HR are wary of anyone who seems ignorant of workplace norms and are especially reluctant to start a hiring process for someone who disclosed a medical condition (or religion, pregnancy, ...) for fear of appearing to discriminate if they end up rejecting the candidate.

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    +1 for the last paragraph, in addition the OP has had 5 years off work for health issues already, adding mental issues to that isn't a great idea. – Kilisi Mar 22 '16 at 1:25
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    My problem is that I've done things like speed a process from 10+ hours to two minutes. Would people even believe that? – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Mar 22 '16 at 15:34
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    @RichardU managers love numbers. You can always use relative numbers or percentages. Instead of saying "I made a 10 hours process only take two minutes" you can say "I decreased the run time of a regular process less than 1% of its former time by automation". That sounds like a huge accomplishment, but it's not hours vs minutes, so it feels more believable. – simbabque Mar 22 '16 at 17:00
  • @RichardU It's actually preferable to include those kinds of metrics in your work experience. You don't want to go into too much detail but averages and percentages are great to feature. – Lilienthal Mar 22 '16 at 18:22
  • @Lilienthal Thanks. It's been a rough road. I'm finally recovered enough to be able to contribute at near my former level. I'm taking all of this advice to heart, thank you. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Mar 22 '16 at 19:05

What would be a good way to communicate extraordinary abilities in a manner that makes them realistic.

Just express these abilities in your cover letter. Try to show how they specifically help in the job you are seeking.

If you write something like "I have Asperger's syndrome and have been blessed with a few Savant skills, one of which is a near photographic memory, another is pattern recognition. These make me both a fast study and an excellent trouble-shooter, as the problems stand out to me, even in programming languages I have never used before." that should convey your "unusual talents" sufficiently, for something like a programming job.

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    Don't ever mention a medical condition in a resume or cover letter. And while you can indeed list such skills in a cover letter, you want to make damn sure that you're wording that carefully. This example would make my eyes roll back in my head. – Lilienthal Mar 21 '16 at 23:28
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    And some folks don't consider it a medical condition at all. It's not so much about hiding it as it is about mentioning stuff that the hiring manager doesn't want to hear at that stage of the conversation. Any conditions that will impact the job but will not require unreasonable accommodations should typically only be brought up at the offer stage. Any earlier and you risk your application. – Lilienthal Mar 22 '16 at 10:14
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    I agree with @Lilienthal, and would like to add that it puts the hiring manager in an awkward position, balancing the decision in light of EEOC or regional equivalent, or the perception of discrimination. You're also leading with a negative in the phrasing--If you phrase as "I have a near photographic..." you sidestep the issue and focus on useful skills, whether inborn or learned. Those skills should have resulted in past achievements, or there's less reason to believe they'll yield future achievements. I would just focus on evidence of the past, with the skills as explanation. – jimm101 Mar 22 '16 at 11:21
  • @jimm101, you are correct, you do not have to have Apreberger's Syndrome to have a near photographic memory. – HLGEM Mar 22 '16 at 20:27
  • @HLGEM it's Asperger's – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Mar 22 '16 at 20:50

Step way back. Like any candidate, you have skills, and you want to focus on how you've used those skills to achieve measurable results in the past. It doesn't matter that you've been diagnosed with Asperger's, whether the talents are inborn, or whether the talent is learned from years of practice. The important things to highlight are your achievements. The skills help tell the story on why those achievements predict new achievements in the new position, and pique interest in your personality. Relay that your references will be able to tell stories of how your abilities are uncanny, and let them do that work, so you don't sound arrogant. You won't get much consideration for vague skills that "might" help, you'll get more consideration for having achieved things with past opportunities.

Focusing on the fact that your skills come from Asperger's isn't helpful, or necessary.

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