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I have ASD and can be very quirky (to say the least) in social interactions (even trying my best). For instance, I have been told by many people that my face looks like I don't care at all, that I look very insincere, tone of voice does not sound confident (even if I am) or sounds dismissive (even if I am not), that I keep looking around, not enough eye contact, etc (unfortunately sometimes I cannot physically control it). However, I also have been told that it doesn't really look like I have ASD.

I am very very good at my job and got many interviews, but friends (in the places that I applied) told me in confidence that I wasn't hired because the hiring committee didn't like me at all as a colleague and that I didn't look interested in the position. Officially the reason was that I was "not a good fit". I had to settle for a job I am overqualified for (in my work area they do not care if you are overqualified, they see it as getting more for their money).

I plan to apply for jobs in the future and wanted to ask: How to do damage control if one is horrible at interviews? Should I say before hand something like "Thank you for the interview, I am very interested in the job. I am not very good at interviewing, so please excuse my quirkiness" ?

Extra information: A former boss told me that he felt the need to address this in his letter of recommendation. In short, he explained that I was weirdly mannered, but that I am a great worker. Not sure if it helped. Also, he had hired me because there was no other person to do the job at the time, but later told me that I was the best worker he ever had.

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    I was wondering, Would it be helpful to take stage/voice training? So, join the local theater group, that type of endeavor. What do you think? – Fattie Jun 30 '17 at 17:27
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    @Fattie That would typically not be helpful. If your brain isn't wired to work with social cues then going to a class like this won't really help with the actual problem. The OP may be able to make their expression something other than disinterested but would be unlikely to produce appropriate expressions situationally. Richard's answer of modeling the specific situation is much more helpful for people on the spectrum as they are much better at adapting to a specific social situation rather than a range of similar situations. – Myles Jun 30 '17 at 18:15
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    @Myles gonna have to disagree with that. I have learned this skill so well that people actually compliment me on how sincere and honest I am. I have to work at that - it is a learned skill for me, I wasn't born with it. Sometimes I still screw it up, but I think not any more often than regular folks do. So, I seem quite natural, but in my head, I'm playing a character who I was taught to be. – Jasmine Jun 30 '17 at 20:54
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I have Asperger's Syndrome and many of the same difficulties.

The first way to do damage control is to limit the damage being done.

Get friends or family to do mock interviews with you and record them on video. That way you can learn what you're doing wrong and correct the things that you can. I know that not everything can be fixed from personal experience, but you want to fix what you can.

If you HAVE to acknowledge behaviors you cannot control, find a way to do it with humor.

"I promise you, I'm far better at working than I am at interviewing" or something else that acknowledges it's existence but showing that you're not troubled by it. We are ALL a bit odd and the best we can do is live with it and make the most of it. If you don't make a big deal of it, neither will the interviewer.

By the way, I have also been told that I don't look like I have Asperger's. I guess I didn't get my uniform in the mail. ;) Seriously, just practice, practice, practice, and then go for it. I suspect you're not nearly as awkward as you think you are. We on the spectrum tend to underestimate ourselves.

Don't obsess over it (another ASD trait, I know) and just be comfortable with yourself and who you are. You'll find that that solves a huge chunk of the problem.

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    I honestly don't think there is a better answer to this. – SaggingRufus Jun 30 '17 at 16:44
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    @MisterPositive it doesn't, it's Autism Spectrum Disorder. It's "similar" to Asperger's though as the social element creates awkward situations to what is perceived as "normal behavior" in human interaction. – mutt Jun 30 '17 at 16:45
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    can't you mention ASD to an interviewer? i'm sure they'd understand? – tuskiomi Jun 30 '17 at 17:12
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    @tuskiomi yes, but also just too many stereotypes to deal with. Note that both the OP and I were told that we don't look like we have it. It's opening up a can of worms where YOU become the topic instead of your skills and work ethic. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Jun 30 '17 at 17:53
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    @ray I'm a bit of a disabled rights activist. Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities act, and similar protections elsewhere in the world, people with disabilities are seen as a liability. In the US, companies view us as lawsuits waiting to happen, so we just don't get hired to begin with, if they can help it. So, no they won't hire us. "But that's discrimination!" Yep. Now prove it. You can't. If you have a disability, you want to avoid disclosing it until at least AFTER you're hired. Even then, they can get rid of you for "performance" issues, or violation of policy. Been there. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Jun 30 '17 at 21:38
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This does not answer your question of doing damage control, but this answers what you can do during next interview.

I think there are two things you should do:

  1. As Richard mentioned in the previous answer, train with someone you trust. I'd take this one step forward and suggest you train with someone who understands you, and can give suggestions to help you from an outside perspective. If you went to a university, they may have outplacement centers for alum. These people are really good, and will be able to give you some great help.

  2. You have the right idea with mentioning it upfront. I'd go a little different route than suggested by Richard. One thought is to address the problem you have like so:

    Before we get into the interview, I just want to mention that I have Asperger's Syndrome. Some of my facial expressions are out of my control so please do not read too much into it.

I would definitely keep it short, not make a big deal about it, but address what they should do. Usually telling someone what they should do especially in interviews is not a good idea. But in such situations giving the person explicit instructions helps both parties involved.

Little background:

I have a speech impediment. A mentor (from the Career Center at my university) told me that I sound far worse on the phone than in person so if I can, I try to ask for skype/in-person interviews. My mentor also told me that the impediment is very obvious so it should be addressed - it puts the interviewer at ease. So after the small talk (usually no more than two sentences), I usually say that I have ABC problem and if I'm unclear, they should let me know to repeat myself.

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Bring this up as a weakness: This allows you to explain how it affects you, how it doesn't affect you, perhaps how it might sometimes be good (not in a "my weakness is my strength" kind of way, but just showing it's not all bad - this is optional, don't force it) and how you're working on it (which shows your awareness of it as well as being realistic about how it will affect your day-to-day work life, ideally leading to better role fits). I'd probably avoid mentioning ASD specifically, as some people might see that very negatively, unfortunately, and just mention social and/or communication issues more broadly. Although this only works if you're asked about weaknesses (I would avoid specifically bringing this up if not as a response to a question they asked).

To address looking disinterested, it would help a lot to research the company and role so you're able to ask good questions that show you're really interested. This would make you seem interested even though your physical quirks might send a different signal.

Practice interviews: Practice answers to common interview questions and do mock interviews to reduce your overall stress during the interview and the chance that you'd be caught off guard.

Be awesome: If ASD ends up creating a negative impression despite following the advice in the rest of my answer, make sure you shine enough in terms of technical skills and knowledge so those things make them need to hire you regardless. This might involve going above and beyond in your current job (ideally giving you concrete things to mention during the interview), but you'd almost certainly also need to spend some of your free time improving yourself career-wise (doing this with things you can put on your resume or mention in the interview also helps show interest), and prepare extensively for interviews from a technical standpoint.

Minimise the symptoms: A therapist (or observant friend or family member) might help with working on your symptoms, but you should also be able to do some research yourself on things like body language, charisma and generally what to say and how to say it (not limited to interviews). Even something simple like the way you sit can make a significant difference. I know it might be hard, but the occasional smile can help a lot. You can also focus on word choice - "awesome", "great" and "excellent" is probably better than "fine" and "okay" (don't overdo it). Many of these things will be significantly improved with practice, and you can possibly focus on one or two things for a while until they become habits and you start doing it subconsciously (it would be far from ideal to focus a lot on these things during the interview itself, as it can distract you significantly and lead to overall worse performance). You can also consider acting, improv or presentation classes, but these may or may not help.

I would avoid apologising for it, making excuses or joking about it (the latter can potentially fail hard if you have trouble with emotional awareness). I'm not sure mentioning it in a letter of recommendation is a good idea, since that doesn't really allow for having a conversation about it and text is notoriously bad at communicating the intended tone.

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I don't think the solution goes through presenting yourself like someone other than you are. The solution goes through presenting yourself just as you are, and showing this isn't an impediment to hiring.

If you want to give them reasons why they should hire you in spite of this, apologizing probably isn't going to be ideal. An apology means you think your own behavior ought to get you eliminated, but you'd like to ask them not to do that and to overcome that sentiment. That is not going to work. For one - and as with all negations - you can't pretend to give someone the idea of something and at the same time expect they'll forget it or not think of it. That's not how the brain works. And second, you can't be apologizing for everything you do, or, if this is truly your character, you'll have to be apologizing quite often, and that's not sustainable, so better not start at all.

I'd do one or both of these things:

First, talk about diversity in the workplace, and even mention the issue of mental health. Talk about how you enjoy working with very different people and how you learn from them and enrich everyone's experience. These are values, and they're often shared, or at least should be. In some countries they're even rights (of non-discrimination). Also by talking about the issue of mental health (find an appropriate time to introduce this), you show them you've got no fear, also as you imply it might apply to you, you show them you know yourself and you can be your own critic; so you're not out of control (or if you're at times you can still regain control). Grab some statistics, talk about how nobody's perfect, talk about opinions, perceptions, self-awareness, and that'll go some way to earning you the 'right' during the interview to be your own judge and not just be judged.

The second is more practical. You have to find a way to free yourself up, even to the unexpected in you, and show that you can be receptive to your own behavior -and that of others- in an humorous way. And the trick is this: it's hard to find humor about something you do you wish you hadn't done (so probably just skip over these), but easier to be humorous about something you know you're doing consciously, especially if you think it's got a chance to be funny, an ice-breaker, or got a chance of being well received. So try to think of jokes or incidental remarks dashed with a bit of irony or comedy, which, practically, could be thought of as a reflection of your own condition (of those other moments you do that involuntarily) that, you show, you can incorporate the essence of, back into your life and in your own behavior / your discourse, in an accepting, humorous way. Be lightheartedly self-referential, be almost like a mime of yourself. If you're aware of something that makes you stand out, refer to it, exaggerate it just a little, and find a positive way of bringing that to their attention (or something similar), and bring that into the room. This will show you're not afraid of it, and prove that incorporating this aspect of you into reality poses no danger. So, show self-awareness and, through accepting yourself even to the point of being willing to present this as part of your identity, let the others feel that they can do likewise. Make them think that, regardless of the outcome of the interview, you're out to having a good time, and you'd like them to have it also. Smile (no one's frank smile is ever turned down).

Think about these. Ask advice from people who know you well. Don't overdo it (otherwise the interview could run well off-topic), but don't leave it out either. Experiment (think of several strategies so you can give yourself the choice). Play with it in varying doses. Don't force it (and when it doesn't appear to work, don't panic). Enjoy your interviews.

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Offering a slightly different perspective: I don't think this is just an issue of "I don't interview well, but otherwise I'm great". Almost any job benefits from effective communication and, unfortunately, your ASD will interfere with that.

Any hiring manager will assess how that fits into the team, the job, and the culture. Technical ability is only one part of the hiring decision. It's required but not sufficient on it's own for success in a job.

A potential strategy for you would be to bring this up right away with suggestions on how to best accommodate your ASD in the work place. For example "I can work very effectively on difficult technical project that's are well defined and don't require daily deep interactions with colleagues" or whatever works best for you.

The story "this only impacts my ability during and interview" simply has little credibility.

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I wouldn't worry. You were able to get hired at your current company despite your job interview awkwardness. You'll be able to do it again. You've already objectively proved that you can get a job.

My personal philosophy is to try as hard as I can without the expectation of results. So continue job interviewing with as many companies as you can without expecting results. You'll eventually find something, as long as you keep trying. The main benefit of not thinking about results is that it prevents you from giving up.

I would avoid letting your feelings stop you from trying.

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Many speech therapists will work with you on this. Get help - bad interviews rarely make for successful employees.

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    100% disagree. There are MANY factors that can make someone interview poorly. – SaggingRufus Jun 30 '17 at 18:35
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    Additionally, your claim of "bad interviews rarely make for successful employees" is an incredibly bold and ungrounded statement. – maxathousand Jun 30 '17 at 20:45
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    I'm a terrible interview. I guess I must be a bad employee. Funny, though, my employer didn't notice that fact. They did notice that I saved them 4 million last year though. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Jun 30 '17 at 20:53

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