Job interviews can be nerve-wracking. There is the pressure of meeting somebody new, the unpredictability of questions, and other aspects that give everyone a bit of anxiety. For young adults with autism, job interviews can also present unique challenges.
However, with the right strategies and preparation, individuals on the autism spectrum can excel in interviews and land their dream jobs. In this blog, we’ll explore some valuable tips and techniques to help young adults with autism succeed in job interviews.
1. Self-awareness and self-advocacy
One of the first steps in preparing for a job interview is self-awareness and to understand your strengths and weaknesses. Each person has unique qualities that can help them in their job. Think about what your strengths are, and how you can connect those strengths to the position you are applying for.
For example, if you are applying for a job working with money, talk about your attention to detail. If you are applying for a job working with animals and have a passion for pets, talk about it! Connecting your strengths to the position will show the hiring manager that you would do well in the role.
In addition to your strengths, it is also important to understand and know how to discuss your weaknesses. We all have them! What is important is to know what they are and share how you intend to manage or work on them. Ideally, you should try to find opportunities where they won’t have a big impact on your ability to perform the job. You can also work in these areas, if possible. For example, if you are sensitive to loud noises, try to find a job where the setting is quiet, or one where you could wear noise canceling headphones.
What’s important is to embrace your unique qualities and try to find a job that plays well to your unique skills.
Additionally, don’t hesitate to advocate for yourself. If you require accommodations or have specific needs during the interview process, it’s OK to communicate them to the potential employer. If you plan to do this, it is best to do so in advance. This will ensure that the interview environment is comfortable and accommodating for you.
2. Thoroughly research the company
Before the interview, research the company thoroughly. Familiarize yourself with its mission, values, products or services, and culture. Having a good understanding of the company will allow you to tailor your answers to show how you can contribute to their specific goals and values.
3. Practice interview skills
Practice makes perfect, and this is especially true when it comes to job interviews. Enlist the help of a friend or family member to conduct mock interviews with you. Practice answering common interview questions and work on your communication skills. Pay attention to your body language and tone of voice. If you are uncomfortable with eye contact, find a way to discuss that so your interviewer doesn’t misunderstand your body language.
4. Develop a script
For individuals with autism who may struggle with spontaneous communication, having a script can be incredibly helpful. Prepare answers to common interview questions in advance. While you don’t want to sound rehearsed, having a general outline can boost your confidence and ensure you cover the key points you want to convey.
5. Prepare questions to ask the interviewer
Job interviews are a two-way street. Not only will the employer be evaluating you, but you should also be assessing whether the company is a good fit for you. Prepare thoughtful questions to ask the interviewer about the role, the company’s culture, and expectations. This demonstrates your interest and engagement and will also make sure you feel the job is a good fit for you.
6. Manage sensory sensitivities
Sensory sensitivities can be a significant challenge during interviews. If you’re sensitive to certain stimuli like fluorescent lighting or background noise, discuss your needs with the employer beforehand. You can also consider bringing sensory tools, like noise-canceling headphones or fidget toys, to help you stay focused and calm during the interview.
7. Dress appropriately
Dressing appropriately for the interview is essential. Research the company’s dress code and aim to dress slightly more formal than their usual attire. Choosing comfortable clothing that minimizes sensory discomfort is also crucial.
8. Arrive or login early and plan ahead
On the day of the interview, plan your route to the interview location and aim to arrive at least 15-20 minutes early. This allows you to account for any unexpected delays and gives you time to calm your nerves before the interview. If you are preparing for an interview via Zoom, test your technology in advance. Ensure your internet connection is stable and reliable. Check your camera, microphone, and speakers to ensure they are working properly. Choose a well-lit, quiet, and distraction-free location for the interview. By thoroughly testing your technology and practicing your interview responses, you’ll be well-prepared to handle an online interview and make a strong impression on potential employers.
Job interviews can be challenging, but with careful preparation and self-awareness, young adults with autism can successfully navigate them. Remember that your unique perspective and abilities can be a valuable asset to potential employers. Embrace your individuality, communicate your needs, and practice your interview skills to increase your chances of landing your desired job. The journey may be daunting, but with determination and the right strategies, you can achieve your career goals. Good luck!