Job ads commonly serve as the initial impression of an employer, giving job seekers a sense of the employer’s inclusion efforts, allowing applicants to determine whether or not they’re qualified and perhaps how they might fit in the company. Job ads are also a common barrier for neurodivergent job seekers, for if they don’t see themselves represented, they may skip the application. Representation refers to a person’s identity, their ethnicity, which is determined by their social group. For many this includes disability and neurodivergence, in addition to race, age, sexual orientation, and gender.
Employers seeking neurodivergent employees should therefore take a stance toward disability as well as neurodiversity, tailoring their job ads towards accessibility. Simply listing “autism” under the list of disabilities will not necessarily invite nonautistic neurodivergent applicants. A more inclusive ad will list “neurodivergence” in the list of disabilities, attracting those who identify as dyslexic, ADHD, dysgraphic, dyspraxic, Tourette’s, dyscalculic, as well as autistic.
Accessibility includes an awareness that dyscalculic applicants lack a number sense, similar to dyslexic applicants, who struggle with words. Dysgraphics struggle to write. Many neurodivergents struggle to fill out forms. I often wonder why employers don’t have multiple options for applying.
For many neurodivergents, especially those of us who live somewhere on the autism spectrum, accessibility also refers to the precision of language, word choice. I’ve been told that job ads are an employer’s wish list, that employers don’t expect applicants to hold every skill listed on an ad to apply. Even so, I think literally. If an ad asks for required skills, for example, I will typically avoid applying for the job unless I meet all of those required skills.
The ads that make sense to me are those that show concrete requirements, such as “meticulous editing skills” and “strong research and writing skills.” Terms such as “communication” or “detail-oriented” are vague and don’t signal to those with transferable skills that they might be a good fit.
It would make more sense if terms such as “communication” were qualified by a listing of what type of communication skills the employer wants. Other job ads that make sense to me are those that use asterisks or some other way to denote essential functions of the role. I’d also be thrilled to see ads that give a list of possible transferable skills.