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August 2022

Most Qualified Paradox

By Autism, Research No Comments

The Paradoxes of High Autistic Unemployment SeriesPart 2

To further the discussion of the Autistic Unemployment paradox, it important to delve deeper into why there is a high unemployment rate for Autistic individuals. As discussed in Part 1, there are unconscious barriers that recruiters need to keep in mind when seeking to hire Autistic individuals. However, in this part, I want to explore the external factors that can also be playing a major role in the high unemployment rate. In fact, in 2021, nearly 50% of Autistic 25-year-olds never had a paying job, despite possessing the necessary skill sets and expertise to offer (Palumbo, 2021). With this in mind, I suggest another paradox that is also impeding progress towards inclusion, and I offer some personal reflections.

Namely, there seems to be a paradox with recruiting for the most qualified candidates because recruiters seem to overlook and/or favor various qualifying markers in their hiring decisions. In fact, a core tenet of recruiting is creating a wide pool of qualified candidates and choosing the most qualified among them (TalenTeam, 2022). The key word to recognize is the word “qualified” which is vague and can have different interpretations depending on the context. Recruiters often use the term to identify a specific and objective marker of performance that can be used to distinguish between many candidates. In other words, there may be many candidates that are equally “qualified” for a position, but the trouble arises when you have to choose one of them.

In order to narrow down the pool of candidates, recruiters can utilize some universal applications of the most qualified term to find the one(s) most suitable for the position. Unfortunately, finding the “most qualified” can point to the underlying flaw of the term because it can present discrepancies in who to hire. Notably, a common marker that is used is job experience because it can provide insight into how a candidate responded to issues before, or accomplished something relevant to the current position (Orion Talent, 2021). However, as noted earlier, many Autistic individuals have not had a job before, which puts them at a disadvantage over others who do have job experience. In other words, there is great discussion about overqualified candidates, but scarcely about “underqualified”.

As a result, Autistic individuals are not able to show their potential and ability because they were not given a chance to show it. In effect, it may be more fruitful to hire for potential rather than hiring for experience. Hiring for potential entails recognizing that the candidate may not meet all of the listed job expectations but has the potential to grow and learn in the position (Orion Talent, 2021). Candidates that have potential can often outperform their peers who have more experience because they want to prove themselves and will be grateful for the opportunity. In effect, that can lead to greater work outcomes, increased belonging and loyalty to the organization. A good place to start is offering more opportunities for potential in entry level positions where the demands of the job are not as stringent and provides a foothold into the organization.

Overall, I have been on both sides of the interviewing table by interviewing candidates and being interviewed. I understand that every job position is unique and may need work experience depending on the demands of the job and work contexts. However, I have also seen positions that can be trained and developed and do not need previous experience to be successful. In addition, I have seen job descriptions with too high expectations and thus excluding those that could have potential but do not even attempt to apply. The issue of high expectations for entry-level jobs is an important factor to consider when contemplating high Autistic unemployment. The reason is that the primary way into organizations appears to have a barrier into entry that adds to the already difficult pursuit for Autistic individuals.

 

Brandon Orozco is the AFO Workforce Development Project Assistant and holds a BS degree in Psychology with a dual minor in Philosophy and Business Management. Brandon is currently pursuing an MS in Human Resource Management from Claremont Graduate University and was the founder and President of the Professionals in Human Resources Association (PIHRA) student chapter. Brandon is an Autistic self-advocate and has previous experience being a Talent Acquisition Team Lead for a rising tech startup and enjoys sharing his lived experiences and perspectives. 

 

Sources:

OrionTalent (2021). Hiring for experience vs Potential. https://www.oriontalent.com/recruiting-resources/blog/453/hiring-experience-vs-potential/

Palumbo, J. (2021). Why Autism Speaks is encouraging companies to hire those on the Autistic Spectrum. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jenniferpalumbo/2021/04/27/why-autism-speaks-is-encouraging-companies-to-hire-those-on-the-autistic-spectrum/?sh=4dcdd9ff52a2

TalenTeam (2022). The purpose and importance of Recruitment. https://talenteam.com/blog/purpose-importance-of-recruitment/

Autistic Unemployment Paradox

By Autism, News, Research 2 Comments

The Paradoxes of High Autistic Unemployment Series⎯Part 1

There seems to be a paradox with Autistic unemployment because it should not be as big a problem in reality. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a paradox is a statement that seems contradictory but contains hidden truth (Merriam-Webster, 2022). Indeed, there are supposed safeguards in place to ensure that Autistic individuals are not discriminated against yet still face it. Autism Unemployment was approximately 85% in 2021, and research shows that Autistic individuals face higher unemployment rates and social isolation than other disabilities (Palumbo, 2021). The discrimination can largely be found unconsciously, which makes it more difficult to identify and prove its existence. However, there are several barriers that Autistic people face when interviewing for a job that affects both the interviewer and interviewee. In this post, I will offer some reasons why there is such a high unemployment rate for Autistic individuals and offer my personal reflections.

To better grasp this paradox, it is important to recognize its origin and the flaws in its implementation. Notably, Autistic individuals qualify to be included as a protected class under the classification of physical or mental disability and are therefore protected from employment discrimination (Longley, 2022). Important to note is that disability is not meant to be a negative connotation but a means of identification for legal purposes to offer services and protections. Indeed, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a disability as a condition that impacts or limits a person’s ability to perform tasks or engage in activities (Merriam-Webster, 2022). With this in mind, Autism does affect or limit a person’s ability to engage in activities or perform tasks, namely interviewing. The reason is that Autism primarily impacts social skills, communication, and self-regulation, which can bring adverse reactions in an interview setting where the expectation is, unfortunately social.

Speaking of interviews, recruiters are not exempted from criticism because they also possess barriers that can make it more difficult to hire Autistic individuals. Namely, there are two hiring biases that recruiters can encounter: the horn effect and similarity attraction bias. First, the horn effect occurs when a recruiter makes a judgment about a candidate over a negative characteristic that clouds their assessment of them (Alexandra, 2020). In other words, a recruiter can unfairly assess an Autistic person’s ability to perform the job over “negative characteristics” they spot in an interview. Second, the similarity attraction bias occurs when a recruiter favors a candidate that appears to be similar to them and others in characteristics (Alexandra, 2020). In other words, the recruiter could discount an Autistic individual for a job because they do not meet the “prerequisite social conditions” that other candidates can meet. With this said, both types of hiring bias could be impeding Autistic individuals because they do not appear to be the “idealized candidate” and are discarded. However, notice that none of these “reasons” for discarding Autistic individuals have anything to do with them having the ability to perform the job and thus is unconscious discrimination.

Overall, I have personally encountered and seen other recruiters succumb to these types of hiring biases, and the worst part is that there are more biases that further impede progress towards inclusion. For example, I recall fellow recruiters mentioning more about a candidate’s personal and social characteristics rather than their ability to help the company grow and thrive. As a result, these subjective measurements are not helping the company onboard a diverse portfolio of candidates when they recruit others like them or those who “fit in”. Therefore, it is essential to be aware of the types of hiring biases and ensure that they are not being deployed unconsciously, and remember that the purpose of inclusion is not conformity.

Brandon Orozco is the AFO Workforce Development Project Assistant and holds a BS degree in Psychology with a dual minor in Philosophy and Business Management. Brandon is currently pursuing an MS in Human Resource Management from Claremont Graduate University and was the founder and President of the Professionals in Human Resources Association (PIHRA) student chapter. Brandon is an Autistic self-advocate and has previous experience being a Talent Acquisition Team Lead for a rising tech startup and enjoys sharing his lived experiences and perspectives. 

Sources

Alexandra (2021). 13 Common Hiring Biases To Watch Out For. https://harver.com/blog/hiring-biases/

Longely, R (2022). What Is a Protected Class? https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-protected-class-4583111#:~:text=The%20Equal%20Employment%20Opportunity%20Commission%20%28EEOC%29%20is%20assigned,discriminated%20against%20on%20the%20basis%20of%20that%20trait.

Merrium-Webster (2022). Definition of disability. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disability

Merrium-Webster (2022). Definition of Paradox. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/paradox

Palumbo, J. (2021). Why Autism Speaks is encouraging companies to hire those on the Autistic Spectrum. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jenniferpalumbo/2021/04/27/why-autism-speaks-is-encouraging-companies-to-hire-those-on-the-autistic-spectrum/?sh=4dcdd9ff52a2

 

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