Job Interview Skills for Young People with Aspergers

It is a well documented fact that "having poor social skills" is one of the challenges people with Aspergers (high functioning autism) deal with on a day-to-day basis. But this deficit is never as apparent and potentially awkward as during a job interview. Finding a job when dealing with Aspergers is one of the most difficult tasks an Aspie will ever attempt, and even though some are very successful, others struggle with their problems and fail to land jobs even though they are amply qualified.

One Aspie comments, “One of the most nervous things I have EVER done was my first job interview.” This would be true for most people – but especially those with Aspergers. Individuals with Aspergers may have even more problems with such conversations because they (a) have difficulty reading the body language of the interviewer and (b) find it hard to ‘read between the lines’ (i.e., to infer what qualities the interviewer is really looking for in a potential candidate for the job).

In this post, we will be looking at some important "job interview tips" for individuals with Aspergers:

1. Spend plenty of time on preparation:

• Be prepared to talk about how well you have worked one-on-one with customers in previous jobs (e.g., Was there a time when you delivered superior customer service, or a time where you did something different and why? Was there a time when you exceeded your target, and what did you do to achieve this? Was there a time when you had to work out of your comfort zone, and what steps did you take to achieve this, and what was the outcome? When was there a time when you dealt with a difficult customer, what action did you take, and what was the outcome?)

• Find out who the main staff are and how long they have been working for that company

• Have a list of your job experience in the relevant industries and achievements ready

• Have a list of your personal attributes and a list of your strengths ready (e.g., hard working, punctual, determined, team player, etc.)

• Make sure you know as much as possible about the job you are applying for

• Research exactly what the company has achieved over the years

• Research the “reputation” of the company

• Research the job expectations and have some answers ready (preferably on a piece of paper)

• Use the internet and other resources to research the company and the company history

2. Minimize your weaknesses:

Do not go on and on with a long list of what you think are weaknesses if you are asked something like, “What would you consider to be some of your weaknesses.” It’s better to just say something like...

• “I’m probably too giving…”

• “I’m probably too nice…”

• “I tend to be a perfectionist…”

• “Sometimes I take work a bit too seriously…”

3. Practice the interview beforehand:

• Practice the whole interview from start to finish so that you get to know how an interview works and what the interviewer is looking for in an ideal candidate

• Role playing with a trusted friend or family member; one of you play the interviewer and the other person the candidate for the job

• Practice making eye contact

• Work together with a life-skill coach or take classes at the local adult-education center to prepare for the interview process and to learn how to conduct yourself

4. Dress for the interview:

• For females: make sure you are dressed smartly and have showered and have minimal jewelry …also make sure you are wearing the right amount of make-up and not wearing any clothes that are too revealing

• For males: make sure you have a shower and shave before the interview …also get a haircut a day or two before the interview

• Go and check out the place of employment and go dressed like the staff that work there

• Wear deodorant and make sure your clothes are clean

5. Make eye contact:

• Look at the person you are speaking to (this is hard for Aspies, but force yourself to do it anyway; at least look at their forehead or bridge of their nose)

• Have most - or all - of your answers ready in your head and then gave as much eye contact as possible

6. Get to the point:

• Try not to go on for too long on a single topic

• Try not to repeat yourself too much

• Say just enough, then stop and let the interviewer talk or ask their next question

• If the interviewer does not respond immediately, then continue to talk (but only if you have additional relevant points)

7. Pay attention to facial cues and body language:

Being able to read the facial expressions or body language is difficult for Aspies. You may be able to get around this by...

• Giving short and to the point answers

• Giving some eye contact as explained above

• Learning your answers like a script before you go into the interview

• Not repeating yourself as much as possible

8. Be relaxed – or “act as if” you are relaxed:

• Try to be as relaxed as possible

• Do some breathing exercises

• Do some positive self talk before going into the interview

• Relax and try to treat the interview as if it were just a conversation

• Don’t put too much pressure on yourself in the process of the interview

• Prior to the interview, smile and shake the person’s hand and say “it’s good to meet you”

• At the end of the interview, thank them for their time and say “I look forward to talking with you soon”

Your future employer expects you to breathe, so this calming technique is something you can use during the interview. As you walk into the interview room, take a breath. If you have a break during the interview, remember to take a breath. Tell yourself, "You can do this." Of course you can.

9. Disclose that you have Aspergers:

In most cases, honesty is the best policy. You are better to tell the person interviewing you because he/she can make allowances for your disability. A brief letter from a Psychologist or Doctor is more than adequate. The letter should explain the following:

• What Aspergers is

• How it affects you

• What allowances may need to made

• A list of your strengths

If you decide not to disclose your Aspergers, you may end up standing out as different and still come to the attention of your employer. Your Aspergers may be too hard to camouflage, and you could still have a difficult time working for - and with - your employer. Some, if not most, applicants with Aspergers opt against sharing their condition with prospective employers. In this case, try to compensate for the problems associated with body language and facial expressions by portraying a highly professional exterior …a “fake it until you make it” approach.

==> Launching Adult Children With Aspergers: How To Promote Self-Reliance


Anonymous said...

Dear Mark

I came across your site while trying to gather information that would enable us to help our baffling 20 year old son to help himself. I'll try to keep this as brief as possible but the key points are these. I've always known that my son had difficulties that other children weren't experiencing but I was never able to get any professional help through either the education system or the family doctor route. Unlike many autistic children he was never disruptive in class and always applied himself academically. Socially, he has always had extreme difficulty making friends and joining in and we moved him twice in his early school years because he was being bullied. All this led to extreme anxiety and self consciousness and at the age of 16 he had a full blown mental breakdown and ended up in a young person's psychiatric institution for 7 months. All the professionals seemed baffled as to what label to put on him although one of the nurses did bring up the possibility of Aspergers. This was never pursued by any of the senior staff. In the end we insisted on withdrawing him whether he had a specific diagnosis or not and they hurriedly came up with a diagnosis of bi-polar. For reasons too complex to enumerate here my husband and I think this is highly unlikely. He went back to college just after his 17th birthday while still in the throes of a severe depression, (we were assured by the professionals that this was the best thing for him) and came away with a clutch of disappointing exam results.

We have now moved to Scotland where he is under the care of another psychiatrist and another round of pointless chats with no practical and focussed strategies offered. A family friend told me bluntly that she thought our son had Aspergers and I subsequently did masses of research and it was like the lights all came on at once after the longest ever power cut. Unfortunately, because our son is now over the age of 18 there is no obligation on him to involve us in his care. We did however email the psychiatrist with our suspicions and received a categorical reply that our son did not have aspergers and that you could tell when someone had it because, "it's like a barn door slamming in your face. You can't miss it." This was on the basis of two half hour meetings with him and no questions to us as to why we were thinking this.

So, my son has no diagnosis and we're very unsure as to whether we could get him to undertake one. He's very hostile to us and blames us for everything that's ever gone wrong in his life from not buying him all the electronic toys he asked for, (he thinks he would have had more friends), to making him too polite to fit in with his peers (!) More seriously he cannot forgive us for, as he sees it, 'imprisoning him in a mental hospital.' I feel that things are deteriorating rapidly on all fronts. The arguments and stress at home are escalating and I find myself simply avoiding all contact and barely communicating. He's settled for a very low skill call centre job because it avoids all need for contact with the public. His friends are drawn from a very limited and ,as far as I can tell, intellectually undemanding group. He's also embraced alcohol, smoking and junk food with a vengeance.

Anonymous said...

Asperger females should minimalise make-up and jewelery and not wear anything too revealing?

Uhh... you're kidding, right? Itchy make-up? Chafing jewelery? I'm 26 and it still takes a fight to the death for my mom to get me to wear a bra. Revealing clothing? Shoot me, please.

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