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Job interview tips for autistic adults

May 23rd, 2024

Aly Laube

As an autistic adult, I understand firsthand the challenges of communicating and socializing during interviews. However, proper strategies and preparation can help you approach job interviews more confidently.

From requesting accommodations to working on communication techniques, these strategies can help you showcase your skills and leave a good impression. We’ve split them into three sections: pre-interview, during the interview, and post-interview. 

If you don’t want to share your diagnosis 

A person shown from the waist up covers their mouth with one hand. They're wearing a white shirt and standing against a beige background.
A person shown from the waist up covers their mouth with one hand. (Pexels/Gabby K)

There are plenty of reasons why autistic people prefer not to disclose their diagnosis during interviews and at work. Some examples are fears of having accommodations refused, social isolation, and a loss of future opportunities due to ableism or ignorance. It can be hard to tell which employers will follow through on promises to accommodate, and refusing that risk is reasonable if you’re uncomfortable. Ultimately, it’s equally challenging to tell which employers will support you. Advocating for yourself so early in the process of getting to know new potential coworkers is complex, and realistically, the outcome is unpredictable. 

Regardless, you can accommodate yourself through carefully planning and doing as much damage control as possible for times when you’ll be uncomfortable but unable to explain why. You can also lean on your support network and people who do know you’re autistic, especially other autistic folks, for advice and care.  

Consider these tips before you accept your next interview, whether you’re sharing your diagnosis or not. 

Someone looking at a wall full of research. They're facing away from the camera with a short haircut wearing a striped shirt. (Pexels/Startup Stock Photos)
Someone looking at a wall full of research. They’re facing away from the camera with a short haircut wearing a striped shirt. (Pexels/Startup Stock Photos)

Pre-interview tips  

If you’re comfortable disclosing your diagnosis and know potential employers will accommodate you, it’s time to start preparing for the interview. 

  • Review, update, and print 2-5 copies of your resume for interviewers’ and your reference 
  • Consider disclosing your autism diagnosis and advocating for accommodations if you feel it would be beneficial. 
  • Invite a support person if permitted to bring one. 
  • Tell interviewers not to expect eye contact if you anticipate it’ll be too hard to sustain.
  • Similarly, tell them if you’ll need extra processing time before responding to questions. 
  • If your stimming makes sound or is visually distracting, give them a heads up that you’ll be doing it, and explain why not stimming can make it harder to focus. 
  • Ask for the questions in advance.
  • Request a question breakdown or ask for clarification if needed.
  • Ask for more information about the interview location.
  • Make sure you know where the interview is and how to get there.
  • Double-check you have the address right.
  • If you want to be even more sure, try to drop by the location before the interview. 
  • Plan your commute as far in advance as possible.
  • Try to plan the interview for a time when you’ll be rested and calm.
  • Arrange for a videoconference rather than meeting face-to-face if you prefer.
  • If meeting over Zoom, ask for captions or display questions on the screen.
  • If meeting in person, confirm the location, how many people will be present, and the length of time before arriving so you know what to expect.
  • Consider preparing visual aids like charts, diagrams, and cards to illustrate your points during the interview if needed.
  • Make a list of your skills, talents, and interests and consider ways to bring them up during the interview.
  • If you’re having a tough time making the list yourself, ask a loved one to help.
  • Practice mock interviews.
  • You can either go through the questions and answer them independently or ask someone you trust to ask standard interview questions. Going through the motions can be helpful if you struggle with communication and socializing. Practice your tone of voice, body language, and facial expressions.
  • Think of which anecdotes showcase your professional skills and achievements and break them down by these categories: The situation at hand, the task you were assigned, the action you took, and the result.
  • This is known as the STAR method, and it’s a great way to prove your potential during interviews. 
  • Research the company.
  • Review the company’s website, mission, and values and incorporate what you learn into your interview responses. Doing this not only shows your potential employer that you care and have done your research but also makes it more likely you’ll impress them with your answers.
  • Write down the questions you have for the interviewers and bring the list.
  • This shows you’re engaged and interested in the position, and it can allow you to get important information not included in the job posting.
  • Make sure you have the names, titles, pronouns, phone numbers, and emails of the contact people you’ll need to communicate with leading up to the interview.
  • Check who you should report to when you arrive and what will happen after you check in at reception.
A person pointing to notes over coffee. (Pexels/Sora Shimazaki)
A person pointing to notes over coffee. (Pexels/Sora Shimazaki)

Tips for the day of the interview 

  • Dress business casual in a nice, clean shirt, suit pants, or skirt without any bold patterns.
  • Bring a copy of your resume and interview notes for reference.
  • Make sure you eat, drink, and use the bathroom at least 15 minutes before your interview.
  • Arrive 10-15 minutes before your interview is set to begin.
  • Know the name of the person you’re meeting and tell reception you’re there to meet them when you arrive.
  • Accept a glass of water if offered one.
  • Turn off your phone before entering the interview.
  • Expect a handshake from the interviewer; bring hand sanitizer to use after.
  • If eye contact feels unnatural, look at a focal point near the interviewer’s line of vision during the interview. You can also focus on their mouth or hand gestures.
  • Ask direct questions and clarify expectations that come with the job.
  • Avoid talking negatively about other companies you’ve worked for, even if they try to get you to do so; it’s a way of testing how you’d talk about them if your professional relationship doesn’t work out.
Someon etyping on a laptop. (Pexels/Burst)
Someon etyping on a laptop. (Pexels/Burst)

Post-interview tips  

  • Send a thank-you note expressing gratitude for the interviewers’ time and consideration.  
  • Ask about the next steps in the hiring process and when you should expect to hear back from them with directives or a decision. 
  • Reflect on the experience, noting opportunities for improvement and feedback. 
  • Schedule time to calm down, engage in special interests, and recharge from the experience. 
  • Self-care and mindfulness are crucial to avoiding burnout, shutting down, or melting down after an interview. 

Your strengths make you a valuable candidate regardless of the interview. With thorough preparation, practice, and a healthy mindset, you can navigate job interviews with more authenticity and a better payoff. 

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