Autistics Outperform Neurotypicals on Written Interview Transcripts

Rachel Worsley  |  15/04/2023

Autistic jobseekers are more likely to be hired when employers read transcripts of video interviews compared with viewing the videos, a US study has found.

The findings suggest that social style significantly influences hiring decisions in traditional job interviews and may bias employers against otherwise qualified candidates.

30 college students (15 autistic, 15 neurotypical) were videotaped performing a mock job interview. The majority were Caucasian, with a few identifying as African-American or Latinex.

For the interview task, each interviewee was asked to prepare a 5 minute speech on their dream job and why they would be qualified for their dream job. All had 5 minutes to prepare their speech, before they were videotaped for the viewing by the evaluators.

There were 314 evaluators, who were all college students aged between 18-25 years old. Half the evaluators viewed the videos only, while the only half only had access to the written transcripts of the interview. None of the evaluators knew of the autistic jobseekers’ autism diagnosis.

In the video interviews, autistic jobseekers were rated significantly less trustworthy, likeable, attractive, straightforward, confident, enthusiastic and captivating compared with neurotypical jobseekers. They were rated as qualified as neurotypical jobseekers, but were significantly less likely to be hired.

“Thus, although evaluators perceived [autistic jobseekers] to be equally qualified, they found [autistic jobseekers] to be significantly less socially desirable than NT candidates, and their hiring decisions were adversely and differentially influenced by their social perceptions,” the researchers wrote in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

But the opposite picture emerged when the second group of evaluators read the video interview transcripts. Autistic jobseekers were rated as significantly more straightforward, attractive, captivating and enthusiastic compared with neurotypical jobseekers. They were also rated marginally better for likeability, trustworthiness and confidence.

Finally, they were perceived as more qualified than neurotypical jobseekers, and were more likely to be hired compared with neurotypical jobseekers.

“Thus, in the absence of social cues, not only were [autistic jobseekers] perceived as more qualified, but those qualifications also played a greater role in hiring decisions,” the researchers wrote.

"Clearly, it is not what [autistic jobseekers] say in a job interview, but rather how they present themselves that poses a barrier to success.”

The researchers say that employers were likely rejecting the best candidates for the job, particularly if a job doesn't require strong social skills.

They say the interview process should be adapted to better suit autistic jobseekers, such as having work-based samples or skills-based assessments.

Read the study here.

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