Autistic People "Double Mask" During Job Interviews

Rachel Worsley  |  02/08/2023

A new study has revealed that autistic jobseekers often engage in “double masking” to pass job interviews.

The researchers interviewed 10 autistic adults about their experiences with job interviews, finding that the job interview was ‘draining’, ‘tricky’ and an ‘awkward, uncomfortable process’.

“To me, it’s like walking into an interview and I am speaking English, Chinese, whatever. You know, and there is a language difference that I seem to experience,” said one jobseeker.

Participants in this study spoke about feeling they needed to “double mask” and “translate their thoughts into “neurotypical speech” to succeed in interviews, feeling that they could not present their authentic selves.

If they did express themselves, they were viewed in a negative light. Participants stated that interviewers told them they were ‘too honest’, ‘too blunt’ or ‘too literal’ and reported instances where they felt they had been misunderstood. “Sometimes, like my mind would go blank and they often mistaken that for me being disingenuous.”

One autistic person said: “I mentioned that I was autistic, um, and I didn’t make it a focal point of the interview, but I did bring it up. Um, I don’t know if that then scared them, because no one mentioned it, it was like someone had farted, and everyone wanted to just pretend it didn’t exist.”

Overwhelmingly, autistic adults spoke about their experiences of not feeling able to be themselves during job interviews and needing to conceal behaviour that might be seen as autistic.

Participants reported that the consistent self-monitoring took a significant cognitive load, negatively impacting both their interview performance and overall wellbeing.

The researchers suggest that simple adjustments can be made to the interview process, such as questions being worded in clear, direct language, receiving questions in advance of the interview and being able to respond verbally or in writing.

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