Employment Interview Tips
Going to a job interview can be one of the most stressful experiences you can endure, whether or not you are an individual on the autism spectrum. With that in mind, below are some important employment interview tips that apply to everyone who is trying to secure a new job. After we present those general tips, we’ll cover some aspects of employment interviews that pertain specifically to individuals with autism.
General Employment Interview Tips
Here are a few interview tips that apply to everyone:
- Prepare before you go to the job interview. This is the most important tip. Know where you’re going; how to get there; and how long it will take to travel there. Know the person or people with whom you are meeting, if possible. Determine in advance what clothing you’re going to wear to the interview, to ensure your outfit is appropriate and in good shape.
- Practice, practice, practice. You cannot practice too much, but you can definitely practice too little. Practice answering interview questions. Practice speaking about yourself.
- Research and learn about the organization you want to join. Then prepare some questions about the company and the job. When the person interviewing you inevitably asks, “Do you have any questions?” you’ll be impressively prepared for that moment.
Employment Interview Tips for Individuals on the Spectrum
For individuals on the spectrum, preparation is much more important than for others, because typically those individuals do not like to go into unfamiliar situations they cannot control. Here are some additional employment interview tips for individuals with autism:
- Familiarity: Make sure you know if you’ll be interviewing with just one person or a committee. Do some research about the person or people you’ll meet, so you can gain some familiarity with them ahead of time and remove as much of the unknown as possible.
- Elevator pitch: Write a paragraph about yourself and memorize it, so you sound confident when you speak about yourself. In business, this is known as an “elevator pitch,” because if you need to say it to someone quickly while riding an elevator you are sure to mention all of the important points.
- Rehearse: Practice in front of a mirror or—even better—record yourself while practicing, so you can review your performance. Try to eliminate (or keep under control as much as possible) any nervous habits you notice during your rehearsal, such as playing with your finger nails or hair.
- Bullet-points: If memorizing things is not easy for you, write some bullet-point notes about your good traits on a pad of paper. You can refer to your bullet-points during the interview, to make sure you mention the reasons an employer should hire you.
- Hand control: Have something to do with your hands during the interview. If you have a pad of paper and a pen, you’ll have something to hold in each hand, plus you can write down notes during the interview and then ask follow-up questions based on those notes.
- Eye contact: Be aware of your facial expressions and your eye contact with the interviewer. Eye contact may not feel natural to you, but it is critical. The more you practice it, the better you’ll be at it.
- Upfront disclosure: During your interview, if there is a natural way to bring up the subject of being on the spectrum, it is probably a good idea to mention it as one of your strengths—it demonstrates your ability to overcome hurdles and hardships; to be a stronger person and a better employee.It is more appropriate to address the issue upfront than for an employer to discover later that you need special accommodations. If you don’t disclose your condition before being hired, you may receive resistance from your employer after you’re hired.Many job applications have a section where you can list disabilities. If you list your condition there, it may provide the company with a tax break as a result of being an equal opportunity employer that hires people with disabilities.
- ASI Career Ally support: The employment consultants at ASI can serve as an advocate on your behalf, by speaking with prospective employers before an interview. If you want that type of assistance, an ASI Career Ally can help set-up your interview to make it a more positive experience. An ASI Career Ally can also accompany you to the interview to provide support.
Have Realistic Expectations
Rejection is always hard to accept. However, almost everyone who has ever hunted for a job has had to deal with rejection. It’s a normal part of the process. Before you start interviewing, you should set realistic expectations about being hired.
The truth of the matter is that you’re going to interview several times before you get a job. That’s the reality of a job hunt. It is very rare that you receive an employment offer the first time you interview for a job.
Any interview you have is good experience and good practice for the next time you meet with a prospective employer. That’s why you should take every opportunity to interview for a job, even if you believe it might not be a great fit for you. If you approach every interview as an opportunity to improve your interviewing skills, you may just find that a particular job is a better fit than you originally thought it was.
If you take notes during an interview, you can refer to them afterwards to help you assess your performance. You should contact your ASI Career Ally immediately after meeting with a prospective employer, to review the interview and receive feedback that can help you prepare for the next one.
The Right Approach
Have an open mind before you go into a job interview. The more prepared you can be, the more comfortable you’ll be during the interview. Remember: practice makes perfect.
Interviewing for a job is a process, not a one-time event, so keep your chin up and stay as positive as possible. Eventually, the right employment opportunity will present itself to you.
To learn more about how ASI can help you find a job, visit this page: Career and Work Readiness.
Thanks to Kathy Darling, Autism Society of Indiana Career Ally, for her contribution to this article. If you have any questions, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 800-609-8449 ext. 95.