What a Job Interview Is Like for People With Autism

November 4th 2016

Job interview jitters are fairly common. However, people on the autism spectrum may struggle more with the interview process than most, as shown in a new video by the U.K.'s National Autistic Society.

The video walks viewers through the job interview experience for someone with autism. "Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder that involves abnormal development and function of the brain," explains the Autism Center of Excellence at the University of California, San Diego's School of Medicine. "People with autism show decreased social communication skills and restricted or repetitive patterns of behaviors or interests."

It opens with an applicant waiting in the reception area and getting distracted by the TV, telephone, and other noises as he waits. This person apparently has sensitivity to noise, which can be associated with autism.

As this person is interviewed, he struggles with how to answer each question, second guessing himself the whole time and ultimately feeling overloaded by some of the things he is asked.

For instance, when the interviewer says, "tell me about yourself," the applicant isn't sure exactly how much to share.

autism interviewThe National Autistic Society -

The applicant also doesn't know how to answer the question, "what are your strengths and weaknesses?"

autism interviewThe National Autistic Society -

Too many questions at once feels unbearable:

In the end, the job applicant runs out of his interview and sits on the sidewalk outside, feeling defeated. The video states that many people with autism are shut out of employment because of situations like this, and that their talents are going to waste.

This reflects broader issues people with autism face in the workplace.

Research has shown that people with autism face unique struggles in the workforce. A 2015 study conducted by the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute found that nearly 40 percent of young adults with autism never got a job or pursued higher education beyond high school in their early twenties. The paper also found that only 58 percent of people with autism worked outside of their home between high school and their early twenties. According to the findings, people with autism had lower rates of employment than their peers with other types of disabilities.

"We don't really know at this point why that's happening," study lead and Drezel University associate professor and autism researcher Paul Shattuck told NPR last year, adding that the increase in service-oriented jobs in our country could pose social challenges for people with autism. "Starting in the early to mid-1970s, there's been a historic shift in the balance of jobs in the manufacturing sector to the service sector. And those types of jobs, which require lots of social interaction, are exactly the types of jobs that people with autism have difficulty with."

Shattock told NPR that many challenges occur when a person with autism graduates from high school because special education services and assistance disappear. Not all high schools follow through with giving these students transition plans into the real world, even though it is required by federal law.

Three years ago, a 30-year-old woman with Asperger's named Sarah Still told CNN that she constantly has to remind herself to smile in job interviews, and that she faced a lot of challenges due to her disability when she worked as a room attendant at Yellowstone National Park. "It was really hard for me to remember how they wanted me to clean the rooms," she told CNN. "They were really fast and I had an awful time keeping up."

Watch the full U.K. National Autistic Society video below:

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