How to 'Score at the Top' the Job Interview Process as a Neurodivergent Applicant

Have you ever felt this way in anticipation of a job interview?

My stomach is in knots, I have another interview today, and I have no idea what they are going to ask me. Wait, let me rephrase that: according to my online searches on expected interview questions for this position, I should be prepared, but during my last two job interviews they did not stay on script, and I got so nervous I could not reply to their questions. In fact, I have also received feedback that my interview responses are sometimes too long or off-topic. If I could just show them that I can do the job, I know they would hire me. Is there a way to "cheat" their interview process? 

 

Autistic young adults

 

How to Nudge an Interviewer to Choose YOU

Turn the tables; yes, you read that right! Take control of the interview process from the start. How? By careful preparation and planning through the development of a career and ability portfolio. A portfolio is a showcase of work samples—a visual way of showing what you are capable of. A career portfolio does not replace a résumé but augments it. As outlined in Mploy, A Job Readiness Workbook (2018) the portfolio will help you:

  • Prepare for the interview (search online for interview questions specific to that job title and practice them aloud)
  • Convince others of your skills, abilities, and qualities (through examples)
  • Communicate clearly and help guide your interview conversation (don’t sound like a robot, practice your responses aloud, before the interview) 
  • Showcase your skills (give them real-life examples)
  • Demonstrate the results of your work from previous experiences (sell yourself by discussing what you have learned from past experiences)
  • Document your accomplishments (community service, clubs, etc.)
  • Make clear your work preferences and learning style (don’t ask for accommodations, tell them what accommodations would support you in being the best employee; ie. written directions)

Ask for Help & Guidance

Take the time and role play with a mentor, family member, or close friend and receive some guidance on gathering information that showcases who you are, and what you are capable of doing. If you feel you need a lot of practice, videotape yourself and critique yourself before talking with your support system. We suggest you create one master portfolio, with the ability to tailor or customize it differently for each job interview that you attend. Employers are interested in seeing your skills, abilities, experiences, and personal qualities that relate specifically to work they need to be completed, so customization is the key to grabbing their attention. Remember, you might be their fifth interview of the day, you need to show them that you are capable, qualified, and determined to do the work and that’s why they should choose you.

 

What should you put into your portfolio?

  • Certificates, achievement or completion
  • Work samples of things you have created or made (artwork, writing samples, photographs, flyers, newsletters, etc.)
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Work or school evaluation forms
  • Photographs of yourself on the job site or accepting an award
  • Video clips of you at work or making a presentation

 

Sell Yourself!

A great example of portfolio artifacts was presented by Temple Grandin. She studied cattle processing plants and came up with her own design that was more efficient, kosher, and saved the lives of many cattle—but she had a hard time getting anyone to listen to her because of her odd social qualities. In the movie Temple Grandin, there is a scene where she is trying to explain her idea to several cattle processing plant supervisors. She cannot get their attention at all, so she pulls out her design portfolio, and once she has their attention on the drawings, she is able to sell them on the efficiency of her designs (a picture is worth a thousand words!) Without this portfolio, she never would have gotten the job, and now cattle processing plants around the world are built using her designs.

 

An interview is a small window of time, giving you the opportunity to sell yourself to an employer.  Make it easy for the interviewer to choose you, by showing up to the interview prepared, eager to work, and able to show them through your portfolio or strong verbal responses that you have the confidence and ability to do the job.  And don’t forget to check your voice mail and email, daily, for their response.  If you are their chosen candidate, you don’t want to lose the chance by not returning their response in a timely manner.

 

Side Note - interviewing today may look different than two years ago.  Due to the pandemic, many companies are conducting interviews via digital platforms. Should you be invited to interview through an app, make sure you download the app ahead of time and practice connecting, using the sound, and showing uploads (your digital portfolio).  Then check your surroundings, you should be in a well-lit room, with no distractions (or noises).  Lastly, send digital links (using free programs: Zoom or Google Hangouts) and PRACTICE with family and friends.

 

CIP Resource - Portfolio ChecklistNeed help creating a portfolio checklist? Download our Portfolio Development Checklist here.

Download the Portfolio Development Checklist

About the Author: Michele Ramsay

Dr. Michele Ramsay is the Program Director at CIP Brevard in Florida. She has more than 20 years of experience working with students with varying abilities. She holds her doctorate in Educational Leadership and Teaching, and when she is not running the program in Florida, Dr. Ramsay can be found presenting at conferences throughout the United States.