Updated: Aug 29
Interviewing is hard for most people, but when you are neurodivergent, such as having ADHD, Autism, or Dyslexia, it can be overwhelming. More than ever, companies are touting being inclusive of all kinds of people, but many are still expecting you to wear a "mask" when it comes to mental health, especially during the interview process. Therefore, talking too fast, interrupting the interviewer, or not answering questions succinctly and directly, could shut you out of the interview process before you ever start.
Here are three ways to use your neurodivergence to your advantage in the interview process:
1. Memory. There is language in every job description which describes exactly how to bring value to the job. For example, here is part of a job description for a senior project manager in construction:
"As a Senior Project Manager, you will be responsible for taking projects from conceptual stages through closeout. Provide leadership, technical direction, and deliver the best solutions on design-build projects valued anywhere from a $60 million to over $250 million. A Senior Project Manager is responsible for assisting with preconstruction, buying out contracts, and managing the project from start to finish. No other builder can offer the collaborative design-build approach that Company does. We work on creative, complex, award-winning, high profile jobs”
The highlights demonstrate the key value a candidate can bring to this job. Many people with neurodivergences have strong visual memory or superior memory of facts. This means it may be easier for a neurodivergent candidate to describe their own experiences and capabilities with the exact language from the job description or quote directly from the company website during interviews when describing their interest in the job and company. For example, when describing a project you did from beginning to end, you could say,
"I can bring value to the job because I have the skills and capabilities to be creative in taking complex projects from conceptual stages to finish. For example, in X project, which was a 100M high profile design-build project, I provided thought leadership to the conceptual stage with the architects, and the preconstruction phase, specifically [describe an areas where you brought value]. Then I also provided technical direction during the build stage such as [explain what you did to solve a problem during the build stage]. I understand the level of detail orientation that is needed to own and manage a project from start to finish.”
The goal is to connect the dots for the hiring manager on how your skills and capabilities are directly relevant to the job. Using the exact language from the job description written by the hiring manager will help create that link between what skills and capabilities are needed at the company and how you will bring that value.
2. Creativity/Strategic thinking. People with many neurodivergences, including ADHD and Dyslexia, and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often exhibit high levels of creativity and original thinking, which is used in problem solving complex issues. Write down stories about your experience in the STAR(T) method or CARL method. Being able to tell a great story with compelling twists and turns and a strong solution-oriented ending will engage the interviewer. Writing it down makes it clear and concise since you will want to deliver the whole story in under two minutes.
3. Connection. Interviewing is not only about what capabilities you have, but also whether you fit the team and company culture. The goal is to convey to the hiring manager you can do the job and they “want to have lunch with you." It's about culture fit and people with ADHD and Dyslexia are generally able to quickly build close connections with people. You may only have 15 min with a recruiter or 30 min with a hiring manager so making that connection quickly is key to being considered as a viable candidate. Showing you can build a connection with the interviewers will demonstrate your ability to build relationships quickly if you secure the job.
Having a neurodivergence could be the exact thing that gives you a competitive advantage over every other person interviewing for the same job. Many neurodivergences show up as excessive motivation and determination to succeed, which can help you stay motivated during the long haul of a job search.