This week at Autism Works has seen me giving some training at Connexions in Sunderland and starting on putting together another funding bid, this time to Deloitte Social Innovation Pioneer Fund. Readers of this blog will be familiar with the themes of 'coming out of your comfort zone' and 'thinking outside the box'. From the training session that I coordinated with Connexions, both myself and the Connexions staff agreed that these two themes play a key part in understanding Asperger's Syndrome as well as coping with it, including tailoring recruitment tools to accommodate people with Asperger's Syndrome.
My last entry was largely about how people with Asperger's Syndrome spend much time operating outside their comfort zone. In addition to this, I also often find, and chances are that those with Asperger's Syndrome reading this entry may perhaps also feel this, that to function effectively it can take quite a bit of effort to think outside the 'Asperger Bubble', which to some extent can influence thoughts and actions, as well as being able to read other people. But when doing an activity with the Connexions staff on forming suitable questions to ask candidates with Asperger's Syndrome in a job interview, the staff were first to admit just how hard it is, as it takes a lot of thinking outside the 'professional bubble' that they are used to working within to make such adjustments.
Readers may also remember that two sample interview questions that we like to talk about have have a good chuckle over at Autism Works when we talk about this subject are:
How would you describe yourself as a 'good communicator' at all levels?
What sets you apart from the other candidates as to why you are the best person for the job?
As I am sure most will agree, they are both pretty stupid questions, not least because the first question contains the vague statement 'good communicator'. When I asked the staff about how they would rephrase these questions so that they made more sense to a candidate with Asperger's Syndrome, the first thing that they admitted was how hard it was. It is particularly hard as they have to think from the perspective of the Asperger's Syndrome candidate, and how they would interpret and answer such questions. Suggestions that they came up with included explaining what they meant by terms such as 'good communicator' or 'good team player'. Though these suggestions are helpful, what it is often best to do where possible is to make interview questions as specific to the job that the candidate has applied for as possible.
Often, when talking about previous job interview experience, in hindsight most of us seem to agree that many of the questions we have been asked in such situations are irrelevant to the job we have applied for. Often, for a person with Asperger's Syndrome learning how to succeed at a job interview is the hard part, more so than learning how to do a job. An analogy that Grayson, our Test Manager, used was how when you are 'learning to drive', you are learning to pass your driving test more so than drive on the road.
I am progressing steadily with pulling the company's Operational Manual together, including the company's recruitment policy and I am also revisiting previous funding applications that we have put in to help prepare for the bid to Deloitte. Elsewhere, now that it is coming towards the end of November, I am starting to prepare for Christmas as well as planning on entering Mastermind again. Be sure to watch this space to see how this progresses.