Hi, I’m Craig Kendall, the author of The Asperger’s Syndrome Survival Guide. In today’s issue we will discuss…
Adults with Asperger’s –
5 Tips for Job Interviews
One thing that everyone, including adults with Asperger’s, often dreads is the job interview. So much of your life, of your future, is riding on that one little half hour or hour of your life. How can you not feel stressed out by it?
Not to worry, though, because everyone feels nervous about job interviews. Adults with Asperger’s have a few extra challenges, but there are ways to overcome these problems.
How Adults with Asperger’s can Have Job Interview Success
1. Get Someone to Help you Practice
Whether this is a job coach, friend or family member, adults with Asperger’s tend to need a little extra practice to fine tune their interviewing techniques.
You will want to role-play an interview with someone, playing both the person being interviewed and the interviewer, to get a sense for how it works and to make you less nervous.
This is also a great time to think ahead of time what your answers to some of the most common interview questions will be.
Common interview questions involve how you work with other people, since most jobs involve working with people to some degree.
Some examples may be “Was there a time when you dealt with a difficult customer and what did you do to handle it?” You will want to think of any experience you had, even if it was a volunteer job, or any situation in which you dealt with a difficult person calmly and without overreacting.
“Tell us about a time when you gave superior customer service,” may be another. Think of a time when you went above and beyond in any capacity to serve others and share that.
In general you will want to think of “What are my strengths? What do I do well? How can I communicate my strengths to the employer?”
Remember, the employer is always thinking “What’s in it for me?” and your answer must give him or her a concrete reason to want to hire you.
Employers will generally ask about “What is your biggest weakness?” Pick something small and don’t go on too long about it.
2. Pay Attention to How you Talk and What you Say
Adults with Asperger’s have to think more than most people about their nonverbal language. Many adults with Asperger’s aren’t used to thinking about how they come across to others.
Here are a few things that they might need to think about:
Pay attention to your body. How are you sitting? You want to sit up straight and not be slouching. Your feet should be firmly on the floor.
You should be looking ahead at the interviewer. Eye contact can feel uncomfortable but is very important. Try to look at least in the general area of the interviewer.
What to do with your hands? Take care to make sure you’re not fidgeting. A safe bet is to rest your hands in your lap.
Try to consciously relax your body so you’re not throwing off signs of stress. Make sure your shoulders are relaxed and not hunched up.
What is your face doing? Try to take a deep breath before you come in, put a smile on your face, and keep it there.
Try to answer all questions in an even, calm tone of voice. If something flusters you, take a breath, wait a few seconds and then respond.
It may seem like an awful lot of work, but other people respond instantly to the cues they think we are sending them. If they see someone with body language that suggests stress or anxiety, it makes them feel stress or anxiety. As a result, it makes them feel less confidence in you.
It’s not always easy, but just for space of the interview, try to focus on what your body is doing and saying. These are all thing adults with Asperger’s have to think consciously about that may come more naturally to others.
3. Pay Attention to What you Wear
Another thing that adults with Asperger’s don’t pay as much attention to is what they’re wearing. Due to sensory issues, adults with Asperger’s often like to wear loose fitting, soft comfortable clothing.
This may not be an issue most of the time, but work environments often tend to be more formal.
Although it may not be as comfortable as you are accustomed to, never dress casually to a job interview. Men should at least wear a shirt and tie. For an office job a suit jacket should be worn as well.
4. Learn About the Company
This should play to strengths of most adults with Asperger’s – research the company ahead of time. Find out as much as you can about it. Learn what its values and history are. Quote them in the interview if you can.
This shows you are taking the job possibility seriously and that you really care about the company. Familiarize yourself with the structure of the company, with their products, etc.
Learn about the company, this can help make you stand out from the other interviewees.
5. Monitor How Much you Talk
The flipside of being good with research is knowing how to use it.
Adults with Asperger’s very often like to talk about what they know. This is good when you are in a situation in which you want to seem smart, but there is such thing as too much. If you talk on and on without stop you will be overwhelming to the other person.
To avoid this practice doing little sound bites. Condense what you know into one or two sentences that you can throw out here and there. In general, when you are asked a question, first stop to think to yourself, “How can I answer this question in just a few sentences?”
If you are someone who is very shy and doesn’t like to talk much, the opposite applies.
You need to be sure that you are not just answering with a yes or no, and that you are actually answering in full sentences. This shows you’re interested. Again, aim for at 1-3 sentences per answer. More complex questions require more sentences. Be enthusiastic!
6. Visualize and Use Positive Self-talk Before the Interview
All of us, but particularly adults with Asperger’s, are affected by stress.
Visualize yourself being confident and doing well when you go into the interview.
Also know that it can take a few interviews before you get good at this. Look at your first few interviews as practice.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or else you’ll just end up really stressed out. There are always other opportunities (even if it sometimes doesn’t seem like it at the time!)
7. To Disclose or Not to Disclose?
One thing that adults with Asperger’s have to consider that other people don’t is whether or not to disclose your diagnosis.
Generally, unless your symptoms are going to affect how you do the job and you’re going to have to ask for accommodations, it’s probably not necessary.
Some people are not that well informed about Asperger’s, and unless it’s something that’s going to affect what you need on the job, better to have them think you are a little quirky than have them trying to figure out what the “Ass-burgers” disease is.
If you do need to disclose, be sure to list your positive traits first and only talk about in terms of the accommodations that you would need.
If you follow these tips, you will find that your next job interview goes much better than you had expected. All it takes is for adults with Asperger’s to give a little more attention to some areas and success is much more likely to be found.
I have personally developed a full training course to help those with Asperger’s Syndrome and autism. “How to Get and Keep the Job You Love.” Click here to find additional job hunting tips, http://aspergerssociety.org/job/get-a-job-you-love-197.html