Through a targeted recruitment initiative, cloud and software company SAP have employed 100 members of staff in three years who are on the autistic spectrum.

The scheme was introduced in 2013 and is designed to target people with autism as part of the company’s diversity and inclusion efforts.  SAP partnered with a specialist recruiter to identify candidates for technology-focused roles such as software testing, programming and data management.

The programme was first piloted in India before being rolled out in the US, Germany, Canada and Ireland. However, the scheme is yet to be introduced in the UK because it does not currently have a large enough presence in the region.

SAP employees volunteer to become ‘buddies’, helping new autistic recruits settle into the organisation.  Long-serving employees who have a thorough understanding of the company and its culture are encouraged to mentor the new recruits.

Stefanie Nennstiel, global leader for autism at work and senior director of diversity and inclusion emphasised that the recruitment drive is not a corporate social responsibility initiative. Staff who volunteer to be a buddy and those recruited by the scheme “become better communicators on both sides of the equation”.

When it comes to recruitment, Nennstiel said companies need to “look beyond qualifications and interview skills, which many autistic people really struggle with. Different people’s styles help businesses and employees become more creative and innovative. Many companies need new skills and behavioural styles, and people with autism form just one possible talent pool.”

Nennstiel hopes that by 2020 SAP will have one streamlined recruitment process for all applicants.  “It positively impacts our brand and company identity, thought leadership and ability to capture the best possible talent. Our employees are really proud of what we do,” she added.

According to research from the National Autistic Society, just 15 per cent of autistic adults in the UK are in full-time paid employment and 53 per cent would like to receive employment support.

HR Suppo

1. They turn up late with a poor excuse…

Ok so sometimes being late for an interview can be out of the candidate’s control so they may have a genuine reason but if they say they couldn’t find the location or the traffic was bad perhaps this is an indication of poor planning on their part. Surely they should find out how to get to the interview location in advance and allow for traffic delays by setting off early? Would you really want someone in your organisation who doesn’t plan and prepare appropriately?

2. They haven’t done any research into the organisation and don’t know anything about it…

Asking the candidate what they know about the organisation and what it does is a fairly standard question so you’d expect the candidate to have done some background research, after all, thanks to the internet all the information they need should be at their fingertips! Good enthusiastic candidates will take the time to find out all they can about the organisation. If you have to spend more time explaining what your business does, rather than questioning the candidate about their suitability for the role, then they’re probably not the best fit for the role.

3. You find yourself having to constantly repeat or rephrase questions…

If the candidate is asking you to repeat questions or saying things like – ‘I’m not sure what you mean by that’ throughout the interview then you have to ask yourself what would they be like in a work situation; would they be able to understand and carry out instructions first time? Would you really want to employ someone whom you have to constantly spoon feed instructions to?

4. They don’t have any self-awareness….

Nobody’s perfect so if you have a candidate who says that they don’t have any weaknesses or have never made a mistake then you have to ask if they are self-aware. Self-awareness is having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. It allows you to understand other people, how they perceive you, your attitude and your responses to them in the moment. Self-awareness is one of the attributes of Emotional Intelligence and an important factor in achieving success, without it you can’t grow and develop.

5. They’re more interested in the benefits than the role…

When you have a candidate who spends more time asking what the benefits are rather than asking about the business and your future plans this is another sign that they might not be the right fit. Ideally you should be looking for someone who is enthusiastic about the role and is looking to progress and grow with your organisation, the benefits should be secondary.

6. They have the necessary skills and experience but there’s a nagging doubt…

Even if a candidate is a great fit for the role on paper and answers the interview questions sufficiently you may find that you have a nagging doubt about them. This is usually down to organisational cultural fit. Ask yourself – could I work with them on a daily basis and do they have the behaviours we need for our organisation? Your ideal candidate not only requires the necessary skills and experience but they also need to be able to fit in with the rest of the organisation and work well with their colleagues. So if you have a nagging doubt in the back of your mind; listen to it!