Interviews are often nerve wracking. There’s a lot riding on your ability to present yourself in a compelling way and convince an employer why they should hire you. That pressure can feel especially daunting if you’re on the autism spectrum. You probably find social situations - like job interviews - awkward and are unsure how you should act. The good news is that with some practice, your interview skills can improve. If you’re on the autism spectrum (or if you struggle with social situations) check out our advice and some basic guidelines to make your next job interview a little less overwhelming.
let your interviewer know you’re on the spectrum
Disclosing that you’re on the autism spectrum can sometimes be beneficial. Some employers will make accommodations to ensure you feel comfortable. If they know you’re on the spectrum, it can also help them stay open-minded if you don’t act the way that they expect you to in an interview. Look for signs that an employer is open to hiring someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) such as language around accommodations, disabilities, and diversity & inclusion on their job posts, website and when scheduling your interview. However, remember that every situation is unique. It’s up to you to decide what you feel comfortable sharing.
Any list of job interview tips will tell you the key to a successful interview is preparation. Fortunately, planning and preparation are probably two of your strong traits. Take some time to prepare yourself to answer common interview questions. You can check out this list of 17 common interview questions to start and plan your answers ahead. It can also help to practice with a friend or family member who can provide some tips on when you’re talking too much or provide other insights to help you improve. You can also try recording yourself practicing for the interview and review the footage yourself.
create a list of your skills
It can help to make a list of your top skills and qualities. This will allow you to figure out how your skills and abilities apply to the job at hand. If you’re not sure what your best skills are, you can ask friends or family for their input. Once you have a list, compare it to the job description and try to match up your list of skills with what appears on the job ad. This will help you determine which skills to talk about during the job interview.
research the company beforehand
Research and preparation are your friends. Companies like to know that you’ve put in some effort to learn about them to show that you’re invested in working for the company. Just remember that if the interviewer asks what you’ve learned about the company to keep your answers brief and to the point. You don’t need to go into great detail about everything you learned. If you can, explain how what you learned makes you want to work for the company.
be mindful of your appearance
Your appearance is very important for making a good first impression in a job interview. So though comfort may be very important to you, you need to make sure outwardly you look polished. Wear something that makes you comfortable (you don’t want to be distracted by itchy clothing or uncomfortable shoes) but make sure it’s clean and appropriate for an interview. That means don’t wear anything holey or extremely oversized. If you’re not sure, you can ask the person who scheduled the interview about the dress code at their workplace. Also don’t forget to shower, brush your teeth and take care of your personal hygiene before you head to the interview.
remember your body language and tone
Body language is one of the trickier parts of a job interview, even under the best of circumstances. How you act and position yourself when in an interview will likely be assessed by your interviewer.
- Make an effort to sit up straight. Slouching can be interpreted as too casual or disinterested. Try not to hunch or outwardly convey that you’re stressed or uncomfortable.
- Keep your hands as still as possible and try your best not to fidget; keeping them in your lap is generally a safe option.
- If you can make eye contact with your interviewer, that’s generally preferred. If making direct eye contact is too uncomfortable for you, you can look at your interviewer’s eyebrows instead for the same effect.
- Offer a friendly smile. Remember to keep your smile on the moderate side. A wide grin can be a little too much for a professional interview setting.
- Use a calm tone of voice when answering questions. If you find yourself getting flustered at an interview question and you need a moment to gather your thoughts, you can use a stalling tactic like saying, ‘That’s a great question, let me think about it.’ This can show you’re invested in answering the question, but give you a few moments to compose your answer. Just make sure not to overuse this tactic (any more than once or twice during a job interview) and don’t wait too long afterward to answer.
use the STAR method to keep your answers brief
The STAR method is a tried and true method for answering questions in a brief and to-the-point way. You may find that when you’re passionate about a topic, you can talk about it forever. The STAR method provides a formula to make it easy to compose a brief, structured answer to a question. Here’s how it works:
- Situation - Provide context and explain the situation.
- Task - Explain what your role was in the situation.
- Action - What steps did you take to address the situation
- Result - What was the final outcome?
Each section should be a sentence or two in your answer, and a complete STAR answer should take 30 seconds to a minute. Even if you’re not a natural storyteller, it’s a skill that you can pick up with a little practice. The STAR method is a tried and true way to structure a simple story.
work with a recruiter
Working closely with a recruiter to find the right job is often beneficial, as they have connections with a wide range of employers. They can help you determine which employers are most likely to be accommodating of your needs and will fit your preferences, especially if you’re looking for a specific type of workplace or role. They’ll also be able to help you prep for your interview and provide insights on what each employer will be looking for. This extra layer of support can prove invaluable if you’re nervous about a job interview.