Asperger’s & NLD Career Letter, April, 2016
Nearly every job seeker I coach is uncomfortable with job interviewing. This is not surprising. Many questions are confusing for literal-minded individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome or Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NLD). Neurotypical interviewers presume that job seekers will infer that “Where do you want to be in five years?” is a question about ambition, not geography.
Additionally, job candidates are evaluated on their technical skills and their ability to work within a group. A job seeker might be asked to describe a time when he dealt with a conflict, or when he demonstrated leadership. These so-called behavioral questions are based on the premise that a person’s past actions predict his future actions. A spectrumite or NLDer probably has great difficulty managing conflict, and little or no leadership experience.
There is no shortage of books and Web sites that explain how to prepare for interviews. However, these resources are created by and for neurotypicals. If you are like my clients, you need help to apply the information to your particular situation. Here are my five best interviewing tips, based on the common concerns of my clients.
#1: Make the right first impression. An interviewer begins forming an impression of you the first time you meet. It is important to greet this person in a confident, professional manner. There are four steps to a business greeting. One is making eye contact to establish a connection with the interviewer. Two is smiling to convey friendliness and enthusiasm. Three is a firm handshake to communicate confidence. And four is a professional greeting (“Hello, my name is Jill Johnson. It’s a pleasure to meet you”).
First impressions are powerful, and hard to change. Practice your greeting with someone you trust until you feel comfortable.
#2: Prepare responses based on the context of an interview. When taken literally (out of context), many interview questions seem to be vague and confusing. In a social situation, “tell me about yourself” is an invitation to share personal information, perhaps about where you grew up or your hobbies. However, within the context of a job interview, it means to summarize how your skills and experience match the employer’s need.
You may also need to prepare answers based on the context of the job. Interview questions for a customer service position will emphasize interpersonal skills, such as the ability to resolve customer complaints. Questions for a software programming job will focus more on technical knowledge and problem solving ability.
To discover the types of questions that will come up, Google search “common interview questions for a [particular job].”
#3: Practice your responses out loud. There is a huge difference between thinking about how you will answer a question and actually speaking your response. Two things typically happen to my clients who practice interviewing out loud. Some discover that their answers are too brief, and don’t communicate their relevant abilities. Others realize that they confuse interviewers with long, rambling responses.
If you have been on 5 or more interviews without receiving a job offer, you probably need to work on these skills. Find someone knowledgeable to help you. Consider videotaping one of your practice sessions to see how you come across on interviews.
#4: Be able to explain why you want to work for this company. No matter what the job, chances are you will be asked, “Why do you want to work here?” Job seekers who are caught off guard by this question end their candidacy for a position. The wrong response is based on what you want: “I need a job;” “This company pays well;” “I live 10 minutes away.”
The right response demonstrates your knowledge and enthusiasm about the particular company. Perhaps you use its products or services. Maybe the company is known for cutting edge technology. It may have won awards for product quality or customer satisfaction. This example clearly shows a well-prepared candidate: “I’ve used ACME products for years, and can speak knowledgeably about their quality to customers.”
#5: Express your interest, even when you’re not sure you want the job. Unless you are absolutely certain that a position is a poor match, your goal should be a job offer. If you say during an initial interview that you are uncertain and want to think about the job, the interviewer will move on to other candidates. Instead, express enthusiasm: “This job sounds like an excellent fit for my skills. What are the next steps in the interview process?” You can always decline an offer later on.
Copyright 2016, Barbara Bissonnette, Forward Motion Coaching