Is it an indirect or direct 'problem' or an added complication working & advancing in HR if you have neurodiversity yet are not interested in the HR IT side?

I have posted on numerous occasions here in the past about the significant difficulties experienced in advancing in HR and have fully taken onboard all the good advice given. 

However, and despite of all of that, 'I simply can't get the job.' I do and try my very best yet the door remains fully, resolutely and firmly locked, off limits and blocked. 

In such a scenario, I look to see if I can identify any certain or hidden patterns, trends and clues to see if there is any underlying common denominator either indirectly causing and / or directly contributing to this. 

To cut to the very chase here, I have a combination of very mild Autism, slight Asperger's Syndrome and light Dyspraxia which essentially affects me in the following ways:

Difficulties with Social Communication:

* Difficulty imagining what others may be thinking or feeling; 

* Difficulty adapting my communication style to take into account who I am talking to and the social expectations of the situation;

* Difficulty 'reading' other people and working out their motivations and intentions;

* Difficulty understanding humour and sarcasm;

* Difficulty using language to talk about my feelings;

* Taking things literally;

* A tendency to dominate the conversation with what interests me;

* Logical and truthful to an extent that may inadvertently to hurtful/irritating to others;

Difficulties with Social Interaction:  

* Difficulty managing social boundaries e.g. identifying 'safe' topics of conversation for different levels of friendship; 

* Acutely aware of my 'difference' from others and a feeling of 'being on the periphery'

* Difficulty developing relationships from acquaintance to friend;      

* A logical and unemotional approach to social interaction and social relationships.   

Whether or not it is considered to be a type of disability under the Equality Act 2010 or a hidden difference in overall style and approach, I have it and I am what I  am. You cannot alter your personality nor who and what you are. 

Therefore, in all of your professional opinions here, could this well be 'one' of the key factors which is contributing to difficulties in getting jobs in HR?

I fully accept and have come to terms with the fact that I am not 'normal' in the very strictest sense of the word and can also differ significantly from the vast majority of ordinary and average people across the whole spectrum of society and walks of life, but how does this go or people find, view or take it in a profession such as HR? 

In closing, I feel that it is not so much a case of what people think, say or feel, but what they don't think, say or feel once you have left the interview room.            







  • Hi Andre

    I'd agree this is one of the reasons you may not get further than an interview, although its difficult to know without meeting you in person. I shared a few of your traits and found interviews difficult. But I did not give up!

    As for progression in HR without interest in IT - I have only limited interest in IT. I had other things to do. When I was employed my admin assistant always made it quite clear that IT & typing was her job. I nearly always complied.

    Sorry I can't help you further.
  • Hi Andre

    You list things that make you different that you think might be preventing you from advancing in HR. I'd suggest you might want to turn it around and ask yourself what strengths you can bring to HR. You say that you are logical and unemotional but I see that as a positive in HR - sometimes we need that emotional distance. You are clearly committed to HR as a career and I think you need to think about what areas of HR interest you and what your passion is. Forget about promotion and climbing the career ladder for the sake of it and look for areas you're interested in and want to work in. Think about where your differences can be strengths in HR and if you can convince yourself, then you're well on the way to convincing an employer.

    Have you thought about trying to find a mentor or a career coach who can help you work on developing your narrative about your strengths and how to communicate what you can bring to HR?

    And I know this probably isn't the easiest thing for you but have you looked at trying to develop your communication and networking skills? Engaging with your local branch might be give you a safe space to practice those skills in a HR context.

    Your posts on these communities do come across as quite negative and I can appreciate why you might feel that way but that might be as much of a barrier as your neuro diversity. If you can celebrate your differences in a positive way and show employers how those differences can contribute to their team, then that will definitely help you realise your career goals.
    Good luck!

  • Hi Andre.

    I am going to begin this reply by telling you that many years ago, shortly before the advent of the DDA, I ran a multi-agency project (NHS, DWP "Pact" team, TEC and Social Services), placing people with a variety of disabilities into real work. 

    At that time, many roles were created as a "charitable face" by major businesses, or were in specialised work-units; the results were that whenever a business found itself under pressure, the "make-work" charitable roles were first out of the door (usually without process, and with no statutory rebuttal), or people with any degree of disability (e.g. dyslexia) were "isolated" in low-grade roles with no real career prospects or future in open employment.

    One of the first factors our project needed to address was not what our clients (collective term for those we worked with) couldn't do, but what they could , then making arrangements to develop those skills further (if necessary) and finding an employer who had jobs that needed those skills, even if they (the employer) did not recognise it!

    For example Safeway (remember them?) used to have roles which combined shelf-stacking, till manning, and trolley management in the car-park. We had a client with a moderate Learning Disability who had been rejected for such roles as his numeracy was not up to the "till manning" part pf the task. He was, however, more than capable of stacking shelves and managing the trollies in the car-park (and enjoyed working outdoors); so we suggested to Safeway they simply take him on for those roles (at the full rate of pay, "normal" T&Cs etc.) and free up some of their other staff for the roles they enjoyed most (as some didn't like the "outdoor" component, especially if it was raining).

    This was not creating a "special" role, or "hiving off" a menial task to out client, but suiting their abilities and choices to a role that Safeway really needed doing. They became part of the team, invited to staff functions, supported by their work colleagues (and now also friends) and in every sense just "one more employee".

    He was not alone; I could bore you for hours with other such stories.

    You are clearly intelligent, self aware, and highly capable, so I take issue with your negative assessment of yourself as "not normal". There are things you are not good at (I can't do handstands); there are things you do not understand (I have never understood the popularity of "fly on the wall" documentaries, or football), but what is "normal"? (...and given I live in the North-East, where football is a religion, my latter "abnormality" really is significant). 

    As Jackie has pointed out: At least one of the issues you are considering weakness in your portfolio is at times a strength in our profession. My feeling is therefore that, rather than keep on approaching HR as a "Generalist" role, and being knocked back for what are in all likelihood easily avoidable limitations (like the IT skill and/or some of the interpersonal challenges) you talk to someone more directly involved in Adult Career Counselling about how to utilise your abilities within the HR field.

    Job interviewers, no matter how strong their commitment to Equal Opportunity, have to fit people to the job they have described on the desk before them: They do not have the option to tear off the passage referring to working the till! (or using the company IT systems) So while you might score highly in all but one area, that one trip-wire pulls you down and out of consideration. So you "fail" (and your real strengths are lost to the employer).

    But it is not the interviewer, or you, who are "failing"; it is the match between skills and position, and the adaptations (on both sides) needed to avoid, evade, and/or rectify those mismatches.

    You are not, "not normal"; you have some issues that are different to the average (and yes, that some people have no understanding or tolerance of, but those are their failures, not yours), so you might need some support in finding a position that uses the abilities you clearly have, and possibly even uses those differences to advantage, and that probably means reaching our to someone more specialised in adult placement and/or employment psychology than you have done so far. But that is no admission of failure, or of being "not normal", it is merely doing what everyone in our profession, and in every profession, has done: Worked to their strengths and taken advantage of the opportunities available to utilise and have support of those strengths.

    I am now way out of touch with any organisations or people to pass on information, but I am sure there will be others reading this who have suggestions for points of contact and support.

    ....and let us know when you succeed.


  • Johanna

    | 0 Posts

    Community Manager

    26 Apr, 2019 09:36

    Hi apologies if you've mentioned this before Andre, but are you mentioning up front that you are a neuro-diverse candidate; what that means and how this can add value and diversity to the team? The CIPD released some research last year on this topic: 'The guide aims to raise awareness among employers of neurodiversity in the workplace and to inspire more employers to take action to create more inclusive workplaces where neurodivergent individuals can thrive.' www.cipd.co.uk/.../neurodiversity-work
  • In reply to Johanna:

    Just might be worth observing that the Swedish 16 year old climate change champion currently in the news seems an immense reminder of just how useful diversity can be. Yet there are still seem to be the snide / veiled comments from those who'd rather criticise irrelevant aspects of her speech etc than celebrate her absolutely remarkable achievements.

    Sadly, being out of the ordinary seems to make a lot of people - including recruiters etc - uncomfortable.

    Also, Andre, it might be worth asking your local county council or equivalent whether there is still any adult vocational guidance under their control: years ago, it used to be a standard provision, but suspect 'the cuts' have made it disappear. But if there is some still around, they might at least be able to point you in what might be a useful direction
  • Hi Andre,

    I've read a number of your posts as we do share some similarities. I too have a number of nurodiverse conditions, I was diagnosed with severe Dyslexia and slight Dyspraxia as a teenager. I struggled with anything to do with reading or writing and I struggled to speak when nervous or with a group of people. Whilst i avoided subjects such as English, History, Geography etc I found that I excelled in Maths and Science. I pursued that through university and gained a degree in Chemistry. However working in a lab didn't suit me and after some time in internal recruitment i made the move into HR at the age of 30. I've been working in HR for 7 years now and started off working in an HR admin job and worked my way up to HR Manager. I embrace what make me different and as Jacqueline advised i use the aspect of my neurology that make me different as a strength and have drawn on these to advance my career. Whilst i struggle still with my written communication I've pursued work in SME's, instead of writing emails to managers i meet with them face to face which has allowed me to build up great working relationships. My analytical approach allows me to spot trends and patterns. I see the world in a slightly different way to others and for me that my biggest strength I've spent my life coming up with innovative alternative ways to allow me adapt, learn and cope and i now use this way of thinking in my career.

    My first HR role was covering maternity leave at a college, after a few weeks there i noticed that they had a massive backlog of new starter files that were still missing information, such as reference, ID, qualification ect. It wasn't my job but i could see they had no system in place to know what information was missing from each file and so i used my analytical strength to my advantage and asked if i could come up with a way to organised and work on the backlog. They agreed and i created processed and spreadsheet for them to use and cleared the backlog. I then asked if i could help with any other analytical work which the manager was happy to give me. I ended up working on projects and MI reporting that were above my paid grade and I then used this as an opportunity to ask to be part of or shadow other parts of HR. After the end of that contract I applied what I had learn and demonstrated my desire to increase my HR knowledge in interviews and secured a role as a HR Advisor.

    So my biggest advice to you to not give up, nor wait for opportunities to come you. Play to your strengths, find opportunities in your current role where your strengths could be an asset to the company you currently work for and be proactive in taking on more in your current role.

    While I still struggle daily with my dyslexia and dyspraxia (as you can probably see in this post), I refuse to let it define me or create a ceiling on what i can achieve.
  • In reply to Sarah Mackie:

    Not so much a LOL as a JFJ (jump for joy) here (...and at my age that in itself is something of an achievement)

    Go for it Andre. There is strength in difference; Sarah proves it :-)

  • Good Evening Andre,

    I just wanted to reiterate what others have said; 'what is normal?' none of us are normal, what a boring world we would live in if we were all the same.

    I'm sure you are aware of neurodiversity and how employers are being encouraged to embrace a diverse workforce and to be a more inclusive employer. The advantages of recruiting neurodiverse individuals (yourself) bring many benefits, not just an untapped pool of talent, but the actual skills they bring. At the moment you are looking at yourself in a negative way. I suggest you sit down when you have some quiet time, write a list of all the things you are good at, not just work skills, but your personality, hobbies etc. Think about everything you have done; school, college, clubs, hobbies, around the house, helping people - not necessarily a job. Then think about how these can be used in a job. If you get stuck, ask people close to you - sometimes it's hard to analyse yourself but I'm sure there's a lot you are good at.

    People always say HR is a 'people person' job, yes it is but that doesn't mean is it not accessible to you. If you feel able to, disclose your disability and be open at interview. Highlight the positives of what you can bring - why your diversity makes YOU THE candidate they want!

    You don't want to go down the IT route, have you thought about which other areas? You don't have to be dealing with 'people issues'. Learning and Development? Health and Safety? Payroll? etc

    Good luck.
  • In reply to Peter:

    Please don't give up! Don't let people or yourself, pigeon hole your aspirations into one little box.

    Many well known people in entertainment in the business world share some or more of the characteristics you describe - they do not necessarily exclude you from any profession in my view. They can be either positive or negative traits depending on your view.

    I have often claimed that recruitment process is flawed. After all, if you interview 10 people for an HR job and 9 people are unsuccessful, it is likely that the other 9 will eventually get a job eslewhere. And if its in HR then they'll be doing and using many or all of the skills that were needed in 1st job they applied for. Its getting beyond the interview stage which is the key. I'm crap at interviews. I guess others are better are giving a better impression of themselves than I am. The interview is absolutely no pointer or reflection of your skill in carrying out a job.

    I'm no expert in getting beyond the 1st hurdle - the interview, but almost all the jobs I've done were obtained because my wife or friends etc., heard had met/heard etc., about someone recruiting (I think this is called networking?) and I was able to short cut the formal 'interview' stage, get my foot in the door and on the floor. I don't know whether it holds true now but in the 1980's it was held that the majority of jobs were obtained through word of mouth, friends, by cold calling and so on - rather than by answering an advert in a paper. That still appears to be the way jobs are found now. in 1990, the Personnel Mag, used to have page after page of jobs. Now there's a couple of jobs. But I can't see the proportion of HR jobs available much changed since then.

    All or most job huning processes go something like this:- "No", "No""No", "No "No", "No""No", "No"No", "No""No", "No "No", "No""No", "No"No", "No""No", "No "No", "No""No", "No"No", "No""No", "No "No", "No""No", "No"No", "No""No", "No "No", "No""No", "No"No", "No""No", "No "No", "No""No", "No"No", "No""No", "No "No", "No""No", "No"No", "No""No", "No "No", "No""No", "No"No", "No""No", "No "No", "No""No", "No"No", "No""No", "No "No", "No""No", "No"No", "No""No", "No "No", "No""No", "No"No", "No""No", "No "No", "No""No", "No"No", "No""No", "No "No", "No""No", "No"No", "No""No", "No "No", "No""No", "No"No", "No""No", "No "No", "No""No", "No"No", "No""No", "No "No", "No""No", "No" "YES"

    So despair!