by Matthew J. Lemay
Congratulations! You’ve submitted an application for a job you’re interested in and have received the call to come in for an interview. With the excitement of that however, comes the nerves that everyone gets. And for someone with ASD, those nerves can sometimes take on a life of their own.
I’ve been to a healthy handful of interviews in the past, so here are a series of tips that will help you in preparing for, and being successful in an interview:
Research, Research, Research: You’ve just gotten off the phone from confirming your interview. As excited as you are, this is where the process really starts. Take the time before your interview to really look into the employer. A common interview question is
“What do you know about our company?”
And the interviewer expects you to have an answer. That’s why research is so important. What values does the company hold? What’s their vision statement? Do they have any charitable initiatives?
Knowing this information beforehand can help you to give a better interview, and it will definitely speak to your preparedness.
Dress for Success: First impressions are everything. You may have heard that a lot, but it’s true. First impressions are often made in seconds, however fair that may be, so it’s very important that your first impression is a good one. Dressing in appropriate clothing, and maintaining a hygienic appearance will go a long way.
Generally, that means no t-shirts, ripped jeans, ball caps or sneakers. For as comfortable as those clothes are, they don’t give off a professional impression for the employer.
A better choice would be a dress shirt; dress pants and dress shoes, but if possible, ask the person calling you to come in if there is a specific dress code that’s observed in the business. Not only would that show initiative, but it would also give you a guideline to dress by.
Keep Calm and Carry On: Approach the day of the interview as if it were just any other day. Go through your morning routine, get dressed in your chosen outfit, and go.
If the nerves set in on the way, use your go-to calming technique. It could be to listen to music, or to deep breathe, but whatever it is, it will go a long way. A small amount of nerves is healthy, but employers can spot an overly nervous person from a mile away.
Everybody’s Watching: When you enter a place of employment for an interview, every interaction matters. It’s not just the interviewer you have to focus on, because you can bet that the established employees you encounter before you get called in have been instructed to observe you and report back. Were you polite and respectful to the employees you interacted with? Did you talk to any fellow applicants, and if so, what was the topic of discussion? What was your overall demeanor?
Those are just samples of questions that the established employees might be asked by their boss, or the interviewer, so while it’s not good to over think such things, you do have to be mindful of them. The interview often starts before a single question is asked.
Talk is Cheap: So you’re listing your qualifications and attributes when asked. You tell the interviewer that you’re a good problem-solver, a good team player and flexible. The problem is absolutely anyone can walk into an interview and say that! It’s always best to have examples to back it up.
Think about the most common interview questions, and find experiences in your life (not necessarily from the workplace) that you can use to expand upon your initial answer. When presented with a problem, how did you solve it? When working with a team, what did you bring to the table to make you a good team player? Detail a time when you’ve proven you were flexible.
That level of detail and thought is expected by an interviewer. It shows that you actually do have the qualities you list, and that you’re not just saying what you think the interviewer or employer wants to hear.
Expect the Unexpected: You’re getting comfortable in your interview. You’re answering questions and gaining confidence as you go along. Then, a question gets asked that you didn’t expect.
This happens to everyone, and it’s the interviewer’s way of making sure you haven’t checked out mentally. You can’t prepare for every question in an interview, but how you handle being thrown through the loop will say a lot to a potential employer about your ability to adapt to change in the workforce.
Know Your Rights: This is really important. There may come a time when you’re asked a personal question that you may think pushes a little too far, and you feel obliged to answer out of principle. If they asked, there must be a reason, right?
Employers have the right to ask questions, but they can’t ask about or discriminate against you due to race, religion, politics, sexual orientation or disability status. If they do ask, you have the right to refuse to answer, because it has no bearing on your ability to do the job.
A lot of people either don’t know that, or if they do, they simply forget it. So, it’s really important to know what you can and can’t be asked.
Have Questions: So, you’ve reached the end of the interview, and you think you’ve done well in presenting yourself, and answering the questions asked. Then, the interviewer asks:
“Do you have any questions for me?”
And if you’ve understood everything that’s been asked or discussed, your answer would normally be:
What I’ve learned over the years is that, while this question may seem trivial, it’s actually quite important. Interviewers expect you to have questions, so make sure you think before and during the interview about anything you’d like to ask them.
Remember that, for as much as they’re interviewing you, you’re also interviewing them in a way. Employment is a two-way street, and asking questions about expectations or policies that the business has is important, because then you’ll learn what you can expect from your employer, and you can learn what your employer expects of you.
Job interviews are never easy. And for someone with ASD, they can present a whole range of unique challenges that, to the average neurotypical person, may pose no challenge at all.
However, if you follow the tips I’ve outlined above, you’ll stand a much better chance at not only getting an interview, but succeeding in an interview.
I’ll see you on the employment line!
About the Author
Matthew J. Lemay is a writer who was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at age 17. He has been actively involved with Integrated Autism Consulting since receiving his diagnosis, and is a regular contributor to the Spectrum Prospective section of their blog.
He is currently working on several writing projects, and in his spare time, he enjoys swimming, biking, taking walks, listening to music, watching films and television series, learning languages and spending time with his family.