Being a self-advocate in the autism community for the past several years has definitely had a few perks here and there. One of those perks is getting asked to be featured in magazines and on websites for different articles. Sometimes I’ve been contacted to get a quote for a news piece and sometimes for an article on my life on the autism spectrum. This is how I started having experience with phone interviews.
When I first started participating in phone interviews I realized something very comforting about the experience. Most of the time I would do these interviews in the comfort of my own home or at my office. I got my first internship, with CBS Sports in New York, on the first try based on a on a phone interview. Later I would land my first full-time job at Autism Speaks through another phone interview process.
I recently had the opportunity to do a phone interview with the Interactive Autism Network (IAN) last week. IAN staff had asked to talk to me because they were writing an article on transitioning to a postsecondary program with autism. I recall how smoothly the conversation was and how I seemed to be connecting right away with the interviewer. When hanging up twenty minutes later, I had the biggest grin on my face!
Since then I’ve had time to reflect on why phone interviews have become second nature to me; most of it had to do with my experience with mock interviews in college. For some reason I never have been as comfortable with in-person interviews as with those by phone. Between my difficulty with making and keeping eye contact and having to focus on and worry about projecting a certain appearance it just never has felt right to me. While in high school I gained the ability—through specific training—to participate in face-to-face communication better, but if I had the choice phone interviews would always be my favorite.
Why I’m anxious to discuss this today is because I’m a bit shocked this hasn’t come up in more employment-related discussions that I’ve had, especially when it comes to hiring young adults with autism. What is usually debated is the value of office interviews versus job shadowing as a means of employability assessment. As more business environments look to employ adults with autism I’d like to see phone interviews considered more often. In an ideal world, after the phone interview if the employer wants to learn more about the interviewee, they could bring them in for an informal get together at their office. That way the potential employee could learn more about their work environment while the employer can get to know who they may be working with and whether they are worth hiring.
We already have some information about how to help adults with autism in the workplace. Things such as STEM jobs  (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) are seen as strength in our community. Many of these jobs focus on individual projects. If someone isn’t required to work much in groups, an in-person interview may be less important. In the traditional hiring process, an individual with autism may face greatly heightened anxiety, which can be minimized by not having the face-to-face interview.
So as more institutions like the federal government sets goals for hiring individuals with autism, let’s hope they also offer recruiters the skills and techniques to deal with those with autism and strongly consider phone interviews for those who prefer them.