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Interview Tips for New Grads on the Autism Spectrum

Find information on interview tips

From the desk of Melanie Whetzel, M.A., CBIS, Principal Consultant, Team Lead

You have worked really hard to get to this point. You are just about ready to graduate and take the next big step. But are you really ready? Interviewing for a job can put the best of us on edge and make us somewhat unsure of ourselves. Let's look below for some tips on interviewing when issues related to autism and neurodiversity may make the process a little more difficult.

Know yourself. The two main things an interview accomplishes are finding out about the applicant's qualifications and determining if he or she will be a good fit for the position. To show that you are qualified for the position, know your strengths and weaknesses and how your education and experience relate to the position you are interviewing for. The interviewer will determine if you are a good fit for the position by looking at the environment you will be comfortable working in and whether you are able to work well with others, as a team member, or on your own.

Prepare yourself. Role playing will likely be the most successful way to prepare for various interview situations. The practice will build your skills and confidence. If role playing has not been a part of the transitional services you have received through a guidance counselor or student placement office, it is not too late! Grab someone you are comfortable with, download a list of common interview questions, and start practicing (see JAN's How to Find a Job that is Right for You: A Practical Approach to Looking for a Job as a Person with a Disability). Write down your answers to the most common interview questions, or the questions you feel you may have the most trouble answering on the spot. Practice the process from start to finish with appropriate greetings at both the beginning and end of the interview until you feel satisfied with your responses. Although no list of common interview questions will contain every question an employer may ask, you will be more comfortable going into an interview if you have become familiar with the most typically asked questions. Be prepared to answer tough questions that may be out of your comfort zone, such as inquiries about yourself, your work history, your educational background, and maybe even your grade point average.

Limit yourself. Keep your answers brief. If the interviewer needs more information, he can ask you specific questions. Understand that when he asks you to tell about yourself, he is not asking for a personal story about your life, but rather information about your education and experience as it relates to the job. This is the perfect opportunity to explain why you are a good fit for the position. If you are not clear on how to respond to a question, ask for clarification.

Help yourself. You can request accommodations during the interviewing process if you feel there are things that may help you be more successful. The following are only suggestions and may not be effective for everyone:

  • Request that the number of interviewers be limited to one or two, at least for the first interview.
  • Request that the first interview be over the telephone to help with the discomfort of meeting face-to-face the first time.
  • Request a copy of the interview questions to be provided in advance.
  • Request that the interview occur at a specific time of day when energy levels or concentration are at an optimum.

It might be best to request accommodations as early into the process as possible, so consider what you might need from the beginning.

Be yourself. Once you have prepared as thoroughly as you can, it is time to relax, smile, and be yourself!

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