In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the employment of adults with autism and other developmental disabilities. Many posts have discussed programs to provide them with training and experience.
“We realized candidates with autism don’t get through the initial phone screen because they may have yes or no answers or they may not elaborate on other skills,” says Neil Barnett, director of inclusive hiring at the Redmond, Wash.-based company. So in 2015 Microsoft decided to launch an autism hiring program that included adapting its hiring process to the specific needs of people with the condition.
The changes include allowing candidates with autism to apply via a special email and skip the initial phone screening. The company also gives such candidates a chance to do a practice interview and get feedback from recruiters before doing the official one. And finally, Microsoft allows them to code using their own laptops instead of doing it on a whiteboard in front of recruiters and other candidates, which people with autism have said makes them feel very nervous.
Since the launch of the autism hiring program, Mr. Barnett says some of the procedures—such as allowing candidates to code on their own laptops—have been adapted by hiring managers in other parts of the company and outside Microsoft too, thanks to Autism @ Work, a coalition Microsoft co-founded with SAP SE, Ernst & Young and JP Morgan Chase & Co. to help other employers put similar programs in place.
Microsoft has hired over 100 employees with autism across different teams through its program. They hold various positions including software engineer, data scientist, content writer and finance-team member.