Jane Hatton’s top tips to recruit neurodiverse talent

Mon 06 Dec 2021

Jane Hatton’s top tips to recruit neurodiverse talent

The founder and CEO of specialist job board platform Evenbreak reveals how to attract and recruit talent in an inclusive and effective way ahead of her presentation at the Neurodiversity at Work event on 22 February

By Murielle Gonzalez

Organisations that foster diversity and inclusion in the workplace sometimes struggle to incorporate measures for people with hidden disabilities — and neurodivergent staff tend to fall in the blind spot of their strategies.

Neurodiversity, a term coined in 1998 by Australian sociologist Judy Singer, has recently risen to the limelight because research has shown that between 30% to 40% of the population is neurodiverse, with the remaining majority being neurotypical. It’s therefore necessary to understand what neurodiversity is and what neurodivergent staff bring to the organisation before going any further with what it takes to welcome neurodiverse talent in the workplace.

So, what does neurodiversity mean? The concept refers to the human brain is wired with neurological differences that are recognised and respected as any other human variation. Bipolar disorder, dyspraxia, dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Tourette syndrome are among such neurological variations.

Is neurodiversity a protected characteristic by law? Yes, it is. Neurodiversity meets the criteria of the Equality Act 2010 and organisations that fail to comply with the equality legislation risk suffering financial penalties as well as reputational damage.

The legal definition of a disabled person is someone with a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial adverse impact on their ability to carry out ‘normal’ day-to-day activities. The workshop Neurodiversity and the law at the CPD-certified event Neurodiversity at Work on 22 February 2022 will provide you with a better understanding of an employer’s role in supporting neurodiverse employees. Register to attend.

Neurodiversity inclusion beyond compliance

Daniel Aherne, founder and director of disability consultancy firm Adjust, explained that neurodiversity in the workplace is an asset rather than an obstacle at the 2021 edition of Neurodiversity at Work. Indeed, neurodivergent candidates bring a unique set of skills to organisations. They tend to think out-of-the-box and are gifted in skills that are essential for digital success. Furthermore, research has shown that adults with ADHD have extraordinary focus and problem-solving abilities while autistic people are meticulous and have higher analytical thinking.

So, now that we know all the amazing benefits of employing people with lots of different ways of thinking, how do we make sure that we attract and recruit those talents in an effective way?

Jane Hatton, founder and CEO of specialist job board Evenbreak, answered this question at the Neurodiversity at Work event last August. Hatton will return to share insights on how to attract, recruit and progress neurodiverse talent at the event on 22 February. Register to attend.

Hatton, a disabled social entrepreneur, has worked in disability inclusion since 1990. Building on her experience, she revealed that candidates say they don't know which employers will take them seriously. “Some employers are really on board with neurodiversity inclusion, but others still see it as a problem,” she said, before walking delegates through some of the best practices for attracting and recruiting neurodiverse talent.

For Hatton, understanding the social model of disability is key to reviewing each section of an organisation's recruitment process — right from identifying the vacancy through to the onboarding and induction. “Organisations should try to see what the barriers might be for neurodiverse candidates,” she explained, noting if organisations want this talent, what they have to do is remove those barriers. “The last thing you want to do is try and get neurodiverse people to try and conform to what we think is ‘acceptable’ or ‘normal’ — whatever those awful words are,” she added.

Hatton also noted that this isn't about avoiding litigation but making sure that the organisation can attract and then make the best use of neurodiverse talent. She explained: “We could do all sorts of things that could avoid us being sued, but still not really get the benefit of all of that talent that's out there.”

Looking at the traditional recruitment approach, Hatton revealed that the most common mistake organisations make when a vacancy arises is to seek a like-for-like replacement. For example, what tends to happen when Colin leaves the organisation – someone who is liked and has performed extraordinarily – the old job advert and role description is used for the new recruitment process. For Hatton, that means that organisations are missing out on a huge opportunity.

“When a job becomes vacant, it's a really good opportunity to review that job description, review how things might have changed, and how the vacancy could use as an opportunity to make the organisation more diverse,” said Hatton.

There were several best-practice tips that Hatton shared, and the following are the top three recommendations:

  • Future-proof the organisation with an up-to-date job design. Reflect on any of the changes that the organisation might have had recently and adapt the job description to meet the new reality.
  • Don’t demand everything of everybody – team player, ability to work on their own, attention to detail, creative and blue-sky thinking – but most roles don't need all of those things. Think about what does this role really require of the person who's going to be carrying it out?
  • Don’t say that you are an equal opportunities employer. Publish job adverts that genuinely reflects why the organisation wants diversity and what are you willing to do to welcome neurodiversity.

Jane Hatton will be speaking at Neurodiversity at Work on 22 February 2022. Join us to receive the full range of top tips for attracting, recruiting, and retaining neurodiverse talent. Register to attend.

Other sessions you don’t want to miss:

  • 'The Neurodiversity Paradigm': neurodiversity as workplace asset rather than obstacle
  • Starting up and setting out: how to include neurodiverse talent when launching a new project
  • Intersectionality at Work: understanding how neurodiversity and other diversity dimensions can intersect


Murielle Gonzalez, content strategy manager at Dods Diversity & Inclusion, is an experienced journalist and editor. She can be reached on murielle.gonzalez@dodsgroup.com.

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