Your web browser is outdated and may be insecure

The RCN recommends using an updated browser such as Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome

Inclusive recruitment

Guidance on recruitment processes for Neurodiverse healthcare professionals and their recruiters.

On this page we will explore how to make job application and interview processes more inclusive for those who are neurodiverse.

It is a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments for candidates meeting the legal definition of disability. Beyond this, accommodating difference ensures that employers can access the best talent when recruiting and is appealing to job seekers.

The onus is on candidates to request adjustments (even if applying within an existing employer it can’t be assumed that needs are known). But the recruitment process can be made more neurodiverse ‘friendly’ and processes to discuss additional adjustments made welcoming and easy. An individual approach to support should be taken whenever possible, there isn’t a checklist that when met ensures all needs are met.

One of the most common concerns members of the peer support service present with is disclosing during recruitment. There is a lot of fear around explaining gaps in employment due to ill health and discussing a health condition or disability. Despite the prevalence of neurodiversity in society, disclosing can still cause difficulties. This needs to change and in nursing, recruitment and retention of neurodiverse staff is essential for safe and effective staffing.

For managers

Make it clear that you welcome applications from neurodiverse staff and those who may need reasonable adjustments. These candidates will often try to find out how inclusive your organisation is before applying so a section on your public facing website about what you are doing around equality and inclusion is a good idea to attract diverse talent.

Scrutinise your processes from advert to application to booking and undertaking interview. Use feedback from candidates and involve your staff disability / staff neurodiversity network. Do colleagues in recruitment roles need (experience led) awareness training to be confident supporting neurodivergent applicants? Once satisfied with your processes, schedule reviews at agreed intervals.

  • Make sure that the job description is clear, easy to read and ideally in a word document to make text to speech conversion easier.
  • Make sure your website meets accessibility requirements and your fonts are accessible.
  • Ensure that contact details for further support prominently advertised. Have more than one way to contact eg. Telephone and email.

  • Send out clear information about the interview process well in advance, considering neurodiverse candidates may require extra time to prepare.
  • Ask candidates if they require any reasonable adjustments including extra time for any tests, assistive technology, or a separate room.
  • Consider alternatives to traditional interviews such as work-based trials or work-related tasks. Remember, you are trying to find the right person for the job; not someone who is good at interviews.
  • Allow interviewees sufficient time to process in the interview.
  • Ask one question at a time and make sure that questions are worded clearly. If your question has more than one part, ask one part at a time, allowing interviewees to answer each part separately.
  • Provide pen and paper for note taking.
  • Consider giving questions out in advance.
  • Consider that stress and anxiety caused by the interview process can make difficulties caused by neurodiversity worse and what you see in the interview may not be a true representation of the person's ability and what they can bring to your team.
illustration of three nursing staff in uniform

ND reading list

Some recommended reading on Neurodiversity from the RCN library.            

For Neurodiverse candidates

It is worth spending some time thinking about what you want to get across in interview and where your neurodiversity fits. Many neurodiverse members joining the peer support service describe it as a key part of them - so why not celebrate that at interview? However, you should feel comfortable and are not obligated to disclose. You are entitled to reasonable adjustments and don't forget that this is an opportunity for you to interview your prospective employer about their commitment to inclusion and diversity. If the recruitment process or their attitudes towards accommodating reasonable adjustments is poor, perhaps they are not the right fit for you.

  • Consider if the job fits well with your strengths and your values and priorities as well as any difficulties you might experience.
  • Read the job description and person specification thoroughly, this will help you consider what you might write on the application form and what you might need to prepare for interview.
  • Ask someone to proof-read your application prior to submission.
  • Make sure that you have adhered to the word counts and any additional documents that need to be included have been attached to the application.
  • Employers may offer a guaranteed interview scheme meaning disabled candidates meeting the essential criteria are interviewed. This is part of Disability Confident.
  • Don't forget that our Careers Service can support you with CV and supporting statement reviews and careers coaching - ideally contact them before you apply for roles as the service does get busy. 

  • Decide if you are going to disclose your neurodiversity and if so when.
  • If you require reasonable adjustments at interview, you will need to request these in advance.However this doesn't mean you can then be asked about your 'disability' in interview unless it is to discuss essential parts of the role that the employer anticipates cannot be met with reasonable adjustments. 
  • If you want to arrange reasonable adjustments for interview and are not contacted automatically by the employer contact the HR department or interview contact.
  • Email summaries of your requests are a helpful record in case of any issues later on. 
  • Consider the positive aspects of your neurodiversity and be prepared to discuss these and how you have overcome any difficulties in the past.
  • A solutions based approach to the challenges you anticipate in the role shows that you are thinking about how you would work in the role. 
  • If you have any gaps in your employment history or have moved on from jobs that did not work for you, consider how you will discuss these. Do not forget to mention what you learnt from these experiences and if you did any alternative training or volunteer work in any employment gaps.
  • When it is your turn to ask questions, you may want to explore how inclusive the organisation is and if they have a disability and/or neurodiversity staff network. 

Discrimination 

If you are refused reasonable adjustments at interview or feel you have been turned down for a role because you are neurodiverse, this may be discrimination. The RCN can advise you further on this. It can be more difficult to prove discrimination during recruitment (email trails as mentioned above can help) and some people don't feel they have the energy to pursue a case. But there can be great learning for employers when challenged on discriminatory processes that lead to improvements. 

Careers Service

Get help with writing your CV, preparing for interviews, planning your career and more.