The National Autistic Society have published a video about interviews. I recently went through having to attend multiple interviews having given up my job of 12 years. It was a terrifying experience, but I got through it with the help of Bristol Mental Health employment service.
I was so scared about the first interview I was offered I did no preparation, I tried to push the thoughts of it under the carpet and completely refused to acknowledge it was happening. As a result I had a huge panic the night before and really struggled on the day as I was completely ill prepared. I decided things needed to change after that experience. So for each interview after that I tried to prepare by creating a ‘crib sheet’ well in advance of the interview date. The sheet included a map of where the interview was, the time of the interview and the name of the interviewing people. Beneath that I then included some key points about the organisation and also some examples of how I met some of their competencies. I kept it brief,so it would be easy to refer to. Not all interviews will let you take in notes, but I always asked at the start of the interview if it was okay, and most didn’t mind. I would only refer back to them if I was stuck for an answer. I also reviewed my application form the night before and took it with me to read whilst I was waiting to be seen. Some interviewers will ask you questions directly related to your application form, so it’s helpful to be familiar with what you have written down.
The interview itself
What’s worth bearing in mind is that the people interviewing you are likely to be just as anxious. There is no harm in taking your time to pause, to think and consider your answer. If you’ve not understood a question, ask them to repeat it. If you get halfway through an answer and lose track, ask them to repeat the question again. I would always have a question to ask them as well, generally about what development or training opportunities they might offer as this makes you sound like you are someone to is keen to learn, which is a good skill to have as an employee. It’s also worth looking up some practice questions – for large organisations such as the NHS there are likely to be questions people have shared on the internet. You can either practice answering them yourself or what can be even more useful is to ask a friend or family member to interview you. This makes it all feel a bit more natural when you have to do it for real. Take some time to think about all the positive things you have offer to a role and try to focus on those rather than the negatives.
If you do find yourself faced with a question about where something hasn’t gone well try and put a positive spin on it where possible. For example, I was once asked to give an example of where I’d had difficulty working as part of a team. I explained that I’d had difficulty working on a particular task where there were lots of strong personalities, I felt intimidated and struggled. I sought guidance from my manager who was able to deal with some of the issues which weren’t down to me to handle, he was also able to reassure me that the difficulties weren’t unique to me, which made me feel better. I also made sure that I prepared well for the meetings with those people as if I was prepared it was easier to deal with. The example I gave showed that I was able to seek support and guidance where appropriate.
Another thing to think about is what is triggering your anxiety about the interview. For my job I am doing now it listed in my letter that I’d have to do an audio typing test. I nearly didn’t attend my interview as I’ve never audio typed before and thought there would be no point in me trying, when I applied for the job I hadn’t realised this would be part of my role. In the end (after lots of procrastination!) I phoned the organisation up and they reassured me that it would only be a small part of my job and they would provide full training. If you aren’t sure about the tests they might be doing during the interview it’s always worth calling or emailing them to to see if they will give you further information. Getting to new places on time also makes me very anxious, so I would ask a family member to take me to the interview if they were able to, I know this sounds a bit silly, but if I could reduce the anxiety of getting somewhere on time and finding the right place it would mean I’d be much more relaxed for the interview. It can also be helpful to go and see where it is on a different day so you can become familiar with the route to take if you have to go on your own.
Adjustments and support
Reasonable adjustments are another key thing to bear in mind. People often think they only apply to when you are in a job, but this is incorrect, they also apply to the interview process. If you choose to make the employer aware of your condition in advance of the interview they may be able to make some adjustments to make the interview process easier for you. There’s some good example of adjustments on the National Autistic Society Website.
If you don’t get the job
Try not to feel disheartened if you don’t get offered the position, the job market can be very competitive and it’s a great achievement to be offered an interview in the first place. If you feel able to, request some written feedback regarding your interview. If you receive the decision in writing make you thank the employer for seeing you when you ask for feedback, as you may apply for other positions with them and it is good to continue to make a good impression even at the end of the process. Going back to my point about support from the employment service, it really helped me to have someone to talk to when I felt things had gone wrong as it’s always good to get someone else’s perspective and to have someone in your corner offering encouragement.