After the holidays, Unicus’s consulting manager Salka Salkoharju asked her colleagues how Christmas went. “Badly,” one consultant replied. The tone was neutral, and the topic was not discussed any further. Salkoharju has already learned that you get what you ask for. Colleagues on the autism spectrum may be very straightforward or untalkative.
“Working with them has taught me how many unwritten rules there are in people’s everyday communication,” Salkoharju says.
One such rule concerns the basic question of a job interview “tell me about yourself”. According to Salkoharju, the questioner expects that the answer is related to working life and is tailored to the position and company applied for. A person on the autism spectrum may not recognize what the question is really looking for, but answers the question literally and may tell something completely unrelated to work.
Autism is practically a different brain, as the consulting company Neuromoninaiset puts it. Autism affects a person’s way of perceiving the world, processing information and behaving. The autism spectrum is wide and the manifestation is individual, but according to the Autism Association, its core features include difficulties in interaction and communication as well as sensory over- and under-sensitivity. The autism spectrum belongs to neurodevelopmental disorders or neurodiversity.
Salkoharju sees that everyone can change their communication to make it more understandable and accessible.
“If a task request at work is formulated like “start soon somehow like this”, it is roundabout polite jargon for a person on the autism spectrum. A more precise assignment helps to avoid misunderstandings: where to start from and what is the desired outcome.
Deficient CV can blind the recruiter
Unicus sells coding, software testing and quality assurance services. The company’s line to hire only those on the autism spectrum stems from the fact that according to them, many on the spectrum are logical, analytical and mathematically gifted.
“This makes them very good employees. Software testing, data analytics and data science are areas where accuracy and attention to detail are helpful,” CEO Jukka Mikkonen says.
According to Autismiliitto (the Autism Association), the strengths of the autism spectrum are often good concentration and observation skills, sense of justice and ability to solve even complex problems.
“We are not a charity company. Often, however, the customer buys the first consultant from us because they want to do good. We are motivated to give our consultants the opportunity to show their skills,” Mikkonen continues.