Tapping Neurodiverse Candidates Can Address Cybersecurity Skills Shortage

Tapping Neurodiverse Candidates Can Address Cybersecurity Skills Shortage


Although neurodiverse candidates do not fit the traditional mold of applicants, they can often stand out in a highly focused analytical work.

At a time when there are countless uncovered cybersecurity sites around the world, too many companies overlook neurodiverse candidates in their hiring processes. This is a huge mistake, as people with autism, dyslexia, and other conditions often have skills that are well-suited to cybersecurity work. These skills include the ability to concentrate, the ability to recognize anomalies, and great determination.

People with ADHD, for example, are able to focus on certain tasks, while people with autism can process complex, detail-oriented tasks and have above-average memory abilities.

However, neurodiverse people generally do not excel when it comes to acquiring certifications, common requirements for most cybersecurity jobs. Presenting a polished person in an interview is another thing they can struggle with.

In addition, interviewing neurodiverse candidates can be challenging, as they tend to avoid eye contact, sometimes struggle to communicate, and may be overwhelmed by unknown circumstances. They may also have difficulty communicating with groups of people in a panel interview. All of this is usually seen as “badly interviewed.”

If the cybersecurity industry wants to fill much-needed jobs, recruitment managers and recruiters must launch their networks beyond the sea of ​​candidates who specify “fit the mold”. The industry needs to pay attention to the practical and innate skills of all applicants, including neurodiverse candidates.

Learn from big companies

Many leading companies, including EY, Google, and Microsoft, have recruitment and training programs for neurodiverse populations.

One of the first major organizations to take neurodiversity seriously was EY, which established its Neuro-Diverse Center of Excellence in 2016.

In 2020, EY noted that “We evolved our recruitment, incorporation and training processes to meet the needs of neurodiverse people. The deliberate changes allowed these talented professionals the opportunity to demonstrate their technological insight, aptitude and interest. “.

At the time, EY added that it had a retention rate of 92 percent.

Microsoft’s Neurodiversity Recruitment Program was created with the belief that neurodiverse people strengthen a workforce with innovative thinking and creative solutions. The company believes that diverse teams have a positive impact on Microsoft’s culture, work environment, and the way it serves its customers.

Last year, Google launched the Google Cloud Autism Career Program, looking for ways to break down the barriers that autism candidates face most often. In addition to bias, the company noted that there may be challenges with how interviews are conducted or conducted without the right tools. For these reasons, Google said it will offer neurodiverse candidates reasonable accommodations, such as extended interview time, pre-interview questions, and written interviews in a Google document rather than verbally.

Tips for hiring and evaluating neurodiverse candidates

It is clear that neurodiverse candidates do not conform to the traditional mold of applicants with university degrees and technology certifications. To level the playing field for hiring neurodiverse candidates as they strive to find the best person for a job, hiring managers and recruiters need to change their mindset and practices.

Some tips:

Remove all biases – Don’t worry about people with ADHD, dyslexia, etc. Focus on what the candidates are good at, not what they lack. Look for practical, non-certified skills, and look for candidates who are passionate about what they do.

Break down recruitment barriers – Change the interview process. Make it more friendly with neurodiverse candidates, who probably don’t have sophisticated social skills and may not have a diploma in their name. For example, group interviews are not a good tool for evaluating candidates for neurodiverse work.

Consider adopting the Google approach (described in the previous section) which is not designed to give neurodiverse candidates an unfair advantage, but to eliminate unfair disadvantages so that candidates can have a fair chance to compete for a job.

Be welcoming to everyone – Neurodiverse people usually like routine and structure, so make sure everyone is welcome from the start. Describe what their responsibilities will be and what they are expected to do. If you are remote, do not force them to make video calls, if you are in the office do not have hot tables, but a desk for them and provide quiet areas. You have training and incorporation that they can follow at their own pace, not in the classroom and communicate with them in a comfortable way.

Focused on assessing practical skills – Change the emphasis on hiring the necessary qualifications to vital skills. Too often, recruiters ignore candidates who do not tick all the boxes and therefore do not consider the potential of those with excellent practical and other skills. To address this shortcoming, recruiters should conduct tests that assess the capabilities of the job function.

There are two instant benefits to doing so. First, companies can quickly eliminate people who are not passionate about what they do. Second, companies can find out what candidates are really good at, hire them, and train them accordingly. This can help change the corporate mindset from “yes or no” to “give that person a chance” and “create a job” that suits their talents.

Cybersecurity teams need to be much more inclusive in their hiring processes if they want to hire the best people and have loyal staff. Often, the same people who are overlooked, those who have some kind of neurodiversity, may prove to be the most likely to excel in highly focused analytical work. Clearly, more hiring managers and recruiters need to change their mindsets and practices.

Related: Leveraging neurodiversity within cybersecurity teams

Related: Why diversity of thought is important in the workplace

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Jeff Orloff is vice president of technical products and services for RangeForce, a cybersecurity training company. He has more than ten years of experience in cybersecurity, computer and network security and systems administration. Prior to RangeForce, he was Director of Product and UX Management at COFENSE, a company specializing in email security, phishing detection and response. He also served as technology coordinator for the Florida School District of Palm Beach County.

Earlier columns by Jeff Orloff:
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