Do College Students with ASD Face Specific Challenges Navigating Job Interviews Relative to Students with Other Disabilities and Students without Disabilities?
Employment challenges faced by individuals with disabilities may be exacerbated for those with ASD (Newman et al., 2011). Difficulty navigating employment interviews may contribute to disparities between the abilities of individuals with ASD and employment outcomes (Hendricks & Wehman, 2009). Interventions have improved the interview skills of adults with ASD (Morgan et al., 2014; Smith et al., 2015). However, these interventions have not used comparison groups to identify challenges specific to people with ASD and have not focused on college students. Although increasing numbers of students with ASD are entering college, evidence-based supports to help college students with ASD remain scarce (Barnhill, 2014). Research is needed to identify both specific challenges that college students with ASD face during job interviews and challenges they share with other students, to develop interventions consistent with the principles of Universal Design.
Compare the interview skills of college students with ASD, students with other disabilities and students without disabilities.
Examine associations between interview performance and autistic symptoms, anxiety, self-esteem, and prior interview experience.
Sixteen college students with ASD, fifteen students with other disabilities, and fourteen students without disabilities engaged in mock employment interviews and completed assessments including the SRS-2, STAI, and Rosenberg’s SES. Verbal responses were coded using non-mutually exclusive codes by two coders who achieved research reliability. Responses were timed in milliseconds. Non-parametric analyses were employed.
Students with ASD reported higher autism symptoms than students with other disabilities (p = .023) or no disabilities (p = .003) and more state anxiety than students with other disabilities (p = .04). Group differences in self esteem and prior interview experience were not observed (ps > .12).
When asked what they look for in a workplace, students with ASD were less likely to mention desiring social interaction than either comparison group (ps < .008).
Most students with ASD (63%) and students with other disabilities (67%) fully disclosed disability status. However, students with ASD (13%) and those with other disabilities (7%) rarely framed disclosure by emphasizing positive aspects of their disabilities. Students with disabilities who reported higher self-esteem (irrespective of ASD classification) disclosed their disability prior to being asked (p = .039).
Students with ASD exhibited longer and more variable durations of responses than those without disabilities (ps = .020). Higher autistic symptoms were associated with longer duration of responses (p = .014).
Responses to many questions in the mock interview did not differ between students with ASD and their peers. Therefore, college students with ASD may benefit from interview skills interventions that include diverse peers and are based on the principles of Universal Design.
Students with disabilities were ineffective in educating the interviewer about strengths associated with their disability. Interventions should include guidance concerning disclosure of disability status during job interviews.
Students with ASD exhibited challenges modulating the length of their responses and rarely expressed interest in social interaction in the workplace. Therefore, interventions should help students with ASD express their viewpoints succinctly while conveying social interest during the interview and/or seeking jobs requiring less interaction with others.