Shaping Job Interviews to Build Diversity May Be a Game Changer
7 November 2018 at 5:12 pm
Building a lego robot is not a usual prerequisite for a career in IT. But for Peter Middleton, a job interview specifically designed to showcase the unique skills and abilities of people with autism has landed him a dream job with the Australian Tax Office.
Middleton, 44, got his break through a groundbreaking partnership between autism support services and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) that helps people with autism land IT jobs – as well as increasing diversity in the department.
Developed by social enterprise Specialisterne Australia and supported by disability employment service EPIC Assist, the unusual interview process was designed to support people on the autism spectrum to build and flourish in careers in which they can make the most of their particular skills.
As part of their interviews, participants were asked to demonstrate abilities including programming and building a LEGO Mindstorms robot.
Middleton, who was diagnosed with autism later in life, said that before he had gone through the program, he had found it nearly impossible to find or hold down work.
“I had essentially given up [looking for a job], because success at work always seemed to be an insurmountable challenge,” Middleton said.
But being recruited through a process in which his employer was aware of his differences, would make it much easier to thrive in his work.
“They don’t see my differences as being a bad thing. They are also willing to work with me to resolve any potential obstacles,” he said.
“It’s such a relief to have the fact that I’m different out in the open. It feels like the playing field is finally level, and this is the first time I’ve felt valued.”
EPIC Assist CEO Bill Gamack said the ATO and Specialisterne were driving diversity and showing leadership in this space.
“Programs like these reinforce what is possible when people with disability are given the opportunity to show what they’re capable of,” Gamack said.
The pilot program was launched at the Brisbane ATO office, with nine successful candidates selected out of 74 after a six-week process.
Middleton also said while he found the application process tough, he was able to learn more about himself and his diagnosis.
“I came even further on my journey of acceptance of my diagnosis, and also found my ‘tribe’ and a place where I could ‘just be’,” he said.
ATO in Canberra and Brisbane said they would now follow suit, in an effort to increase levels of diversity and acceptance in their workplaces.
Gamack said he was hopeful other employers would be inspired to follow ATO’s lead, and take on similar initiatives.
“ATO have shown what’s possible when disability is viewed not as a deficit, but as a difference,” he said.
“There’s not one way of doing things, and the sooner we recognise the potential of unique perspectives in a workplace, the better off we’ll all be.”