Fourteen of the employees at EY, the consulting firm formerly known as Ernst & Young, probably wouldn’t have made it past a standard job interview.
“They don’t look at you in the eye, and in a traditional interview you would say, this is not a good candidate,” explained EY director Hiren Shukla, during an interview at the Aspen Ideas Festival.
That’s because those 14 have the high-functioning form of autism known as Asperger’s syndrome, which is characterized by difficulties with social interaction.
Shukla leads EY’s neurodiversity program, a small—at least for now—initiative by the firm to recruit and hire people on the spectrum to work on data-heavy tasks like process improvement and cybersecurity. Instead of checking for a firm handshake and can-do smile during an hourlong meeting, EY takes these job candidates through a two-week process that combines virtual interaction and an in-house “superweek” of team building and skills assessment. During that week, EY tries to acclimate the individuals to the office environment. Those who “pass” get job offers.
Since the program began 15 months ago, Shukla and his colleagues have learned a lot about how to run a workplace in which mildly autistic people work alongside so-called “neurotypical” individuals.