I'm job hunting again because, in my current job, things went horribly.

People were not being aware of my Aspergers or of its impact and so I was on a team that simply was unhealthy for me. I'm looking for a company that is able to get along with me on long terms. It is clearly set for me that I will tell interviewers about my condition, to prevent getting in a situation like I'm in now, again.

The 2 major points I identified so far as problematic here, are when talking about the work of others, I come across as very critical without actually intending to do so. So others generally get very defensive towards my ideas or when I try to get help understanding something.

I'm not trying to justify this behavior in any way, but I would like to clearly communicate that things like this might happen, and that they are a consequence of my Aspergers, not just the "personality traits of a troublemaker". I'm working on this with a therapist, but for now, I have to convey that I need people that can understand this as something that "just happens" and that I'm working very hard on it to prevent it from happening.

The second problematic point is understanding tasks assigned to me correctly, as described in How to make sure I understood a work assignment correctly?.

I'd like to communicate to a future employer that things like this might happen, but also make them understand that there are ways we can work on these situations.

I don't want to dictate how I have to be handled. I want to explain/ask that I need a very structured working environment to be most efficient, that they have to consider my Aspergers when planning to let me work for them as it might affect my performance tremendously. Once there is a working routine set up I can/could rely on, I will be very efficient. Furthermore, especially such an achievement would be very attractive for me to stay with a company on the long term.

I would really like to communicate all this in an interview, without making it appear like a demand. I think I communicate ok verbally, but I fear I might express nonverbally something different and hence the verbal part could be not strong enough. So, given all this, I'd like to ask:

How can I convey this message in an interview, without appearing like I'm demanding them to hassle around with that?

Be extremely clear about your behavior. Your post is loaded with examples too - and you did a great job elucidating your behavior and concerns, so it's a matter of verbally communicating what you wrote:

I come across as very critical

You will have to accept this may be a red flag for some companies. In a small environment where engineers do some sales, the company will probably pass. Bigger or medium-sized companies with small niches would be excellent.

but for now, I have to convey that I need people that can understand this as something that 'just happens' and that I'm working very hard on it to prevent it from happening

This is very honest and understand you're asking a lot of others.

I want to explain/ask that I need a very structured working environment to be most efficient

Medium-sized to large companies may be a great choice. One frustration of big companies is how structured a job is with little freedom. For you, this may be good.

I would really like to communicate all this in an interview

You've provided some great requests. Get an example for each request (What does a structured working environment look like to you? What is an example of you coming off as critical? How should people understand that you're not being critical? Paint a visual picture of each request.) and be honest and upfront while accepting that you may be an unattractive candidate for some environments. Provided that you're clear and honest, like you were with your post, this should help you filter out companies that wouldn't be a good fit.

I've never had to actually communicate special needs when interviewing. But, like maybe most of other 'normal' people, I have had to answer questions about 'my bad habits/character traits' in an interview. I think the general rules I used to navigate such questions might also apply for communicating a special need.

How can I convey this message in an interview, without appearing like I'm demanding them to hassle around with that?

Basically, it all boils down to:

  • Admit you're bad at something (or, in this case, that there's a special need to consider). Be honest about it, there's no use in concealing it because they will find out anyway.
  • Also mention that you're aware of this, and working on solving this problem.
  • Tell a little about what you're exactly doing to handle the problem, and how much improvement you think is possible. Don't go running around stating 'it can be fixed completely'. A bad character trait will show sometimes, and a special need will never disappear.
  • Don't belittle your problems, but make sure that anything positive about it shines like a beacon in the darkness. If you're provided with a good environment, you can be very efficient and a very good asset to the company. If they're willing to invest some time/energy in you (and you're willing to learn), there's something to gain for both of you.

With regard to the 2 points you mentioned in your question, this means the following:

  • Make sure you mention that you're seeing a therapist for this, and be honest about the prospects: Although you're working very hard on 'fixing' this, there's no promise it will be fixed in 3 months time (or even a year). Furthermore, stressing that a therapist is involved will convey that your special needs are indeed a consequence of your Aspergers, not 'just' some bad personality trait and that you're working very hard on 'solving' or 'being able to manage' this.
  • If there is anything that you would like your co-workers to try with regards to 'how to handle' this, make sure to mention this in the conversation with the recruiter. For point 1, Maybe then you can do a 'twist' on this: Have co-workers tell you that you're sounding critical again and/or have them ask 'Was that a critique, an idea or a question?'. Only do this if you can stand that to hear that multiple times a day! For point 2, I've also written an answer to your question about that. Giving possible solutions for the problem emphasizes that you're working on it, and this way the workplace doesn't have to come up with solutions for you (or tolerate any bad behavior from your side), only facilitate you.
  • If there is no solution that's 'set in stone' yet (if you are proposing a solution that you haven't tried yet), make sure you make the recruiter aware of this. To make a comparison with a more known special need: You're basically asking them to supply a wheel-chair ramp for now, but it might later turn out you'll need an elevator or that you can take the stairs, as long as the steps are lowered in height. Make sure they understand that your needs may vary over time.
  • Make very, very sure to tell them that if their work-culture can handle this, and take your special needs into account, that you can be a very effective employee. What might help here is to point out some work-experience, however small, that proves this. Maybe you can show off some thing you have achieved while the environment was 'right'?

In general, as long as you tell all this calmly (think of it as 'explaining something to a child', not as 'defending yourself against this unknowing recruiter') you should be as fine as can be when disclosing your special needs.

Also, since you're seeing a therapist: maybe you can practice this with them/ maybe they have some tips on how to do this as well. I can imagine your therapist has helped more people with this. Your therapist might have some resources available, know some places where they are generally more accepting of Aspergers or know laws that you can use to your advantage.

A job interview is about communicating enough in order to establish whether the two parties fit (or not).

I'd avoid putting labels on things like mentioning Asperger. It is tied to prejudice and may do more to muddy the waters than to explain, and there are of course as many versions as there are people having it (actually, being it).

I'd like to suggest that you clearly state in which situations you shine, and where your challenges are.

Your talents I leave to you, and I think there are plenty scalps on your belt.

Your challenges come across clearly as well, including your approaches to compensate (the communication is complete only when the message is received and understood, and repeating back in your own words is the basic feedback loop).

In case you have trouble explaining verbally perhaps write a brief and bring it to the interview where it can be perused and discussed.

Go at it!

[edit] For the comment about being relentlessly critical:
I myself am a perfectionist and regard any result as the staging point for new improvements. I handle this by ONLY giving feedback when asked. And I warn beforehand that I'll put salt on every single titbit. And I check back to see if it triggered irritation. Being a solid review guy I explain this by stating that either I do this right or not at all, everything else is a waste of (valuable) time. I explicitly leave the reviewee free to follow up or lay aside.

I did however learn when someone is asking for positive confirmation. I never lie. I find something (trivial?) positive to say in such a case.

DO know that there are shops out there who would splurge to obtain such a talent. [/edit]

  • I strongly agree with this answer. People will get confused more than anything given a medical condition. It is much better to be addressed as a shortcoming. – clark Oct 17 '17 at 21:30
  • @clark: Previously I would have agreed, but my experiences had been so far, that no one belives that I can't change being critical. If I say "I'm critical, but I don't even intend it to be like this, so it has to be taken as something that just happens, but I'm working hard on it.". No one I met was able to realy belive that. People tend to give me tips, that don't realy work for me and when I explain then WHY that doesn't work for me, They get the impression I'm just too lazy to implement their tips into my behavior. Conclusion, not mentioning the medical condition could make me appear lazy. – dhein Oct 18 '17 at 4:11

There is not enough evidence in your post to rule out the possibility that you simply got hired to work with a flawed or non-receptive team. Many people land in jobs where they do not fit. The cure for that is to move on (as you are doing) until you are happy. You express yourself clearly here, and seem thoughtful. If you express yourself like this where you work and they are not receptive to it, it may be on them.

I am unsure it is wise to directly bring this up in an interview. Especially if your condition is not considered a protected class in your country. It would be good to demonstrate who you are by speaking honestly in the manner you usually speak. But presenting it as a problem may just add a negative impression that would not otherwise be there. I for one, treasure extremely direct feedback. And I've met plenty of company leaders who do also.

Most interviews will include a question about your weaknesses and how you address them. That might be a good time to mention that you can be very direct to the extent that some take offense. And that you are working on learning ways to communicate that sort of important information while softening the blow when it is a criticism of others work.

In summary, there are many jobs out there with many different needs and expectations. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and some very successful people have weaknesses vastly worse than you describe. I understand that Steve Jobs was incredibly direct with zero concern for rudeness, and it is a big reason for his success. If you are authentic in your interviews, you are acting in good faith. And the interviewer should get a good sense of who you are without the need for presenting any of your characteristics as negative and with a label.

To satisfy the other part of your concern... Making sure the job is a good fit for you, you must ask the interviewer about how open discussions are. How direct people can be without offending others when raising issues. From what you say, there are companies out there that would be a good fit. And would consider your directness a strength. You just need to keep looking until you find one.

Finally, you should understand that no one fully knows how good a fit will be at the point of hiring. Absent evidence that a job is a bad fit, you should simply (within the bounds of ethics and good faith) try to get hired. This puts you in control, and you can then determine if or how long you want to stay. If you block yourself from getting hired in the first place by advertising your perceived flaws, then you lose that control. And you may miss out on a really good position. It's not your job to help the recruiter find reasons to not hire you. Act in your own self interest, and let them act in theirs.

Just literally show your future employer the 2nd to last paragraph that you wrote as it says all they need to know in a great way:

I don't want to dictate how I have to be handled. I want to explain/ask that I need a very structured working environment to be most efficient, that they have to consider my Aspergers when planning to let me work for them as it might affect my performance tremendously. Once there is a working routine set up I can/could rely on, I will be very efficient. Furthermore, especially such an achievement would be very attractive for me to stay with a company on the long term.

You should also highlight the positive differentiators that would still make them consider you if someone equally suitable but without Aspergers is also being considered, for example, you could mention that as a result of your disability you are extremely detail oriented, so you naturally produce higher quality work and produce less mistakes than others.

  • You could put a ">" in front of the paragraph you quoted to put it in a yellow quote box. – Imus Apr 20 at 7:00

I realize this is an old question, but my answer is a little different.
I don't know much about Aspergers, but if you have difficulty with social situations, and a tendency to take things too literally, which leads to communication problems - this may help.

My take on this:

Do general interview preparation. Most of your answers should be the same as if you didn't have Aspergers (goals, experience, technical questions, previous work, etc.)

Interviewing has a tighter set of social rules, I expect this will work to your advantage (easier for you to navigate than 'general human interaction').

Pay special attention to answering these three very common areas - tell me your strengths - tell me your weaknesses - "Is there anything else that we should know?"

strengths/weaknesses
You've already done a great job explaining these in your question. Memorize an outline so it comes across the same way you wrote it. Practice, then practice more in front of people. Try Toastmasters International (toastmasters.org) - an interview is a lot like public speaking, and they will give you honest feedback.

If you want to reveal your diagnosis (I'm not saying you should but you seem to want to) the time for it is at the END of the interview.

You FIRST want to put your best foot forward.
If you say that early, before they are comfortable, they will be watching you more closely the rest of the time. Minor things that they would have passed off as nervousness will have a label instead.

Hope that helps someone

I've conducted bunches of interviews over the years (in the US), and I'm also somebody with some special needs.

I don't want to dictate how I have to be handled. I want to explain/ask that I need a very structured working environment to be most efficient, that they have to consider my Aspergers when planning to let me work for them as it might affect my performance tremendously.

Tread very carefully here. This sounds an awful lot like "you have to accept my poor performance because of this condition". The law in the US (I don't know about other places) is that employers can't discriminate about things that aren't key job functions. To pick some extreme examples, they are not required to hire a blind person as a driver or somebody with a fatigue or muscular problem to work on a loading dock moving heavy loads. Now you can do the job, unlike my examples, but if you say what you proposed, you're saying that you can't do it well. That's not what you want to convey (and it's probably not correct either).

In an interview, instead of presenting your needs, you should ask questions that will tell you whether the position is compatible with your needs. Don't say "I need a very structured working environment"; ask questions about how work is structured, how tasks are tracked and managed, and how they handle ad-hoc/pop-up tasks. An interview question like this starts a conversation, during which you can say something like "I'm looking for a structured environment" or "I do best with a structured environment". (If you can be more specific than "structured environment", do so. As an interviewer I can imagine all sorts of things you might mean by that; don't make your interviewers guess.)

During the interview you will be asked questions about your past work. When you answer questions you can both mention what you struggle with and show why it's not a problem. "Behavioral" questions are especially good for this; those are the ones of the form "tell me about a time when you had a conflict with a peer" or "tell me about a time when you couldn't meet a deadline". These questions invite you to tell a story, during which you can say something like "I sometimes come across as overly critical, which I'm working to correct, so when I realized that Bob was reacting to that, I was able to (something you did to clarify and mitigate)" or "I was struggling because some late requirements changes meant a lot of new work and I worried about doing it well, so I asked the product manager about priorities and it turned out that this one big thing was being driven by one customer and we could give them a patch after the general release".

If you talk about your condition, do it in a context where you also show that it's not going to hurt them to have you on the team. Show them (through descriptions of past actions) that you are going to take the initiative to address issues that come up, that you're not going to be one of those people who expects everybody else to work around you and makes excuses for under-performing.

Does the industry you work in have "Head Hunters" or a similar way of recruiting agencies?

If yes, this may be the way to go for you. Explain them what you need, they will hopefully already filter out really bad fits. This takes away the burden of going through many exhausting interviews with no results.

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.