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Benefits of hiring neurodivergent hidden workers in tech


Coined by Harvard Business Review, the term “hidden workers” is both wonderfully apt and a bit of a misnomer. At first glance, you might mistake the phrase as being tantamount to potential workers who are flying under the radar of employment by choice. 

What are hidden workers?

Hidden workers are unemployed or underemployed individuals who are eager to work. Or if they are working, to increase their hours, skills, and opportunities. They are referred to as “hidden” not because they’re hiding, but because inefficient and biased recruiting practices are hiding these people from view. 

Workers are hiding in plain sight. The fact that hidden talent populations aren’t getting hired at a greater rate is a case of companies being blinded by antiquated practices and artificial intelligence (AI) system bias – not so much the individuals being hard to find.

The backgrounds of hidden workers

The authors of Hidden Workers: Untapped Talent found that hidden workers come from very diverse backgrounds, including:

  • Caregivers
  • Veterans
  • Immigrants and refugees
  • The physically disabled
  • Partners of relocated workers
  • People with mental health or neurodiversity challenges
  • People from less-advantaged populations
  • Previously incarcerated individuals
  • People without traditional qualifications

Of course, these categories aren’t mutually exclusive. For instance, people from less-advantaged populations may not have traditional qualifications. And veterans may have mental health challenges or physical disabilities.

Suggested resource for talent sourcing: How you can uncover opportunities in the new talent landscape

Overcoming the talent shortage

In bygone employer-driven labor markets where unemployment was high, qualified candidates were plentiful. Jobs were few and far between, and employers didn’t necessarily feel the need to consider hidden talent pools.

But in today’s candidate-driven market, we’re experiencing a significant talent shortage as a result of several factors, including (but not limited to) COVID-19, the Great Resignation, the Great Retirement, and declining birth rates. We’re not replacing workers as fast as we’re losing them.

Due to this talent shortage and the recent emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) hiring initiatives, it’s time to rethink your recruiting practices to attract hidden workers who have a lot to offer their employers. 

In the words of Henry Ford, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” Isn’t the point of business and life to grow, adapt, and develop? Changing your procedures, processes, and systems is one way to do this.

5 benefits of recruiting neurodivergent candidates in tech fields

There are plenty of benefits for your organization to recruiting neurodiverse job candidates. Tech companies, in particular, have found that hiring neurodivergent hidden talent not only helps fill their empty offices but also offers them a competitive edge in the marketplace. 

By focusing on skills rather than surface qualifications, you can be part of improving your organization’s productivity, retention, and bottom line. Here are five benefits.

Your vacancies will be filled

Technology and science jobs in the United States already outnumbered qualified candidates by almost three million back in 2016. By 2030, experts predict a global shortage of more than 85 million tech workers. 

An estimated one out of seven people have a neurodivergent condition. Consider the current adult population of the United States is around 258 million and that neurodivergent unemployment rates run as high as 80%. You’re looking at a possible 30 million people with neurological differences who could potentially fill tech roles. 

We can’t assume all 30 million of them would want or qualify for tech jobs, of course. But many neurodiverse individuals are uniquely suited for the tech industry.

Your team becomes more focused

According to tech expert and diversity champion Perrine Farque, neurodivergent employees have a knack for maintaining concentration over longer periods of time than their neurotypical counterparts. 

These individuals also tend to outperform neurotypical people on repetitive tasks, making them ideal candidates for jobs in fields like software QA, image analysis, or cybersecurity.

Information is processed better

Research has found that neurodiverse individuals process information better and is adept at perceiving essential information. They’re also particularly gifted at pattern recognition and spotting irregularities.

See higher productivity and fewer errors

Professionals in the JPMorgan Chase Autism at Work initiative, perhaps due to their eye for detail and superior ability to concentrate, make fewer errors than those outside the initiative. These individuals are also 90-140% more productive than neurotypical employees.

See better retention rates

Did you know that SAP, JPMorgan Chase, Microsoft, and EY have the four largest autism hiring programs? They all have retention rates over 90% higher than their competitors. 

Perhaps these high numbers are in part due to the ability of neurodivergent individuals to focus and stick to a task. These workers also may enjoy more job satisfaction because of the unfortunate and unfair difficulties they’ve traditionally encountered.

How to find neurodivergent hidden workers

Remember, hidden workers aren’t hiding – you just can’t see them. The most important step you can take is to determine the culprits within your policies and processes that are keeping them hidden from view. Simple changes could be all that’s needed to uncover these hidden gems and make the hiring process more comfortable for them.

Suggested resource for neurodivergent hiring: Neurodivergent talent: the new frontier in diversity hiring

Disable AI recruiting bias

Many companies rely on AI sourcing solutions to keep them from having to manually sift through stacks of resumes. These solutions save time, but you may have unintentionally created an AI hiring bias. 

Look at the parameters you’ve built into your AI that might discourage or disqualify neurodiverse applicants. Is your applicant tracking system (ATS) configured to weed out candidates who don’t fit a specific profile? Are you placing too much emphasis on degrees, certifications, experience, titles, or consistent employment? Note the measurable skills and abilities you’re looking for and find a way to change your filters to be based on those.

Adjust your hiring practices

What makes a good candidate? A firm handshake, eye contact, and an easy manner always doesn’t always translate to the best job performance. Similarly, a resume doesn’t always tell the whole story. 

When you’re open-minded about hiring neurodiverse applicants, you may need to adjust your application questions and interview practices. Pinpoint the attributes and aptitudes that really matter, and then adjust your expectations.

Use non-threatening language

We see this all the time. If your job description indicates you’re seeking a “team player” who is great with “interpersonal relationships,” and has great “people skills,” you may be scaring off neurodiverse candidates who are completely capable but are uncomfortable in some social contexts. Zero in on what you really need and be specific when describing job requirements.

Ready to get the competitive edge?

Diversity initiatives are no longer a “nice to have” – they’re a must for companies of all sizes.

Suggested reading on diversity hiring: Blueprint to drive DEI hiring in the workplace

At Leoforce, we recognize the need for your organizations to make data-backed hiring decisions and limit biases in your recruiting processes. Our AI recruiting platform, Arya, continues to get smarter over time, minimizing human bias and gut-feel reactions while accelerating diversity initiatives.

Request a personal demo of Arya Quantum to unlock the universe of talent and optimize your recruiting efficiency with data-driven AI.


  • https://hbr.org/2020/12/how-businesses-can-find-hidden-workers
  • https://www.investopedia.com/the-great-resignation-5199074
  • https://www.ft.com/content/ea9ca374-6780-11ea-800d-da70cff6e4d3
  • https://www.ey.com/en_gl/forensic-integrity-services/how-to-get-the-benefits-of-a-neurodiverse-workforce
  • https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-neurodivergent-talents-competitive-advantage-tech-perrine/
  • https://www.texthelp.com/resources/blog/12-neurodiversity-strengths-that-come-from-thinking-differently/
  • https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2019/03/global-competition-for-technology-workers-costa.htm

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