Why HR should tailor recruitment process to candidates with dyslexia

Businesses stand to gain a lot from dyslexic workers’ different ways of thinking, argues Kate Griggs – yet many companies’ hiring procedures put them at a disadvantage

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LinkedIn, the world’s largest careers platform, recently recognised ‘dyslexic thinking’ as a skill. Its more than 800 million members now have the chance to add this to their profile. This is a huge step forward in the recognition of the incredible strengths dyslexic thinkers bring to the workplace. Now it’s time companies’ recruitment processes caught up.

One in five people are dyslexic, and 78 per cent of them believe recruitment processes put them at a disadvantage. The recruitment process just isn’t designed for dyslexic thinking. It tends to rely on standardised psychometric tests which, due to dyslexic challenges with things like reading, spelling and written learning, can put people with dyslexia at an unfair disadvantage. It also tends not to give them the opportunity to showcase their incredible dyslexic strengths. 

When employers do tailor recruitment processes to dyslexic thinkers, it is transformative. For example, Britain’s digital intelligence agency, GCHQ, actively recruits for dyslexic thinkers because of their unique skill set. The value of dyslexic thinking has been understood by the intelligence community for well over 100 years. In fact, members of GCHQ’s apprenticeship scheme are four times more likely to by dyslexic. 

The head of GCHQ, Jeremy Fleming says: “We see the impact of nation states and terror groups using technology to achieve their harmful agendas. And tackling these challenges requires people who can connect ideas, think visually and use their intuition. These are the qualities we see a lot of in our dyslexic colleagues.”

Studies conducted by my charity Made by Dyslexia, EY and Manpower show dyslexic thinking skills are becoming ever more important to the workplace, as it becomes increasingly fast-paced and automated. In fact, by 2025, 50 per cent of jobs will be done by machines, and the remaining 50 per cent of jobs done by the ‘human workforce’ will require the exact skills that dyslexics have. 

There are so many reasons why dyslexics are brilliant hires. Here are just a few:

We see the big picture

Dyslexic brains are wired differently. The left parietal temporal area of our brains uses different neural pathways. We are naturally good at reasoning, which make us adept at stepping back from the details and seeing the big picture.

We can spot patterns others can’t

While people with dyslexia may struggle with skills like spelling, punctuation and grammar, they are experts at seeing patterns that others can’t. This could be a pattern of behaviour, communication or way to crack a code.

We use our intuition to connect the dots

Dyslexics often talk about having sudden leaps of insight that help them solve problems in an unconventional way. We use our intuition, and while it may look like daydreaming to others, it is actually our brains thinking around a problem and connecting the dots of insight.

We are gifted analysts

The dyslexic mind is extraordinarily good at sifting through large amounts of information and picking out the key parts.

We are brilliant at simplifying

People with dyslexia are adept at understanding, taking apart and simplifying complex ideas. This might involve simplifying huge data systems, vast amounts of complex information or picking out a digital trail from millions of imprints online.

We are great communicators and storytellers

We act in bold ways that get us noticed and allow our messages to cut through. We think creatively and laterally. And we’re able to create a compelling narrative around an issue that helps people understand it and realise it’s time for change.

Every company can benefit from harnessing the power of thinking differently. By failing to adapt their recruitment process to support dyslexic challenges and allow dyslexics to showcase their strengths, companies are missing out on a wealth of talent. So what can HR do to drive change?

  • Make small, practical adjustments to the process – extra time to complete psychometric tests, quiet rooms for examinations, clear, concise questions.

  • Forgive typos and spelling – these are not a reflection of the commitment or ability of the individual.

  • Understand that tests and interviews don’t always showcase someone with dyslexia’s full skills and talents – help them to show their abilities in different ways.

  • Encourage applicants to tell you they’re dyslexic – by acknowledging that you value dyslexic thinking. 

  • Don’t insist on a formal assessment to trigger reasonable adjustments to the recruitment process – a self-declaration of dyslexia should be enough.

Dyslexic thinking is a super power. Making the recruitment process dyslexia-friendly not only benefits people with dyslexia, but employers and society as a whole. In the words of Jeremy Fleming, “we’re only going to be successful if we make the most of people who see things differently”.

Kate Griggs is founder and CEO of charity Made By Dyslexia and author of This is Dyslexia and children’s book Xtraordinary People