A new database is available in Halifax to help people with autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disabilities who are looking for work connect with employers. 

Job interviews are daunting for many people, but for those with autism, they are far more challenging, said Cynthia Carroll, executive director of Autism Nova Scotia. 

Cynthia Carroll

Cynthia Carroll, executive director of Autism Nova Scotia, said some people with autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disabilities need extra help with the job application process. (Submitted by Autism Nova Scotia)

"Autism is a social communication disorder, so the way many traditional interview processes are set up, in some ways it's a screen out for autism," she said. 

"In many cases they can be overqualified for very skilled jobs they're applying for, but if you can't get through the social side of the interview, then that seems to be what we find statistically one of the barriers to moving into meaningful employment."

In October, a database was launched in Halifax that allows people to upload their CV and connect with agencies and employment opportunities.

Ready Willing and Able

John MacRae went through the process three months ago and found a good employment match at Value Village in Halifax. 

"They fit you in a job that's comfortable for you and I was very shocked that I could excel so well at my own job," he said.

"I wasn't aware of how much of a hard worker I was until I really got into the job. I didn't really know what skills I had until I started working and I didn't know there were jobs there that were suited to my skills."

There's also a database in St. John's, with plans to launch in Toronto and Vancouver in the coming months. 

From what I gather, they want to hire two more from where I come from - John MacRae, database user

It is part of a national initiative, Ready Willing and Able, which is funded in part with federal money and is a partnership with national organizations. 

For the user, the first step after uploading personal information is to meet with an autism outreach co-ordinator and discuss their goals.

Carroll said co-ordinators can help people navigate through the application process and provide supports as needed.

'Excelling at employer's expectations'

"If you have a disability and you want to look for work it can be very overwhelming as to where to go and start, especially if you have some unique needs or some sensory considerations and they may actually not be a barrier to becoming employed," she said. 

During first six weeks the database was active in Nova Scotia, Carroll said 55 people uploaded their resumes and 10 per cent now have jobs.

MacRae said his job has given him a confidence boost.

"So far, I am excelling at the employer's expectations, apparently there is nothing but positive feedback. They're very impressed with my work so far and from what I gather they want to hire two more from where I come from."

There are several national employers connected to the initiative, but Carroll said the majority of employers are local businesses and organizations that have reached out and contacted staff.  

Interview preparation

This week some who applied through the database started working as clerks at the Halifax Central Library.

Lee Outerbridge, human resources manager with Halifax Public Libraries, said Autism Nova Scotia approached them and helped three people interested in libraries interview for a position. 

She said the organization also helped the library prepare for the interview process. 

"For me personally it was making sure that I knew how to approach somebody with autism because I didn't know a lot about it or how it would affect someone in the workplace," she said. 

"I wanted to make sure that we had correct wording and the way we answered and asked questions, that it gave a person who is visual the opportunity to answer them fully."

Carroll said once people make it past the interview stage they often do well at on-the-job training with minimal accommodations. 

"If you look at the kind of qualified, long-term loyal employees that are employing to jobs, employers are really seeing that it's good for business," she said.