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Careers tips on providing autism friendly advice

Information from Careers on how staff can adapt to provide autism-friendly advice, particularly when giving feedback on applications and CVs.


This advice was written by a Careers Applications Adviser. It gives suggestions for how to adapt communications in 1:1 appointments to make them autism friendly. There is a particular focus on appointments where CV or application feedback and advice is being given.

Examples of student presentation

Autism is a complex spectrum condition. People with autism share certain difficulties but are affected in different ways. In an appointment, you might notice one or more of the following characteristics:

  • poor short-term memory
  • repetitive behaviours, for example, stimming such as hand flapping and other motions
  • comorbidities such as mental health challenges, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, and possible physical challenges such as needing the toilet frequently
  • may be prone to sensory overload, for example, difficulties filtering out background noise
  • may be under-sensitive to any of the seven senses
  • may not make eye contact
  • loss of concentration, for example, focussing on other stimuli such as noise
  • obsessive with timings, for example, eager to finish the appointment at the exact agreed time

Communication adjustments for a good appointment

If the student has not already requested reasonable adjustments for the appointment, the following might be helpful:

  • check if they are okay with their surroundings and make the appropriate adjustments. For example, close the door, turn off air conditioning, or alter the lighting
  • be clear and direct when asking questions, for example, ‘who are you writing this CV for?’. Avoid ambiguous questions such as ‘how do you feel about…’
  • be specific and directional with instructions. For example, ‘when you get home, go on your laptop and find the job specification. Look at the eligibility criteria....’
  • be prescriptive and offer more detail than you would usually give
  • accept that they might not make eye contact and proceed as if they are listening unless they show other signs that they have lost concentration
  • speak in a calm, slow manner with pauses between phrases

Key challenges in appointments and how to address them


  • Check for sensory overload and make appropriate adjustments. If the student’s anxiety is not improving, see below

Student breakdown

  • Check that the environment is not contributing. For example, is it too loud? If so, offer to go to a quiet place
  • Offer to pop out of the room and leave them for a few minutes
  • Ask them what they can manage today
  • Consider rearranging the appointment if appropriate

Student loses concentration

  • Use their name
  • Ask them what they think about the topic you were discussing
  • Offer to change the environment
  • Offer to move on to a different question/topic
  • Assess when might be an appropriate time to end the appointment and reschedule

Trouble meeting recruitment deadlines

  • Break the deadlines into smaller tasks
  • Create a spreadsheet with a record of deadlines, what was agreed, and the actions to take
  • Email this to the student

Filling their CV

  • Use probing questions: What extracurricular activities are you involved in at University? What are your hobbies? What do you do in your spare time? Request that they describe them to you
  • Try to find a passion or a deep focused interest
  • If any of their activities or interests involve working with people, you could tell them to describe how they work in a team
  • Discuss disclosure if appropriate, for example, if related to gaps on cv, disclosing in a cover letter. Have they thought about it and do they need additional advice?

Application question support

  • Help them interpret the language. Ask them if they understand what is required
  • Find out which questions they find most concerning
  • Suggest they fill in the easy questions first
  • Discuss using strengths gained from their autism as evidence for competencies. Probe to find strengths

Actions after appointment

  • Agree on clear achievable steps for the student to take after the appointment
  • Email them to the student
  • Write a journal note to record this


If you have any questions, please contact us.

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