Hiring in a neurodiverse world: Autism and the science of game-based assessments

February 2nd, 2022
Chelsea Kilpack
Diversity & Inclusion,

Did you know that 35% of 18-year olds with autism attend college, but a staggering 85% of college graduates with autism are under-employed or unemployed. And 1 million + people with autism in the United States will reach adulthood in the next decade. The sheer volume of candidates who are being overlooked by hiring processes designed with only the neurotypical in mind is just one reason it’s critical that companies start paying more attention to attracting, hiring and retaining people on the autism spectrum. It is worth noting that in addition to the moral imperative for hiring equity, there’s evidence that autistic employees are an untapped and highly qualified workforce due to some candidate’s aptitude for technical skills, attention to detail, dependability, and focus.

The HireVue science team includes experts from a diverse set of disciplines, but whether they’re on the Data Scientists or IO Psychology teams, both groups are actively engaged in research projects. Today, we’re excited to announce that research by one of our Senior IO Psychologist, Dr. Colin Willis, our partner at Integrate Autism Employment Advisors, Tracy Powell-Rudy, and their colleagues from Colorado State University, Dr. Josh Prasad and Kelsie Colley, has been published in the Journal of Intelligence. Their paper, Examining the Use of GBAs for Hiring Autistic Job Seekers, is the first-ever blind reviewed science publication on how autistic applicants perform on game-based assessments compared to the general population.

The study results

A total of 586 college-aged participants completed a HireVue game-based cognitive ability assessment. A total of 263 candidates were autistic and 323 candidates were drawn from the general population.

Generally, this paper found 263 Autistic candidates scored the same as 323 general graduate applicants when taking a HireVue game-based assessment. Study participants were given “packages” of two games to take in sequence.

Why is it important?

Inclusion starts with hiring; talent decision makers are the gatekeepers of opportunity and by adopting practices that are grounded in evidence, these leaders have a chance to truly diversify their workforce. When asked why they chose this research question, Dr. Willis said, “This research is all the more significant as we see greater numbers of employers emphasizing skills over resumes by incorporating pre-hire assessments into their hiring. Based on this research, it appears that games are one way to design a process that is more inclusive - particularly for groups, like autistic individuals, who are regularly screened out by traditional hiring methods.”

For instance, it is well-documented that organizations that do not mention disabilities in their diversity initiatives are less likely to attract disabled talent and, even more tactically, job boards themselves may discourage candidates if their designs are not accessible to people with disabilities.

Why study games?

The research team focused on games in particular because game play has been considered in multiple contexts in autism literature. Most frequently, research has focused on games to deliver early treatment or skill development in autistic children or, recently, as a way to deliver traditional diagnostic assessments earlier to autistic children. Game-like smartphone applications have also been explored as a method for supporting autistic workers by delivering instructions to them in real time. In short, games appear to be a promising medium for delivering content to autistic individuals in a variety of conditions and applications.

Furthermore, novel assessments can be an opportunity for organizations to signal that they are forward-thinking in their selection process. Game-based assessments not only possess features that make them more engaging and accessible, but they can also be taken at any place and at any time, as they are delivered by either computer or smartphone, making them highly accommodating relative to traditional screening methods, such as interviews.

As the proportion of autistic job seekers grows the results of this study suggest that measuring cognition via game-based assessments can fairly assess autistic and neurotypical candidates and give organizations a head start when hiring in a neurodiverse world.


At HireVue, we acknowledge the impact of work and believe that every person deserves equal opportunity to thrive when searching for a new job. We’ve seen firsthand how dismantling biases in the hiring process can change the lives of candidates and we hope that more people will join us on this journey to democratize hiring in 2022.

Ready to make some changes today? Learn more about actionable DEI in our complete guide to improving equity in hiring and check out our best practices for hiring neurodiverse talent. Or request a demo today to find out how HireVue can help you improve the way you discover, engage, and hire talent.