Note: I use the terminology "spoons" throughout this article. If you are unfamiliar, you may want to read this article first.
If you don't know me that well, you may not know that last year I was diagnosed with c-PTSD. Since then, I have realized just how much my diagnosis affects me and how easy things are for me – including interviews. I'd like to share experiences from recent interviews that stood out for me, both in terms of accessibility wins and losses.
- Companies that asked if I needed any accommodations before I even disclosed my disability automatically got flagged to me as potentially safer places to work than those that didn't.
- The conversation definitely seems to have shifted from whiteboard interviews even in the past few years – whiteboard and algorithm-style college interviews tend to make me have flashbacks/trigger an episode from my college days, and I honestly won't even go through with them anymore. Offering multiple options (whiteboard, pair programming, or take-home technical screens) is a way to ensure that you're giving candidates the opportunity to do their best work.
- The best interview experiences for me were those that had take-home (not time boxed) technical assessments. The reason for this is pretty simple: I cannot tell before I wake up if I am going to have a good or bad day with my diagnosis. It is incredibly hard for me to plan and pick a day where I know I can do 4-6 hours of uninterrupted, quality work for each and every technical screening. Some days I wake up with no "spoons", some days I run out of "spoons" halfway through the day. In addition, the pressure and stress of knowing I only have a four hour chunk in which to complete an assessment usually automatically reduces the amount of "spoons" I have. Giving candidates a take-home assessment with the expectation that they will finish it in a week or so is a more accessible way to handle take-home assessments.
- Video calls are more accessible for me personally than phone calls – seeing a person physically speak keeps me from disassociating as much as I do on phone calls. I can better process information and questions when I can see the person speaking.
- On the same subject (disassociating), if I stop mid-sentence that's probably what's happening. It's usually best to give me a few tries before telling me an answer if it seems like I'm struggling to form words/finish my thought.
- Taking an interview with someone in an open office plan with lots of loud, sudden, unexpected background noises triggered my PTSD and I had an incredibly hard time focusing/concentrating on the interview itself. Please make sure you take interviews in quiet locations with minimal interruptions.
- Scheduling calls with me if you don't hire remote workers but just "want to see if they'll budge" affects me a bit more than other people – I have limited "spoons" in which to interview, and if I waste them on screening interviews that aren't a good fit, I have less "spoons" for serious opportunities that may be a better fit for me.
- In a similar vein, if your company decides not to move forward with my application that's totally fine – asking me multiple follow-up questions (that are better suited to a screening interview) out of curiosity in the same e-mail is an expectation and entitlement to my time I cannot always give.
- The longer an interview process is, the more likely I will run out of "spoons" halfway through. If I run out of spoons during your interview process, I will most likely self-select out and withdraw my application. Shorter, less painful, and more accessible interviews should be the goal here.
My job search was much, much more pleasant than I expected just because a few people put thought into how accessible their processes are. Now imagine how much more diverse tech could be if everyone did — that's what we should all be striving towards.