Practicing job interviews using a virtual simulator could significantly increase the chances of young adults with autism finding employment.
In a study of people between the ages of 16 and 26, the researchers found that people who took part in a virtual training program were much more likely to be hired within six months than people who received only typical transition services before hiring.
The study, published this month in Autism magazine, included 71 autistic students who received school-based prep services, 48 of whom also spent hours on computer-assisted simulator exercises.
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The virtual training is a self-directed process in which the participants fill out an online application for a job and conduct interviews with two computer-assisted HR managers in a fictitious company. During the interviews, participants receive feedback from an on-screen coach.
Originally designed to help adults with mental illness find employment, the tool has been redesigned to meet the needs of young people with autism.
The students with autism who completed the virtual training program ultimately had better interview skills and less anxiety than those who received only traditional services. And 42% of the young adults in the study who conducted the virtual interviews got a job within six months, compared to just 30% of the others in the study.
“Virtual interview training for transitional teens appears to be effective in teaching interview skills that are associated with access to competitive jobs,” concluded Matthew Smith of the University of Michigan and colleagues. “In addition, teens enjoyed virtual interview training for transitional teens, and teachers implemented the tool in the transition services for special education prior to hiring.”
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