There is no doubt that women face unique challenges in the working world, and often, these can arise as early as the job interview process.
Even in today’s society, where measures are typically in place to ensure equality in the workplace – check out our Inclusion Training if you know a local company that lacks this – research reveals that men and women have significantly different experiences when applying for a job. Sound familiar?
Then read on as we explore what to expect, how to prepare, and the effective techniques to help you project confidence – so that a hiring manager sees your competence – during the job interview process.
Table of contents:
- How can the job interview process differ for women?
- How can women prepare for a job interview
- Interview tips roundup
How can the interview process differ for women?
More often than not, women have a contrasting experience to their male counterparts when being interviewed for a job. But why is this? The differences for women in the job interview process can stem from a variety of factors. These include:
Bias and stereotyping
Unconscious biases affect the way interviewers weigh up their candidates. Gender-based stereotypes can lead to different expectations towards roles and abilities of women and men.
For example, women might be perceived as more appropriate for administrative or nurturing positions, while men might be seen as better suited to leadership roles. These outdated biases can unfairly influence the questions asked, the evaluation criteria used, and the overall assessment of candidates.
Studies typically show that interviewers ask women and men different types of questions. For example, women are more frequently quizzed on their interpersonal skills, teamwork and communication abilities, while men discuss strategic and technical topics.
A 2020 survey highlighted how women are expected to prove their worth. Compared to men, women face more questions about their strengths, weaknesses and failures as well as why they should be hired, why they want the job, and whether they’re team players.
While these interview questions are relatively common, the fact that men are less likely to be asked them poses a huge question mark over unconscious bias – particularly where capability is concerned. And yet the interviewer has already determined whether a candidate is qualified for a role, long before the interview stage.
Family and personal life
As well as proving their worth, women are also asked to prove their staying power. Time and time again, women face questions related to family planning, caregiving responsibilities and work-life balance, which are not asked as frequently to men. Not only are these questions invasive, but can influence perceptions about a candidate’s commitment and availability for the job.
Interestingly, the survey also found that women are much more likely to be asked where they see themselves in five years – which could be argued is a subtle way of asking women whether they plan to start a family.
Confidence and negotiation
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman in want of a decent salary will find it harder to achieve than her male counterpart. On average, women tend to negotiate salary and benefits less aggressively than men, both in interviews and during employment. This can lead to women being offered lower packages.
And it often seems like a lose-lose situation, when gendered communication styles and expectations around assertiveness can affect how women’s confidence is perceived during interviews; confident but not overconfident, ambitious but not arrogant and self-assured but not self-absorbed…
Appearance and presentation
The impossible expectations women face are further highlighted when it comes to aesthetics. From unmanicured nails to grey hair, women face exceptional scrutiny regarding their appearance and clothing choices. Shockingly, studies show that this occurs even before the interview stage.
A Scottish research team found that when reviewing social media profiles, employers – both male and female – are more likely to judge female applicants on their appearance than men. Meanwhile, more than two-thirds of employers admitted they would be unlikely to hire a female candidate if she was not wearing make-up. But at the same time, research has concluded that women wearing heavy make-up are less likely to be thought of as strong leaders.
For women to be dismissed for wearing too little make-up but pulled up for wearing too much is contradictory and disappointing. Ultimately though, applying for a job as a woman costs more than time. From hair expenses to new makeup, freshly polished nails and tidy eyebrows, maintenance can be costly. And yet any judgments based on appearance – and the money that is spent on attempting to perfect it – can deflect from qualifications and skills.
Although no position should be considered one that only a man can excel in, there are many fields where men dominate the workforce. As a result, women face additional challenges in terms of being taken seriously, fitting into the existing team culture, and breaking through barriers to advancement.
The reality for women is that even today, there are workplace challenges – from the seemingly minor mansplaining or interrupting to inappropriate comments and sexual harassment. Essentially, these are things that men rarely worry about or need to learn how to deal with. And these issues are magnified for women working in male-dominated industries.
How can women prepare for an interview?
So should women approach interviews differently? When women are burdened with difficult expectations, they should certainly be strategic and aim to go above and beyond.
Consider these key tips ahead of your next interview:
- Research the company – learn as much as you can about the company culture, values, products and / or services and do a little digging on Linkedin to form connections with the panel and better understand the team.
- Review the job description – get familiar with the requirements of the role, pinpointing why your history and experiences are relevant to each responsibility listed.
- Practise interview questions – prepare answers to frequently asked questions, and conduct mock interviews so that you’re confident and concise on the day.
- Highlight achievements – don’t downplay your accomplishments, skills and relevant experiences, and focus on authentic and positive stories.
- Be mindful and assertive – practise mindfulness techniques to show up as your best self on the day, allowing you to address any difficult questions (for example around gender) confidently, steering the topic back to your commitment to the role.
- Observe body language – pay attention to your body language, eye contact and handshake, avoiding gestures that make you appear small, to make a strong and friendly first impression.
- Prepare questions – engage with the panel, take notes and demonstrate curiosity and enthusiasm by preparing thoughtful questions in advance, which will also allow you to determine whether the company is a good fit for you.
- Follow up – send an email after the interview to thank the interviewer for their time and the opportunity, and reiterate your interest in the position.
- Negotiate salary – do your research around industry standards, know your worth and the additional value you can bring, so that you’re prepared to negotiate salary and benefits if an offer is made.
- Remember what matters – don’t compromise on the things that matter to you, from flexible schedules to mental healthcare, company culture and personal development opportunities.
Interview tips roundup
To round things up, as a woman embarking upon a new career, you might face an array of challenges when it comes to the hiring interview process. So, keep in mind these key tips:
- Challenges: Women face unique biases, stereotypes and question styles in interviews.
- Biases: Unconscious biases impact evaluations based on gender stereotypes.
- Confidence: While gender norms can impact confidence, break the norm and always know your worth.
- Strategy: Research the company, align experiences, practice interviews.
- Culture: Some women face scrutiny over appearance; so carefully analyse the company’s culture before, during and after the interview.
- Mindfulness: Confidently address questions, steer back to commitment.
- Priorities: Stand firm on work-life balance, growth, culture.
Depending on the industry, company culture and individual interviewers, everyone’s experience is different. Preparation and practice are always key, but one thing is certain – women candidates must pay extra attention when it comes to selling themselves and avoiding the voice of self-doubt. It’s time to make it happen!
Need more guidance? The Equality Practice is standing by to help. For the past decade, we have supported women in Grimsby, Cleethorpes and the surrounding areas of Lincolnshire to overcome everyday challenges. Email email@example.com, phone 07722 117 535 or touch base with us via our contact page.