3 Questions Women Hear At Job Interviews That Men Are Never Asked

Heads up: you don't have to answer them.

Job Interview

Interviews are a scary and nerve-wrecking experience and if the results of a new survey are anything to go by, that might ring all the more true for women.

According to a survey by Elephantinthevalley.com women are often expected to answer sexist, and in some cases illegal questions, all because of their gender.

The survey, which interviewed 200 professional women revealed that some of the most common not-okay questions women are asked concern their marital status, whether they plan on having kids and their childcare arrangements.

Among the worst questions those surveyed reported having being asked were:

  • “How do we know you’re not going to run off and have a baby?”
  • “Would I really have the time needed for the job and could I work as hard as the other two partners I’d be joining ‘given that you are a mom with a young child’?”
  • “Once I was asked about my religion and my views on abortion. On another occasion I was asked about how I would take care of my child while working.”

Shocking? Yes. Uncommon? According to careers coach Paula Coogan, no.

“This type of sexism absolutely still exists during the interview process,” she tells us. “And from what I’ve heard from clients, it tends to be more prevalent in small businesses than in large corporations. A lot of interviewers seem very keen to ascertain whether or not the potential female candidate has children or is married. And often the interviewer is either oblivious or is just being sneaky!”

“I’ve heard of candidates being asked these questions informally, just as general chit-chat before or after the interview too,” Paula warns.

So what should you do if you’re asked a question that’s potentially sexist?

It’s a tricky situation to be in says Paula. “A lot of women believe that if they answer, it could potentially cost them the job and if they don’t, it could cost them the job. This is where you need to be assertive,” she explains.

“I have had clients who decided to answer the personal questions at an interview and then defend their career choices. So for example, if you have kids you could say something like, ‘Yeah, I have kids, but they’re both in school and we have a friend who looks after them in the afternoon. I’m fully committed to my career, and have no problem working overtime if needs be.”

If on the other hand, the interviewer is being blatantly sexist, Paula suggests you call them out on it. “You don’t need to be aggressive or confrontational,” she says, “you can simply smile and say ‘As you can see, I’m taking this opportunity very seriously and I am well prepared for the questions you may ask. However, that question is quite unexpected. Could you explain your concern about my having a family/plans to marry in the context of my ability to do the job?’ Often that’s all it takes for the interviewer to realise they’re entering illegal territory.”

Above all though, Paula says to know your worth. “It can be extremely disheartening to be asked sexist questions during an interview or in any workplace setting,” she says, “but stand strong and be assertive. Don’t give away your personal information in order to be perceived as nice or friendly. Know the value that you bring to the organisation and to the role and bring the conversation back to that.”


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