Hiring managers conduct interviews in the same manner across the board so as to effectively assess candidates and find the best man or woman for the job. But relying on the same criteria turns out quite skewed as what interviewers fail to realise is that men and women tend to interview quite differently. Considering that organisations today genuinely want a diverse workplace and strive to hire more women who still form a minority in the workforce, they need to urgently recognise the gender differences in interviewing behaviour. Apart from variations in men and women in terms of self-projection, hiring managers should also overcome their own subconscious gender biases. Only then can they have truly diverse teams that amalgamate the varied strengths and viewpoints of both the sexes.

Where the differences lie

Men generally tend to play up their strengths and proficiencies, placing the accent on what they can do! They are supremely confident of their achievements and may even oversell themselves in a bid to engender a positive view in the minds of the interviewers. They are more likely to make assertive statements to impress and almost feel entitled to the job they are interviewing for. On the other hand, anything that is negative or even skills that a male interviewee may lack are casually pushed under the carpet. Sometimes even to the extent of making them seem insignificant to the job in question!

In sharp contrast, women job applicants are more modest and tend to downplay their capabilities and skills. Many are even embarrassed to talk about their accomplishments. In addition to the reticence, they also undervalue what they have done and undersell what they can do! It’s not to say that women are shrinking violets, just more inhibited and cautious.

What is most unfortunate is that many women are more inclined to focus on their weaknesses or the skills that they lack for the job which gravely influences their image. They easily get defensive and take pains to justify the negatives. And all the explanations only further multiply their deficiencies in the eyes of the interviewers.

Stereotyping at play

Another angle enters the fray. Women interviewees are often expected to be bashful and circumspect. Therefore, confident women who unhesitatingly portray themselves as assertive, capable and ambitious have to bear the brunt of this subconscious gender bias. They are unfairly marked as over-aggressive, belligerent and ruthless.

Conducting fair interviews

Hiring managers should realise that men are naturally good at self-promotion which may make them appear as a better job candidate vis-à-vis a female one. Conversely, just because a woman may hesitate to boast about her skills and achievements do not necessarily mean that she is not good for the job.

In order to establish more women-friendly and fair hiring practices, interviewers need to encourage female candidates to speak about themselves and their accomplishments. They should try to draw them out and persuade them to openly express what they can do. Only then will the final employment decisions be fair and just.

Then again, interviewers must also recognise the inherent stereotypes that subconsciously influence how they analyse the responses of male and female job candidates. They have to make conscious attempts to recognise the differences in acceptable behaviour based on gender. Overcoming these social biases will lead to non-discriminatory evaluations during employment interviews and ultimately better employee selection decisions.

Hiring managers may genuinely believe that they are being fair in their analysis and evaluations. But the best way to ensure that things are going right is to get it straight from the horse’s mouth. Feedback surveys will help fill this gap and implementing the responses will stimulate judicious hiring decisions.

Payal Chanania