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The Interview Questions Women Are More Likely to Be Asked Than Men, and Vice Versa

Source | | Samantha McLaren

When companies talk about making the hiring process more inclusive and equitable, they sometimes focus on the early stages, like building a diverse talent pipeline. These efforts are important, but they can quickly be undone if care isn’t taken to make sure all candidates have an equal opportunity to shine during the interview stage. And this isn’t always the case. 

Research conducted by Savanta and reveals that men and women can have significantly different experiences when interviewing. Surveying 2,000 adults in the U.S. about the worst interview questions they’ve ever been asked, the study explored everything from tough questions that candidates dread to downright illegal ones — and uncovered notable differences in the nature of the questions that men and women often field.

While you’d likely never ask some of these questions, the underlying biases and inconsistencies they reveal are worth exploring, as they highlight ways many companies could improve their interviews. Here are some of the most revealing findings from the research. 

Women are more likely to be asked to prove their worth and staying power

On the surface, many of the questions women are more likely to be asked seem fairly standard. Compared to men, they are more frequently quizzed about their greatest strengths (44% vs. 34%), weaknesses (37% vs. 27%), and failures (26% vs. 20%). Women are also more likely to be questioned about why they should be hired (45% vs. 37%), why they want the job (44% vs. 37%), and whether they’re team players (37% vs. 31%).

While these questions aren’t inherently bad (if a little overused), the researchers highlight one thing they have in common: They’re all about proving your worth. The fact that men are less likely to be faced with these questions could indicate that some interviewers automatically view them as more capable. And since you’ve probably already taken the time to confirm that candidates are qualified before they reach the interview stage, there’s no sense wasting a question when you could ask something more insightful.

  • A list of interview questions that women are asked more often than men

Interestingly, the survey found that women are only marginally more likely than men to be asked about gaps in their resume (19% vs. 18%). However, they are much more likely to be asked where they see themselves in five years (43% vs. 34%), which the researchers suggest may be a coded way of asking women whether they plan to start a family. Michelle Budig, a professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts, points out that having children can have a very different effect on the career prospects of women than men, so it’s important to be mindful of the potential for bias when crafting your interview questions. 

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