Women Are Interrupted And Grilled ‘More Than Men’ During Job Interviews


by Anna Brech |
Published on

A job interview is a process that few of us relish.

There's the sweaty handshake, trying not to trip your way into the room, fielding difficult questions, and the desperate attempt not to either a.) warble on or b.) forget what you're saying entirely.

But amid this cobweb of awkwardness, we never thought that we might be facing an unconscious gender bias, too.

A new study has found that women are more likely to be interrupted mid-sentence than men during job interviews, and are confronted with more follow-up questions.

Researchers from University of California and University of Southern California analysed 119 job interviews over a two-year process.

They discovered that male interviewers were almost twice as likely to interject while speaking to a woman, while interruptions in man-on-man interviews were “generally more positive and affirming”.

Women candidates faced a hostile "prove it again" environment as they fielded more questions from a hiring panel, which sometimes made them prone to rush through the presentation, the survey published in the journal Social Sciences* and reported by the Telegraph found.

Their analysis showed that women tackled on average five questions where they were interrupted by interviewers, while men encountered this issue on an average of four questions.

Women are made to appear less competent during interviews, the study showed ©Getty

Women typically took on 17 questions in total - three more than men - despite sharing an equal level of experience.

This meant women spent more time working their way through queries, which were shown to undermine their presence in the interviews.

They also had "less time to bring their talk to a compelling conclusion", using statements such as "for the sake of time, I’m going to skip this part", "there’s not much time left; I will rush through this" and "I’m going really quick here because I want to get to the second part of the talk".

"Questions piled on to previous questions... may indicate a challenge to the presenter's competence - not only in their prepared talk but also in their response to questions," the researchers said.

When women were involved in the interview process, they said, there were "stricter standards of competence demanded by evaluators".

"Even shortlisted women with impressive CVs may still be assumed to be less competent, are challenged, sometimes excessively, and therefore have less time to present a coherent and compelling talk," they said.

"[These] subtle conversational patterns… form an almost invisible bias, which allows a climate of challenging women’s competence to persist."

This kind of inherent discrimination cannot help when it comes to addressing the lack of gender diversity in top-level jobs.

Currently, there are more men called John at the helm of FTSE 100 companies than there are women altogether, and women make up less than a quarter of UK boardrooms.

Companies with equal numbers of female and male directors, or with female-led boards, make up just below 4% of firms.

This has a drip-down effect on the gaping gender pay gap, which stands at 18.1%.

Women already have mountains to climb in the workplace - even without job interview bias ©Getty

"Most women at a certain level are working in a male environment, that’s just the way it is," says Véronique Laury, chief executive of Kingfisher - and one of the few women who does lead a FTSE 100 company.

"We all have a responsibility to be role models to inspire our daughters to stay ambitious, to aim high and to dream big," adds Emma Walmsley, CEO of GlaxoSmithKline - the third biggest business in the FTSE 100.

"I was lucky enough to be supported through four maternity leaves, which also made a big difference and has taught me to remember to support young talent."

Read More: Two Great Ways To Overcome Nerves In Job Interviews

Read More: Do This After An Interview To Boost Your Chances Of Landing The Job

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