10 things you should know about interviewing women

by Sep 14, 2023

What you should know about interviewing women

Men and women are viewed differently in the recruitment process so here are 10 things you should know about interviewing women.

Research from the E.U. in 2013 including over 25000 respondents, has shown what we have all known to be true anyway from anecdotal evidence. Men and women are viewed differently in the recruitment process. A trip to any lunchtime salad bar, in any European city could have saved the EU a fortune.

But what tips can we give hiring managers when interviewing women, to create an awareness of the sand traps that await them in the selection process? Will this help to ensure they select the best candidate for a role?

1. You are more likely to judge her by her appearance

33% of respondents in the Euro Barometer research study attached significance to a woman’s general physical appearance against 12% for a male candidate. Out of the 10 criteria for women, appearance was ranked third in the list of priorities, with “the fact she has children” coming in as first place concern, followed by “flexibility in working hours” ranking number two. For men appearance is ranked at nine.

Research carried out in 2019 shows that women are on average 30% less likely to be called for a job interview than men with the same characteristics

2. Her professional experience and qualifications matter

The same research also indicates that the qualifications of a man are listed as the two top criteria in the selection process. This sounds about right. For a woman, they drop to positions five and seven. That does not sound anywhere close to right.

3. Make-up isn’t an indication of competence

Research suggests that women wearing more makeup are perceived to be more competent than those wearing less makeup or no makeup at all. Makeup also increases people’s perceptions of a woman’s likeability and trustworthiness. Actually, inside tip – it just means she is wearing make-up and she could be incompetent and a bitch.

4. You might misjudge the delivery of her message

If a woman is assertive it doesn’t mean that she is aggressive. When a woman describes her achievements in an interview, she is not bragging or being pushy.  Research from ABC News shows that when men and women respond to questions using identical language women are perceived to be arrogant while men are not.

If she is reflective and measured, that doesn’t suggest that she is hesitant. Ask her some meaningful questions to find out or run some personality assessments. This is about you, your biases, and your line of questioning

5. BMI isn’t a barometer of capability

Research carried out by J.L. Fikkan and E.D.Rothblum indicates that women with a high body mass index are judged more harshly and seen as less effective than their slimmer peers. Overweight female candidates are assessed more negatively in the qualities of “reliability, dependability honesty and the ability to inspire

6. Beauty can be ugly

Many studies confirm that there is physical bias in the hiring process. But if a candidate is attractive it just means she is good looking, which has no bearing on her professional capabilities. If a woman is interviewing in a traditionally male environment exceptional beauty can also be held against her. If she is blonde it doesn’t mean she’s an airhead. L’Oreal might be her best friend.

Perhaps listen to Dolly Parton “I’m not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I’m not dumb… and I also know that I’m not blonde”. And if that wasn’t enough if the hiring manager is a woman then there is a chance that gender jealousy could kick in.

7. There are certain prohibited questions

Yes! There really are! Although this is widely ignored, questioning women about their marital status, spouses, sexual orientation, and children are illegal. It is perfectly OK to ask her about her professional goals in the same way that a man would be quizzed, not the address of her babysitter.


8. She is smiling, not flirting

Women who are charming and gregarious are not necessarily flirting especially not with a male interviewer. Smiling is also considered negative in professional women so if she smiles, it doesn’t mean she is incompetent. Marianne LaFrance Professor of Psychology at Yale suggests there is no link to smiling and her ability to do the job in hand. As they rise up the career ladder, she believes that the rate at which women smile is in line with their male counterparts.

It’s really best to interview her thoroughly. I have known male interviewers ask women candidates on dates as they escorted them to the elevator. If a woman can’t find her way she can ask for directions. That’s one thing women are said to be really good at. They also have GPS on their phones.

9. You are more likely to interrupt her

A study published in the Journal of Social Sciences found that women are more likely to be interrupted during interviews and are asked more follow-up questions than their male counterparts. The study also found that women are more likely to rush through their answers as a result of the interruptions.

10. She is over 40, not dead

Age bias kicks in earlier for women than men. Research shows that older women are judged far more harshly than men if their physical appearance isn’t deemed youthful. Women are considered to be ‘older’ at younger ages than men and their competence queried.

Research published in HBR adds on another layer of inequity. Women in leadership are subject to bias at every age. “Youngism” refers to ageism toward younger adults, fueled by the conflation of age with maturity and the misperception that tenure is required for competency. Even middle-aged women are feeling the effects of age bias. ”

It seems that the only age to be is male.

What would you add?

Does your organisation need training for inclusive and diverse recruitment practices?



Adapted from a post published on LinkedIn in 2014 

Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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