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8 Unconsciously Sexist Interview Questions You’re Asking Your Female Candidates

8 Unconsciously Sexist Interview Questions You’re Asking Your Female Candidates

In job interviews, candidates expect to be asked questions about their skills and experience to see if they’re the best fit for the role. Personal life has little to do with job performance.

Yet, so many recruiters ask questions about the same, particularly to female candidates, which can be severely sexist. Take it from the stats shared by Telegraph, UK. It mentions how women are asked unconsciously sexist interview questions three times more often than men!

These can be about their appearance, love life, family plans, or even flirting. Asking such questions may or may not be an unconscious move. Either way, this must be stopped if recruiters want their DEI efforts to show results and not drive away quality candidates.

To gain solid insight into interview sexism, we decided to ask HR professionals about their experiences with it and compiled some of the most commonly mentioned questions. Read on.

8 unconsciously sexist interview questions you must stop asking your female candidates

Statistics That Call Out Unconscious Bias In Tech

1. Do you plan on having children in the near future?

“I consider this question to be sexist because it assumes that the female candidate is the primary caregiver for any future children and that it will impact her ability to perform at the job.

This question is irrelevant to the candidate’s job performance and can create a hostile work environment.”

–  Bonnie Whitfield, Human Resources Director of Family Destinations Guide (FDG)

2. Do you consider yourself to be an overly sensitive person?

“This question may be asked because the company’s culture is cutthroat and inappropriate, taking an ‘old school’ approach in a bad way to behave in the workplace.

An HR asking this question may be trying to discover if the female candidate is the type of person who is going to make their job ‘harder’ by reporting such behavior.”

–  Bridget Reed, Co-founder of The Word Counter

3. Has your family ever been a detriment to your career?

“This question is only asked for female candidates to gauge their commitment towards family. In reality, it is not the family that is a detriment to career, but rather the individual having to make a conscious decision on whether to prioritize career over family or vice versa.

It is their choice, and this question should not be asked of a female candidate. On the contrary, no one will question a male candidate on the same.”

–  Rhys Charles, Founder and CEO of Mower On the Lawn

4. Can you handle working in a male-dominated environment?

“Although this sounds like a very genuine question when you really think about it, it comes from the assumption that women are not as resilient as men and will need to have a particular attitude to thrive in a male-dominated workplace.

This question creates the impression that women are less hardworking than men.”

–  Logan Nguyen, Co-founder and HR Manager of Midss.org

5. How will you balance work and family?

“This question still tends to be asked more of female applicants and is irrelevant to their ability to undertake their professional role.

The question implies that a female candidate is more likely to be distracted by family responsibilities, so avoid asking a question in this format.”

–  Sue, HR & Business Consultant at KIS Finance

6. Are you planning on wearing that outfit to work?

“When men want to select an outfit for work, they often choose from jeans, slacks, or a suit. Women have a lot of choices – dresses, skirts, and everything in between.

There are ways they can tell you about their company’s dress code without mentioning what you are currently wearing.”

– AJ Silberman-Moffitt, Senior Editor at Tandem Buzz

7. Can you share an example of when you had to be compassionate in the workplace?

“The way this question is worded, ‘had to be,’ implies that demonstrating compassion is a need or expectation that may not apply to job roles, regardless of gender.

A more neutral way to phrase the question could be: ‘Can you share an example of a time when you utilized your emotional intelligence in the workplace?’. This way, there are no unconscious expectations.”

–  Stacey Kane, Business Development Lead at EasyMerchant

8. How will you ensure that you will be respected at work?

“I was asked this question while I searched for my first job after college. The first time I was asked, I was flabbergasted by the question. However, it was asked in almost every interview I had in the final year of my undergraduate degree.

Although it was intended to be a question surrounding my status as a young professional, my male classmates were not asked the same question.”

–  Kate Conroy, HR Consultant at Red Clover


Also, read: Episode 1 – How to drive inclusive hiring in tech ft. Orange Is the New Black


Tips for a fair and inclusive interview process

We also interviewed one of our in-house recruiters, Colet Coelho, to gain insight into providing candidates with an inclusive and unbiased interview experience.

Here are the major highlights of the conversation:

Q: How do you ensure that your recruitment process is fair and unbiased for all candidates, regardless of their gender?

Steps To Take For A More Inclusive Interview Process

Colet: We start by ensuring that our job descriptions use inclusive language. We have also adopted a blind screening method to ensure no biases are formed, which is assisted greatly by our robust recruitment software.

Now coming to the interviews, we always ask standardized interview questions. All candidates are asked the same questions in the same order, and their responses are evaluated based on predefined criteria.

Apart from this, we have a diverse recruiting team who have their own independent opinions and judgment.

This helps us ensure that no candidate is favored over another based on their age, gender, race, etc., and that the evaluation is based on objective criteria.


Also, read: A Checklist For Writing Job Postings That Actually Work


Q: How do you measure the success of your efforts to recruit and retain women in your organization, and what strategies do you have in place to improve this?

Colet: I personally feel that the first step should be to set measurable goals. This includes setting targets for the number of women you want to hire, as well as monitoring the retention rates.

Another thing we do is conduct surveys among female employees to understand their satisfaction levels and reasons for staying or leaving the organization. This is a pretty solid way to measure the success of our efforts to retain women in the company.

Lastly, celebrating wins is something we do very passionately at Recruit CRM. Doing this in the form of promotions, appraisals, and awards is helpful for proper recognition and appreciation of all employees, which can lead to boosted retention rates.


Also, read: In Conversation With Colet Coelho, Head of Talent Acquisition – What Do Women In Tech Need To Succeed?


If you’ve ever asked a female candidate any question from this list, you might want to revisit your interview approach.

Every applicant deserves to be assessed fairly for a role, so keep a keen eye out for the kind of questions you’re asking.

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