8 Tips To Combat Gender Bias in an Interview
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8 Tips To Combat Gender Bias in an Interview

by Romy Newman
April 04, 2016

IF YOU’VE MADE IT TO THE INTERVIEW PHASE, YOU’VE ALREADY BEATEN OUT COUNTLESS OTHER APPLICANTS. BUT IS THERE ACTUALLY A WAY TO MAKE YOUR INTERVIEW STAND OUT?

Here’s an interesting fact: if you’ve been asked to come in for an interview for a corporate job, it means that your resume has been selected from about 250 resumes. Feel free to pat yourself on the back for that.

Usually only 4-6 candidates will be seen in person, meaning your pool just got much smaller. But that also means your competitors are also highly qualified. When you sit in your interview chair, it’s not enough to just be polished, knowledgeable and enthusiastic. You have to stand out, especially as a woman.

Since scholarly research has proven that gender bias still persists in the interview process, the ways you distinguish yourself can be tricky—unfair as it is, you’ll need to toe the line between acknowledging bias and trying to defuse it.

1. OPEN STRONG

Your opening should be a clear statement about why this job is right for you. Don’t hesitate to lead the conversation—you can set the tone from the beginning. Signal from the very first sentence that you’ve done your research, you understand what the job is, and your particular background/ skillset is a good match for the position.

For example: “Thanks for having me in today. I’m really excited about the things you’re doing at Acme Industries. Your recent out-of-home marketing program really stood out.  I’ve worked on several new customer acquisition programs in the past and had strong results. Based on my experience, I’d have a lot to contribute to your next marketing effort.”

Use this opportunity to add to the conversation by challenging the status quo, while also keeping things spirited and fun.

Note: In order to be well prepared for your opening statement, it’s imperative that you do your research before the interview. Use tools such as Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and Fairygodboss to get an understanding for the culture and the experience others have had on the job. Make sure you are intimately familiar with the job posting or job description. And of course—spend some quality time on the employer’s website.

2. PITCH YOUR VISION FOR WHAT YOU CAN CONTRIBUTE

Once you’ve gathered enough information about what your interviewer's expectations of the role are, get specific about what you can contribute. There are a few ways to do this: 1) cite case studies from your past work; 2) pitch ideas or concepts for the future (“have you tried this?); or 3) if you have enough information or ideas to share, it's great to bring them in the form of a written presentation or strategic plan.

For example: “I see an opportunity for you to gain thousands of new customers through social outreach. Here’s a sample program I’d propose. I worked on a similar program recently in my currently role, and we saw our inbound leads grow by 200%.”

3. BRAG

Sadly, women generally have a harder time bragging about their accomplishments than men. But, in interview settings, you better believe men have no problem sitting in that chair, confidently talking up past accomplishments. Figure out how you can comfortably shine a spotlight on your past successes; consider what you'll say, but also how you'll say it (tone, body language, etc.). And practice ahead of time! {click to tweet}

For example: “I excel at financial modeling. Recently, the CFO called my boss to compliment me on the business case I built.”

4. MAKE AN ALLY OF YOUR INTERVIEWER (WHO IS ALSO POSSIBLY YOUR FUTURE BOSS)

More than anything, your boss and future co-workers are meeting you to get a flavor for what it’s like to work with you. So engage in conversation with them—especially about work. Create a rapport, and listen carefully. Cite examples of how well you’ve worked with your past colleagues, and praise your past boss.

Gauge their style and personality, but it never hurts to try to be humourous and light. It’s not unlike a date... you want your interviewer to “want to see you again.”

Don’t get personal (talking about family, etc) unless they bring it up. And even if they do, keep the conversation about family brief.

In interview settings, you better believe men have no problem sitting in that chair, confidently talking up past accomplishments.

For example: “It sounds like there is a very collaborative culture here. Teamwork was really important in my past job, where I worked on a cross-functional team on an accelerated project. Not only did we accomplish the task successfully and ahead of schedule, but we had a great time doing it and I’m still friendly with my team members today.”

5. THROW IN AN INTERESTING PERSONAL DETAIL

The best way to make sure you stand out in the interviewer’s mind is to throw in interesting and unusual personal details about your hobbies, interests and pursuits. Better still, if it’s something you think the interviewer will connect with.

Google your interviewers before you arrive, and read their Twitter feed if they have one, so you can get a better understanding of their personality and interests.

For example: “I love to travel and have visited 48 out of 50 states,” or “you’re a Yankees fan? We have season tickets!”

6. ASK PROVOCATIVE QUESTIONS

The interviewer is looking for someone who is going to be an asset to the team. Show how you’d do that by asking provocative, pointed questions—but stay away from ones that are confrontational. Use this opportunity to add to the conversation by challenging the status quo, while also keeping things spirited and fun.

For example: “I noticed that as part of your recent product launch, your targeted audience was boomers. Did you consider that there might be an opportunity for younger customers as well?”

7. SHOW YOU ARE A GOOD LISTENER

Everybody likes to be heard. Listen dilligently to what you’re interviewer says. Give him/ her time to speak. Remark on or play back what they’ve said, and add to it.

For example: “The project you worked on sounds complex, and it sounds like the team really came together to get it done.”

8. CLOSE STRONG

Thank the interviewer for his/ her time and summarize your points from your opening, adding in any additional thoughts. Emphasize why the role is a fit for you.

For example: “It’s been great meeting you today. I think that because of my background and experience, this role would be a great fit for me. And it would be great to work with you.”

By putting these interview tips into practice for your next interview, you should be able to stand out from a crowded field and compete on more equal footing. With strong preparation, confidence and thoughtful participation, the job will be yours.

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How do you put your best foot forward in an interview? Let us know in the comments below.