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Let’s be honest here.

Have you ever said something inappropriate to a female colleague or friend only to regret it later? Made a snarky comment about a female colleague being on her period just because they don’t sound friendly enough to your standards? Thought a job applicant has a “female-sounding name” and immediately placed the CV in the rejected pile?

We already know the benefits of having a diverse workforce and the importance of implementing HR policies that are gender-inclusive. Employees are more productive and creative, strategies are more thought through in a diverse and inclusive workplace. A strong diversity recruiting strategy can also help organisations attract and retain more qualified talent.

Yet, only a handful of companies have taken action to support diversity and inclusion and include it in their HR strategy, as it can be a very overwhelming issue to tackle. Developing workplace diversity and sustaining a gender-equal workforce takes more than just words and promises in a company’s mission statement. Every single employee in the company has a role to play in ensuring gender equality. Leadership teams need to prioritise gender equality and match their importance with other business agendas and objectives. Employees need to have the courage to call out gaslighting and discrimination incidents and educate the entire workforce to drive conversations and actions towards achieving gender equality.

equality and diversity in recruitment and selection

The very first step to achieving a gender-equal workforce is to ensure diversity and inclusion in the recruitment process.

Some companies that are more progressive have adopted practices and HR technology to blind names and gender in the screening process. Others may require their shortlisted job applicants to take a skills assessment or psychometric test before the interview.

However, the actual job interview remains to be the most critical part of the recruitment process where unconscious bias in hiring can also occur. In the job interview, candidates have the opportunity to talk about their skills and ask questions that are related to the job. Interviewers and candidates can also take the chance to discuss work personality, management styles as well as organisational culture during the interview process.

eliminate gender bias during interview

Even as we make progress in raising women’s participation rate in the labour market, females are still vulnerable to biased interview questions. Unconscious bias in recruitment impacts female candidates more often as they are subjected to gender bias during job interviews.

Not only are these questions discriminatory, they are also disrespectful as they cross the line between work and personal life.

unbiased job interview questions
unbiased job interview questions

Here are some of biased interview questions female candidates revealed they were subjected to in their job interviews:

  • Do you plan on getting married or have children in the near future?
  • Do you consider yourself defensive if you don’t agree with someone else?
  • Are you comfortable with working in a male-dominated environment?
  • How do you feel about being a working mother?

Employers should not penalise job applicants for refusing to answer such gender-biased questions as they have the right to decline sharing personal details, particularly those that have no relevance to their ability to do the job.

If employers are trying to understand the candidate’s ability to perform and meet deadlines, they should be asking behavioural-based questions that can give candidates the opportunity to talk about their skill sets, competencies, industry knowledge or experience. You can also ask interview questions that are directed at career aspirations and growth potential, and discuss organisational goals and culture in a fair and equitable manner.

interview questions you should be asking your candidates

  • What is your career goal and how can we support you in achieving it?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you had a disagreement with a boss or colleague and how you handled the situation?
  • How would your co-workers or boss describe your management/working style?
  • How do you react in high-pressure situations where there are parallel projects and multiple deadlines to meet?

In recent years, employers have also started placing more emphasis on mature emotional intelligence as one of the key determinants of an employee’s success in the workplace. Instead of generalising and compartmentalising gender norms, ask these interview questions instead. By asking these questions, you’ll be able to get a more in-depth perspective of the candidate’s personality and management style, which would help you be sure of their purpose, motivations and fit.

how diversity affects your employer brand

There are clearly still a lot of gender-related issues to tackle in the workplace. Gender pay gap, women representation in the workforce and in leadership positions, sexual harassment, lack of support for working parents, and so much more.

When we nip these issues in the bud, we reduce the possibility of having to resolve more complex challenges in the future.

An organisation that is looking to strengthen their employer brand needs to start investing in building a diverse workforce that includes all genders. As talent recruiters and employer branding consultants, we have the responsibility and opportunity to drive positive change in the world of work.

Start learning how you can build a stronger employer brand by connecting with us. You can check our key areas of recruitment expertise to help boost your talent attraction and retention strategies.

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