Wednesday, 28 September, 2022
HomeOpinionPoV10 questions Indian employers need to stop asking women during job interviews

10 questions Indian employers need to stop asking women during job interviews

Indian HR managers have no business asking unacceptable questions such as 'do you live alone?' and 'will you be able to handle work and family responsibilities?'.

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This International Women’s Day, instead of handing out free cupcakes and discount coupons, why not ask women what they really want? For one, a world in which Women’s Day ceases to be a thing. And second, a world in which women don’t have to answer needless, patronising and offensive questions in their job interviews.

Here’s a list of just such questions. If you can promise never to ask these again, HR departments and bosses, we promise to share our free cupcakes and discount coupons.

  1. Are you married?

This is absolutely not acceptable. Neither is the follow-up question if your answer is no, which is “Why not?” Simply not your business.

2. Do you live alone?

I’m never sure if this is asked so that the interviewer can hazard a guess about a woman’s income needs or her “family values”. But why should this question even be asked? The offer you make should be based on her qualifications and the job description, not on her living situation.

Also read: India’s workplaces need to understand menstruation better. Period

3. You’ll often have to work late hours – will your parents/husband be okay with that?

And just like that, we women are back in school, needing permission from someone else to stay back for extra classes or extracurricular activities. Instead, why not say, “We offer drop-back facilities for days when you need to stay beyond working hours”.

4. The job might require you to travel – will your parents/husband be okay with that?

See 3. Perhaps you could rephrase this as “Are you okay with travelling for work?”.

  1. Do you have children or are you planning to? 

Why do you need to know? Instead, what you can do is make sure that you have an on-site crèche and talk about that.

6. How will you balance work and family responsibilities?

The same way a man will, thank you. What you can say (and mean) is, “We are committed to providing equal pay for equal work”. And add this: “We also offer benefits to employees’ families/live-in partners and we offer flexible timings and a work-from-home policy.”

7. The job might involve a transfer — who will manage your household if we decide to move you?

Whether her parents are elderly, her children infants, her husband an entitled prat who can’t make himself a cup of tea or none of the above – this is, and I cannot stress this enough, none of your business. Instead ask: “Are you open to transfers and what are your expectations from us to help you move?”

8. What does your father do?

Do try to sound less like a matrimonial advertisement and more like a professional company.

9. What if your husband gets transferred in his job?

Gentle suggestion: perhaps rephrase this to tell the prospective employee where the company has branches and that it is open to shifting her if needed and possible.

10. How would you handle it if, in a stressful situation, a senior colleague says something to you that might not be to your liking?

This kind of “situational question”, sometimes disguised as a “stress test”, is essentially an indirect way to find out whether a woman is the type to complain about sexual harassment or stay silent. And it is unacceptable.

What you should be saying is, “We have a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment of any kind. We have a very qualified Internal Committee, and we regularly conduct sensitisation and diversity workshops that are mandatory for all employees. We vet all prospective employees/freelancers and we do not hire or commission anyone who has been accused.”

Also read: On Women’s Day, I want a transgender law that won’t hurt one’s sense of self: Apsara Reddy


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  1. This is a useful article. I would however like to give my perspective on this, especially as a woman who is also building her own organisation. The questions with late working hours and marriage plans are sometimes relevant. We have often had women join our team, get married within a short duration of time and shift because their spouses are located in a different city. While this can theoretically be applicable to male candidates as well, the sad truth is that social expectations don’t run in that manner. The organisational challenge is that if the female employee leaves, one has to end up having to recruit and retrain again for the position, and this is not a situation which arises from the organisation’s inability to provide a suitable career path or employment environment. But simply because the candidate is predisposed to make this kind of choice. There are similarly situations where, in spite of the fact that we offer safe late night drops through office cabs or accompanied by office staff as and when required, the candidates are outright in stating that they will not be willing to stay late because of restrictions at home. Unfortunately, given the social burdens and constraints that women have to bear, one cannot always ignore the need to raise these questions, especially as a small organisation which needs higher certainty on continued availability. But one can always remove the social prejudice in the manner in which these queries are posed. What I liked about the article is that it highlights that these questions can be put to the candidate in a more balanced manner and as queries on personal choices rather than framed with presumptions that social and gender constraints / context will guide the individual. And undoubtedly, as an organisation, one has to constantly recognize that women do face certain specific challenges as employees and professionals. A mindset which treats them as “same” as men and doesn’t try to provide solutions to some of those issues (such as safety for late night travel, work from home options for women (and also men) to help them meet domestic responsibilities etc.) only deepens the gender gap at work. One has to recognize the difference in gender burden and address is more equitably.

  2. Recently, I interviewed and exactly same question asked – How u will manage family n work, do u have permission for night shift n long hours from family, are u planning kids..etc., and interviewer was lady..These are really gender bias question . And to acquire job every married women should be well prepared for these before interview in India

  3. Answer from a HR manager: if I am going to employ you, I would like to know these things. More important: you came to us looking for a job, not the other way. If you don’t like our interview questions, STAY AWAY. It is bad manners to come asking for employment and saying we should ask only those questions that you like.

    • Reply to HR manager: I came because your company saw my profile and called me. You need my skills more than I need your job. So better behave yourself. Employees do not prefer working for regressive, misogynistic, toxic organizations, so, if you don’t watch your step, your company would be out of business and you, out of job.

    • You’re sounding not just condescending but also too snooty and arrogant. If I ever get to meet people like you, then you will have a tough time.

  4. Thank you really all women have a lot of problems during the interview, there are strange questions which we do not know the answer to. May be a girl has been rejected because of such problems.

  5. Thank you really all women have a lot of problems during the interview, there are strange questions which we do not know the answer to.

  6. If the implications weren’t serious, these questions would be funny! To be fair though, I work for a MNC and can honestly say, neither I or any of my friends have ever had these questions asked of us.

  7. Most women activists are hypocrites. They want parity with man but behave like the wet cat. They continue to propagate the most women damaging narratives of “Ijjat Loot Gayi ” and “can’t show her face now” on being raped by man.

    • The fact that you have a regressive mindset is well known from your posts. This one shows that you are mentally sick as well. Get treatment.

  8. Lol, another pipe dream in this hell hole.

    Maybe HR’s should recruit MARCOS they are quite skilled in abductions & as Mercs for hire. Ask Latifa she was their last “Client”

  9. Yes wonderful article with practical tips & guidance to recruiters, especially HR & the Management guys. This kind of approach needed for the present day & generation of the Lady employees. Kudos. Thanks,

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