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.
- 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.
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?”.
- 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.”