Follow-Up: Analyzing Gender Differences In Interview Data

A year ago, I wrote a blog that explored the realities of bias, based on an analysis of over 100K interviews conducted within Pillar, to uncover the truth behind gender differences in hiring.

That post got 22K impressions on LinkedIn - one of the highest I’ve had, and I’ve received numerous requests for a follow-up to see how things have evolved. So, a year later, let's revisit the intriguing insights we pulled last year and examine if/how they’ve changed. I’m also including a few new insights that you’ll find interesting…

Last Year’s Insights

1.) Women get asked 20% MORE questions than men during an interview & with 25% LESS time to answer those questions

We’ve done a lot of work at Pillar to close this gap for hiring teams. Our customers who have used us to implement a structured and guided interview process have significantly closed the gap in the number of questions asked between both men and women. 

Unfortunately, when new customers come onboard, we’re still seeing this divide.

2.) Women are more likely to be asked to prove their worth and staying power

Last year we reported that women are more frequently asked about their greatest strengths (seen in 45% of interviews vs. 33% for men), weaknesses (40% vs. 31%), and failures (24% vs. 18%). Additionally, women are more likely to be questioned about why they should be hired (47% vs. 37%) and why they want the job (46% vs. 35%). While these questions are not inherently negative, they focus on proving one’s worth. The fact that men are less likely to encounter these questions suggests that some interviewers may have a bias towards perceiving men as more capable. 

Through structured interviewing where every candidate is asked a similar set of questions centered around skills needed for the role, the frequency of worth-proving questions decreases by 42%.

3.) Women often feel uncomfortable when discussing the topic of compensation

Within Pillar, we can understand how the candidates react to different topics throughout an interview. We understand if candidates react positively or negatively to a conversation. This gives interesting data about a candidate’s level of comfort throughout an interview and how well the interviewer handles the conversation.

As we did last year, we still see compensation as an area of discomfort for women…along with small talk (we’ll get to this in a minute), coworkers, motivation, and availability. On the flip side, we’ve seen that the themes women candidates are most positive about include benefits, role description, growth, onboarding, and culture.

To help female candidates feel more comfortable when discussing compensation, explain your company’s compensation structure and how it aligns with industry standards and internal policies. Encourage the candidate to ask questions about the compensation package and thoroughly address any concerns they may have. Overall, the topic of compensation requires a thoughtful and respectful approach.

4.) When men talk to men, there’s more small talk centered around sports

2024 hasn’t brought any significant change here. As mentioned above, female candidates don’t enjoy small talk. Men will more often try and find common ground on things like sports - this can lead to biases around how much you ‘like a person’ (and like their answers). These topics rarely enter the small talk with women candidates.

While small talk is important for building rapport, inconsistent interviewing behavior arises because interviewers do not behave the same way when interviewing between men and women. There’s an easy solution here - limit personal small talk. 

New Insights

As we continue to analyze more and more interviews, interesting insights keep surfacing…

1.) Female candidates report having a better experience when interviewed by women and when questions are focused on soft skills

Through the 1M+ interviews we’ve now analyzed, we’ve seen female candidates have a more positive interview experience when interviewed by another woman. Sentiment scores, which measure the candidates experience, are typically 18% higher. 

Female interviewers are also more likely to ask questions related to soft skills, such as teamwork, communication, and conflict resolution. These questions appear 24% more frequently in interviews conducted between women vs. with male interviewers.

While having women interview women and men interview men is preferred across candidates, we recommend using a diverse hiring team. A diverse interview panel is far less likely to experience bias than a single person or a team of ‘similar’ people. 

2.) Female interviewers often conduct longer interviews

On average, we’re seeing that when women interview women, interviews are 10-15% longer than their male counterparts. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as the candidate has enough time to shine.

It’s imperative to give the candidate enough time to showcase their experience and you want to ensure interviews aren’t too long. I tackle some common interview benchmarks in a previous blog, including length of interview.

In reality, bias is inescapable, but it can be greatly reduced. We're proud of the work we’ve done to help hiring teams become aware of inherent gender differences in the interview process and are excited that we’re seeing areas of improvement. Interviewers using Pillar have focused on the following…

  • Candidates need enough time to discuss their abilities, skills, and overall suitability for the role 
  • Questions should be focused on the skills required to perform the role 
  • Every candidate needs to be asked a similar set of questions at every stage of the process 
  • Personal small talk should be limited to not overshadow the main purpose of the interview - 5 minutes tops 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this data, and if you're curious about anything else we can extract from interviews, drop me a DM here.

Cheers to building highly effective, diverse teams…

Mark Simpson
Founder & CEO

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