Unveiling the Truth: Analyzing Gender Differences in Interview Data

Prejudice. Inequality. Favoritism. Injustice. Prejudgment. Preconception.

These are all words that come to mind when we think about the term “bias”. Since starting Pillar, we’ve had a clear view on the widespread bias that’s happening in the interview process and have been helping teams eradicate it. Unfortunately, it is there. A lot of times, people don’t even know it, but we can’t bury our heads and ignore it anymore. 

In this blog, I wanted to highlight some of the realities of bias after analyzing more than 100,000 interviews to unravel the truth behind gender differences in hiring. Here are some of the interesting insights we’ve found…

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

Male interviewers tend to give candidates less time to speak, particularly when interviewing female candidates. Not only are women given less time to answer, but they’re also commonly asked more questions than men. This is a signal that male interviewers generally think women need more time to prove their worth (discussed more in the next data point).

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

Compared to men, women are more frequently quizzed about their greatest strengths (45% vs. 33%), weaknesses (40% vs. 31%), and failures (24% vs. 18%). Women are also 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 aren’t necessarily bad, they’re all about proving your worth. The fact that men are less likely to be faced with these questions could indicate that some interviewers automatically view them as more capable.

On the flip side, men are more likely to be asked about their age (32% vs. 24%), relationship status (33% vs. 24%), and religious beliefs (23% vs. 15%). These are topics that should never be discussed in an interview setting.

3.) Candidate sentiment for women is lowest when discussing the topic of compensation

Via our suite of interviewer analytics, we’re able to measure candidate sentiment, or in other words, how the candidate is feeling and responding throughout an interview. We found that when interviewers discuss compensation with female candidates, their sentiment declines. According to the US Department of Labor, women are still not paid as much as men. Comparing equal positions and roles, women are paid 83.7% of what men are paid. This inequity is even greater for Black and Hispanic women.

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

This data point might not be as surprising as the others, but it’s something that interviewers need to be more aware of. Men spend 32% more time on small talk when interviewing other men. Discussing sports can inadvertently reveal personal preferences, affiliations, and be a source of bias.

Interviews are a black box… 

The good news is, this isn’t necessarily hard to correct. The first stage is understanding what is going on by recording interviews to uncover what the data looks like for your organization. Even without this, I can offer some suggestions on how you can avoid bias throughout your selection process:

  • Standardize your interviews. Structure interviews so that each candidate is asked a similar set of questions to minimize bias and focus on the skills that are most relevant to the role. 
  • Ask interviewers to limit personal small talk. 
  • Use a diverse hiring team. It’s important to pull in various members of the team that are diverse in terms of age, gender, background, and seniority. A diverse interview panel is far less likely to experience bias than a single person or a team of ‘similar’ people.  
  • As you’re training interviewers, emphasize the importance of giving candidates enough time to speak. This is the candidate’s time to shine, and they should speak for 70-80% of the interview. 
  • Make good records of your interviews…either take notes or record the interviews. Having a good record will help to recall answers better so there’s no need to rely on hazy memory when comparing candidates. Warning: it’s still hard to recall details if the interview isn’t recorded as notes can jog memory bias.
  • Benchmark salaries to ensure wages are fair regardless of gender. 

Hiring without unconscious bias takes time, effort, and most of all…change. There are powerful technologies that can help, and on a positive note, most humans want to be fair. With a little more thought and awareness, it’s actually not hard to adjust. If you’re struggling with where to start on anything I’ve mentioned above, drop me a line here, and I’ll let you know easy ways to make some momentum. 

Cheers to building highly effective, diverse teams…

Mark Simpson
Founder & CEO 

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