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28 Wed Jul

How to not hire female talent

It’s no secret that there is a big difference in the number of men and women present in the workforce. In 2019 the gender employment gap in Europe was 11.97 percent, and because we know that the COVID-19 crisis has disproportionately affected women it’s safe to assume this number is now even worse. 

Of course, there are many reasons for this gap but there is one that often gets overlooked: companies unintentionally pushing female talent away. We have seen firsthand how often companies tailor their job postings and hiring processes to men without even realizing it. In our team alone we have had our fair share of horror stories when it comes to the hiring process. I’ll share them throughout this article… not sure if they should make you laugh or cry. 

There are two main areas where companies are unconsciously excluding female applicants: the application phase and the interviewing process. But before we get into the horror stories, what not to do, and tips to make sure you are attracting male and female talent to ensure you have the most successful team possible, there are a couple of simple things we should mention to improve your company’s diversity. 

1) Make sure you have bias training in place for all hiring managers on your team. 

2) Set clear goals about how you are going to include diversity in your company’s overall strategy. 

Once you can check these two things off your list it’s time to take a closer look at your hiring process.

The Job Application 

The job application is the first thing that talent sees when they are searching for a new position. It’s what gives them the first impression of your company and helps candidates decide if they want to work with you or not. The last thing you want to do is turn your next new team member away with one of these major red flags: 

1. Listing out all skills as required even if they aren’t essential to the job. 

If a skill is “nice to have” or “could be beneficial” but not a necessity to the job, don’t list it! Why? Because of the confidence gap! A report by Hewlett Packard showed that women only apply to jobs when they meet 100% of the requirements, whereas men apply when they only meet 60%. This fact was confirmed for us when we worked with Signa, to help them increase gender diversity through their hiring process. In fact, When they rewrote their position openings with a focus on describing the vision and team culture they received a lot more female applicants. 

2. Using vague job titles like Ninja or Queen.

Even if there are good intentions behind this choice I am confident in saying these obscure job titles send the wrong message almost 100% of the time. The job title is equally as important as the job description and listed skill requirements, especially when you’re focusing on diversity. Women search for jobs that match their skill level. Using the title Queen, or Ninja makes it hard for an applicant to understand what exactly you are looking for. 

“I once saw a job title that said “Front-End Developer (King/Queen/Whatever)” and that completely turned me off from applying. I didn’t want to be queen, I wanted to be respected for the work that I do. Plus you should never use “whatever” to describe our transgender community.” 

3. Friday Drinks, Table Tennis, Beer

You might think these sound like the ultimate work perks but in reality, they can be discouraging. These kinds of benefits focus on promoting an exclusive culture where drinking or playing table tennis is the norm. Now we aren’t saying there’s anything wrong with having some fun and organizing fun team activities but you want to make sure you promote benefits that fit a diverse group of people.

Instead include tangible things like work from home flexibility, and if possible your salary ranges (also a great plus of being open to fair pay).

“I asked the hiring manager in an interview what the work-life balance was like. She completely didn’t answer the question and mentioned that “everyone is really dedicated, and we have Friday beers to blow off steam”. It made me think that there was no work-life balance, just work.” 

Once the applicant has read that job description and decided they do want to apply there is a second stage that can put up more red flags: the interview process. 

The Interview Process

We all know the interview process is exciting, you are getting the opportunity to learn more about a new company and team, see if they are a good fit for you, and vice versa. But, it can also be stressful and sometimes long. To make sure you aren’t turning diverse qualified candidates away make sure you’re not making these mistakes: 

1. Not having an established interview process

It is important to establish a clear set of questions and a rubric to “grade” candidates against certain criteria. You want to be consistent with every interview that you are doing to make sure you can accurately compare the different applicants. A clear set of questions also makes sure you give the impression that you are prepared and have a specific goal for the interview. You don’t want to make candidates feel like you are wasting their time. 

“I once had an interview that felt more like an interrogation. The interviewer asked me multiple times why I was changing industries. I gave him a very direct answer the first time explaining my passion for the industry and excitement to learn more. He proceeded to ask me the same question two other times in the interview. It made me feel like he wasn’t prepared for the interview or didn’t believe my answer.”

“I applied for a project management position at this company. I went to the interview and the entire time they were talking about a project design role. I was confused since I didn’t apply for that position and wasn’t interested in that role. The interview continued with the hiring manager trying to convince me to take a role I didn’t originally want. I felt like I wasn’t being heard.” 

2. Not having a diverse interview panel

Having a candidate walk into (or these days log into) an interview with a completely non-diverse panel of interviewers can set a bad tone right off the bat. Making sure that your panel is diverse will allow the candidate to feel more comfortable. It also reassures them that they will be joining a diverse and inclusive culture, plus ensures there are no unconscious biases when hiring. 

Having a diverse team is such an important factor in many aspects of your company. Better team culture, more resilience, financial success, and creativity are just a few of the benefits that come with it. But like we said, many people don’t even realize they are only attracting one type of talent, or even worse, discouraging qualified candidates from applying. We hope these insights, and our own personal bad experiences help you to grow a more diverse team! 

Want help attracting more female talent to your organization? Contact us at: amelia@female-founders.org

Want more tips on how to build a diverse team, attract more female talent or making sure your D&I initiatives are effective? Plus the latest news, resources and insights for women in the field of tech and innovation?  Subscribe to our newsletter below.