When Those Pesky Women Want a Job

Wendy_Welder_Richmond_Shipyards (1)Last week a friend sent me the link to an article entitled “How to Interview a Female Applicant.”

Had it not been on wikihow (founded in 2005) and had the site not contained pictures showing people in fairly-modern dress, I would swear to you this content was deemed to be necessary and pertinent somewhere around 1972.

Here, for your reading pleasure, are a few of the tips:

  • Create a list of unisex questions (maybe this means NOT asking the men to “tell me about a time when you completed a time-sensitive project on deadline” when you ask the wimmen-folk to “tell me about a time when you baked a cake from scratch”)
  • Evaluate a female applicant based on her overall level of professional appearance (you know, unlike the dudes who you can pick apart on a checklist: shoes…pants…belt…facial hair…) 
  • Avoid asking questions about future plans or career goals when interviewing a female applicant. This could be seen as an attempt to discern whether the applicant has plans pertaining to marriage or children that could impede her future work performance (damn women always wanting to get married and have babies!)
  • Keep introductory questions related to business and the industry when interviewing a female job applicant. Questions about family or weekend plans are inappropriate and could set an informal tone that will prevent you from accurately evaluating the applicant (of course…with the MEN feel free to chat about football, beer drinking and how they keep the Mrs. in line). 

Do we still treat female applicants differently? I’m not talking females for tech roles (which may give us one answer) or females for executive leadership roles (which may give us another answer).

What about general-basic-entry-normal jobs? Do the kid gloves get put on? Do interviewers (male or female) get more anxious or nervous with female applicants? Afraid they will cross some invisible line because the person sitting across from them has ovaries?

I found an April 2015 article from Glamour Magazine (which, as a side note, made me think of George Costanza…am I right?) on the subject of “Are Male Interviewers Secretly Biased Against Women?”; wikihow or not we do continue to talk about this stuff.

Maybe we just sound smarter (or less guilty?) when we call it unconscious bias.


image: US Library of Congress Prints and Photography Division


Branded a Loser: Vintage Candidate Experience?

offending_stewardesses-211x300Ah yes the ’70s.  Post the introduction of the Pill.  Post Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. The era of Title IX and the (failed) attempt to get the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) ratified by the states in order to become part of the US Constitution.  Those pesky second-wave feminists were busy.

And in a decade when air travel was still viewed as a glamorous experience complete with ashtrays, cocktails in stemware and people who dressed up for a trip to the airport (I’m looking at you guy-in-sweat-stained-unbuttoned-shirt with a bag from McDonalds’s that sat next to me on a recent flight) the fine folks at Eastern Airlines apparently settled on a way to make sure their consumer brand (especially for the male business traveler) matched their employer brand.  Their solution? Shame not just their job candidates but all women.

“Presenting the Losers” (picture above)

The copy reads:

“Pretty good, aren’t they?  We admit it.  And they’re probably good enough to get a job practically anywhere they want.

But not as Eastern Airline stewardesses.

We pass up around 19 girls, before we get one that qualifies.  If looks were everything, it wouldn’t be tough.  Sure, we want them to be pretty…don’t you?  That’s why we look at her face, her make-up, her complexion, her figure, her weight, her legs, her grooming, her nails and her hair.

But we don’t stop there.  We talk.  And we listen.  We listen to her voice, her speech.  We judge her personality, her maturity, her intelligence, her intentions, her enthusiasm, her resiliency and her stamina.

We don’t want a stewardess to be impatient with a question you may have, or careless in serving your dinner, or unconcerned about your needs.

So we try to eliminate these problems by taking a lot more time and passing up a lot more girls.

It may make our job a little harder.  But it makes your flying a lot easier.”


How nice.  They actually ‘talked and listened’ during the selection process rather than just judging hair, nails and bust-waist-hip ratio. And check it out 1970’s job candidates – if you were fortunate enough to pass phase 1 (the ugly screen) Eastern Airlines kindly laid out the job competencies right there in the advertisement: patiencepersonality, maturity, intelligence, intentions, enthusiasm, resiliency and stamina. 

After your trip to the beauty parlor and the make-up counter you might have had enough time to think about answers for the moment you were actually deigned worthy enough to enter into conversation about actual skills and abilities.



This post originally ran over at the HR Schoolhouse in 2014. Thanks to my friend Trish McFarlane for reminding me about it yesterday which led to my re-running it from the archives. 


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