What mistakes do women make at interviews? Is there a dress code for interviews for women in India? Find out!
By Aarti Krishnakumar
Inadequate preparation, not matching the company to one’s work-life requirements, wearing the wrong outfit – these make a world of difference when meeting with your prospective employer.
It doesn’t help that women are often asked tricky interview questions about their personal lives. What common mistakes and interview tips should women at work be aware of when on the job hunt? Read on!
Being prepared and doing some groundwork is essential for any interview. For women, in the Indian context, it is a fact that personal questions are often asked; hence, answers to these should also be part of one’s preparation. It helps if you can connect with someone who works with the prospective employer to gain some insight.
Sangeetha Sridhar, a HR professional with Agthia Group in Dubai says that women are sometimes caught unawares when requested to sign a bond, and have not discussed this possibility with the husband or father, which they may be expected to do. She also mentions that young women are often asked about marriage or motherhood plans, and answer these vaguely. While personal questions may annoy, it helps to have a firm answer to them such as, “While I don’t foresee my personal situation changing in the short run, in the event of any unexpected developments, I will ensure that I help the company to work through the challenge smoothly.”
…young women are often asked about marriage or motherhood plans, and answer these vaguely.
Rupa Gandhi, working with the Wildlife Trust of India says,“Women who are asked about their marital status, especially if they look of marriageable age get cornered and are unaware of what to answer. Do they say they are engaged or that their parents on the lookout, but they are unaware of what the future holds?” One needs to have a suitable answer in mind.
For working mothers or those with commitments to the elderly at home, it is especially important to have clarity in one’s expectations and availability. Anita Nandini, a freelance HR consultant and guest lecturer adds, “Many a time, when asked if the lady is ready to take on a position that will require frequent travel, they hesitate or start talking about their personal situations in length.” Instead of going into details on your personal situation, it helps to be specific in terms of how you can fulfill the job role given your constraints.
It also helps to do some research with acquaintances in the same industry and check if your personal commitments will allow you to take on such a job. Usha Raju, who runs her own HR consulting firm in Chennai says, “Women apply for a Project Manager position or logistics roles that will require long hours and heavy work load, but during the interview they ask if they can work from home or explicitly reveal their inexperience but eagerness to learn. These are good points, but the company might be looking for someone with experience if the requirement is urgent”.
An open mindedness, proving that one can adapt to different situations and right attitude are what corporates look for. This confidence in one’s ability is something that women fail to project at times, especially if there has been a career gap. Mudita Arora, an Assistant Director of Patient and Clinical Services with a healthcare firm in the US adds, “When asked about the gap in their career graph, women sometimes beat around the bush, stating vague answers such as ‘it’s personal’. Sometimes the gap is over 4 years, which means she will need to make a fresh start from scratch.”
Instead of being defensive over a career gap, prepare an explanation as to how you have kept yourself updated in the intervening period, and what you bring to the role.
Wearing the right attire makes all the difference when you want to make an impression, and when going for interviews, one should wear smart clothes. This could be either Indian or western, but something appropriate. Many Indian women seem to go for interviews wearing a salwar kameez with a lot of glitter or where the dupatta keeps sliding off and they are left fidgeting with it.
Women are very conscious of their appearance, and tend to keep adjusting their outfit or wiping their face, fumbling around, all of which are signs of being stressed.
Vidya Rajagopalan, an IT consultant based out of the US quips, “Women walk in for an interview wearing bold colours with strong perfumes that startle the interviewer.” Wearing loud colours, chunky jewellery, carrying a gold or similar handbag are all not appreciated during interviews. Mudita says, “Women need to learn about corporate culture and the position applied for when they dress for interviews.”
Aarti Christeen, who used to work with a PR firm also says, “Women are very conscious of their appearance, and tend to keep adjusting their outfit or wiping their face, fumbling around, all of which are signs of being stressed”.
It is difficult but critical to draw a firm line between home and work. Aarti says, “Many times women land up at an interview lost in their daily routine, and look rushed. When asked to wait, they will respond saying they have to leave to pick up their son from school.” On an interview day, try and allot sufficient time – sometimes, if the company likes you, the HR person may want you to meet the business manager or even CEO rightaway, and you don’t want to pass up that opportunity.
Next time you are called for an interview, remember to prepare, dress right, be clear on what you are looking for and go for it!
*Photo credit: connor212