Top job candidate was sloppy, didn't hew to gender norms, during the interview. Now what?
March 23, 2011 8:58 AM Subscribe
I'm having a hard time sussing out whether a recent job candidate's informality (and non-adherence to gender norms) should be a major warning sign, eye-rollingly insignificant, or somewhere in between.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (84 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
This candidate has proven her ability to do the job through her past experience and her demonstrated accomplishments. I also like her, as a person, from what I know about her. Her interests and personality seem different than those of most of the people on my team, and I think that's a good thing - I want to diversify the way we think and approach our jobs.
But when she showed up for the interview I was surprised by how she presented herself. She slouched, was laid back. She wore slacks, a blouse and combat boots - attire that would be OK for every day office wear, but is much more casual than I've seen any female interviewee wear. (Men have successfully interviewed in pressed slacks, a nice button down, and comfortable black shoes.) She answered most of my questions thoughtfully, but didn't try to sell herself. On some questions, like "describe a time you've had a conflict in the office and how you handled it," she seemed stumped and didn't stretch very hard to come up with an answer when it didn't bubble to the top of her mind. Another person who also interviewed this candidate asked about her attitudes about appropriate attendance, and the candidate laughed and said, "Are you kidding? I'm a grown up" - something I might have thought, but that my inner filter would have prevented me from saying in a job interview.
Other people who are evaluating her as a candidate see her casualness as a major warning sign. One fears it might suggest a lack of respect for authority and that I might have to deal with constant challenges and insubordination if I hire her. Another just fears that she's a slob and that if she wears combat boots to a job interview she may wind up wearing sweats and slippers when it's time to come to work. Everyone is harping on the combat boots.
I still like her, and I can't help but think that a lot of these complaints are because she didn't hew to gender norms. She may well be straight, bi or asexual, but I think I picked up butch vibes, which might explain how she dressed. Even if she's not a lesbian, I'm bothered by how much her failure to present as feminine seems to be affecting how she's viewed by others in my office.
At the same time, I do wonder about her judgement when she opted not to play the game. She didn't just wear combat boots - she slouched, she scoffed at questions, she didn't try to sell us on her candidacy. My colleagues whose alarm bells are ringing have a lot more experience with hiring than I do, and I respect their concerns even as I question them. I wonder if I should spend some more time examining my second-tier candidates for somebody who might play the game better or demonstrate a better cultural fit, even if their demonstrated work history is not as strong.
Can you help me interpret this situation? I'd love examples of times when these kinds of issues affected your own hiring decisions, and what happened as a result. Or references to any research or analysis of interview presentation and how it correlates with on-the-job ability. Or explanations of why you might have come across sloppy in an interview.