Job interviews are a critical stage in the hiring process, offering both employers and candidates an opportunity to assess each other’s suitability. However, sometimes certain questions can unintentionally touch upon sensitive issues, leading to discomfort and misunderstandings. In this blog, we explore a recent incident involving a candidate’s reaction to a question about managing work-life balance and discuss the importance of asking such questions with sensitivity. 

The Incident:

During an interview, a candidate was asked how she would handle the challenges of long hours and travel while juggling her responsibilities as a parent. The question seemed to upset the candidate, leaving her feeling uneasy and disheartened. Feedback from the client was that the candidate’s response to the question may have been inappropriate. In my opinion this might have been inappropriate from both sides; the manner in which the question was asked and the response to the question.

Understanding the Candidate’s Perspective:

It is crucial to recognise that questions regarding work-life balance can evoke emotional responses, particularly when they appear to perpetuate gender stereotypes or place unequal expectations on individuals based on their family responsibilities. In this case, the candidate felt that the question implied a double standard, as her husband was not being asked the same question in interviews. Such perceived disparities can understandably lead to frustration and a sense of inequality.

Examining the Client’s Viewpoint:

On the other hand, the client believed that the candidate’s response was inappropriate, highlighting a differing perception of the situation. While the client acknowledges the potential insensitivity of the question, they maintain that the candidate’s reaction could have been more composed and constructive.

Promoting Sensitivity in Interview Questions:

This incident brings to light the importance of formulating interview questions that consider various perspectives and avoid unintentionally causing discomfort. Here are a few considerations for both interviewers and candidates:

1. Interviewers:

a) Diverse Questions: Avoid questions that may reinforce gender or parental stereotypes and instead focus on assessing the candidate’s skills and qualifications.

b) Fairness: Ensure that questions are asked consistently to all candidates, regardless of their gender or personal circumstances.

c) Sensitivity Training: Provide interviewers with training on asking inclusive and unbiased questions to foster a respectful interview environment.

2. Candidates:

a) Responding Positively: If faced with an uncomfortable question, take a moment to compose yourself before responding. Channel your answer towards your qualifications, skills, and experiences.

b) Raising Concerns: If a question feels inappropriate or offensive, consider addressing the issue constructively by sharing your perspective and suggesting an alternative approach.

Interviews should be opportunities for employers to assess candidates’ qualifications, skills, and fit for the role, while allowing candidates to showcase their abilities. It is essential to approach questions about work-life balance with sensitivity and awareness of potential biases. By fostering an environment of respect and inclusivity during interviews, employers can ensure a fair and positive experience for all candidates, while candidates can navigate such questions with composure and use the opportunity to advocate for equality in the workplace.