Women & Interviews

Chat Transcript

Women & Interviews
Chat Transcript
Beyond The Trick Question
A Lawyer's Adventures
Career Basics For Women
Career Matchmaking
Ms. Xecutive Holds Forth
Ain't No Personnel Jockey
Recruiter's Point of View
Brassy, Foolish Dames
Ask The Headhunter

Held on America Online May 29, 1996. Sponsored by The Motley Fool, our Foolish and gracious good buddies.

This event was a special feature of Ask The Headhunter, and it includes a collection of articles written exclusively for this event.

It was organized and conducted by Nick Corcodilos of North Bridge Group, host of Ask The Headhunter. Gabrielle Loperfido (GL) of The Motley Fool was the emcee. Please see the Women & Interviews introduction for information about our guests and the articles they contributed.

If you have questions or comments about this transcript, please contact Ask The Headhunter.

GL: I am Gabrielle, your emcee for tonight. We are pleased to present Nick Corcodilos (NC), Headhunter Supreme tonight with Nancy Austin (NA), Patti Bush (PB), and Connie Gray (CG), discussing and taking your questions on Women & Interviews. Nick will do the honors of introducing our guests tonight. Nick, take it away!

NC: Certainly. Nancy Austin is the author of The Assertive Woman, the first book on that subject for women, and co-author (with Tom Peters) of the classic A Passion for Excellence. She's also writes a column for Working Woman magazine. Nancy's recent article about interviewing is what actually spurred this whole event!

Connie Gray is Assistant Executive for the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston. She's responsible for some of the most progressive student mentoring programs on any college campus - at Simmons College in Boston.

Patti Bush is owner of StrataGEMS, a marketing and Internet consulting firm. She's got a "motley" (varied) professional background. Her experiences have taught readers a lot on the Ask The Headhunter forum.

I want to welcome -- and thank -- them all for joining us tonight.

GL: A big welcome to Nick, Connie, Nancy, and Patti!

GL: Please go ahead and send your questions up here to us onstage via the Interact button on your screen.

NC: Nancy, would you give us some of your thoughts to open up the discussion?

NA: I hear that one big advantage women have in interviewing is: they aren't men. Agree?

GL: Here, here!

NC: Absolutely -- women tend not to have men's terrible interviewing habits.

PB: Such as?

NC: Being very "clubby": "so, where do you play golf?" Or, that EXTRA firm handshake. . .

NA: Of course, it's possible to go too far the other way, as when women hold back or try too hard to be liked. 

NC: That says one thing: you're very nervous!

GL: We have a great question from CanD Slic. . .Question: What is the best way to handle a phone interview?

PB: It's REAL easy to get too casual... you have to visualize being there in person!

NC: As a headhunter, I advise candidates to be the one to initiate such a call so as to take immediate control. The shorter the discussion, the better. The point is to meet in person.

NC: The purpose of the call should be for YOU to gather info you need to prep for the meeting.

GL: Excellent point, Nick.

GL: We have a question from Battlsr5 tied more closely to the issue of women & interviews. . .Question: How do women interviewers differ from men? What about the flip side that Battlesr5 is talking about?

NA: Women interviewers get to the point more quickly and comfortably, I think. They also put candidates at ease because they see that as a big part of the process.

PB: I've noticed that women tend to get more "personal". That can be good or bad!

NC: The conventional wisdom says that women are more empathetic. . .is that why they're better interviewers?

GL: We have a specific question about interviewing in the field of technology from CCoburn. .. Question: What are some of the challenges that women face in interviewing for a position in a technology field?

NC: Here's a situation where "getting comfortable" is critical. Maybe women help that happen earlier in the meeting. I think it's very true.

NA: Oh, technology is tough because of the company cultures--very male, in my experience. You have to shake that off and carve out your own niche there, which ironically can be much easier to do in those companies.

NC: Why easier?

NA: If the company is successful, they focus on performance, and don't care that you aren't a pilot or a duck hunter. Differences are less important than talent and quirkiness is actually an asset. I was at Hewlett-Packard and found it a relief.

NC: Ah, that's why it's easier to succeed in California? :-)

NA: Yeah, Calif. is great as long as the ground doesn't move!

PB: technically oriented interview tend to go to problems at hand, much easier than formal questions and answers

NA: Maybe it's the project orientation that helps here, too. 

NC: Patti, you make a great point. . . In technical interviews it may be easier to get to THE WORK at hand.

GL: We have an interesting question from LJHawk. . . Question: Do you believe women take more time completing the interview process than men?

NC: Oh, that's a GOOD one!

PB: YES!! They want to hear more about the job!

GC: Yes, I think women like to talk about a number of things related to the job.

GC: Another factor I've found is that women wait for the questions rather than asking them .

GL: On which side of the interview, Connie? As the interviewer or interviewee?

GL: We have a question from PPerfumo about the more material differences of being a woman. . .Question: How detrimental is it to be an UNattractive woman (i.e. overweight, a large nose, or a bad overbite)?

NC: Well, the current nightly news would have us believe that it's not good to be ugly if you're a women, or short if you're a guy. . .

PB: I think it's true... but I think that engaging your interviewer is more important.

NA: People who are "attractive" -- both men and women -- do have an edge in most industries.

NC: There's that word: ENGAGING. More power to ANY candidate who can do that in an interview, rather than sit like a bump on a log answering questions as fired at them.

GC: Women being interviewed often don't realize they can and should ask questions, too.

GL: Thanks, Connie.

NA: But personality and preparedness counts a lot more than a tiny nose!

NC: I think we're getting to an important point here: the candidate can be at her most powerful when talking about the WORK (this applies to guys, too)

PB: I've always gone to an interview with more questions than there is time for.. makes for a more dynamic interview.

GC: I totally agree, Nick that if the women can start talking about their work, they do better

(GL: Just want to welcome all of you in the audience who have recently joined us here onstage. We're here tonight with Nancy Austin (NA), Patti Bush (PB), and Connie Gray (CG).)

GL: Here's an interesting question from BSSchecte. . .Question: How does one respond to - all candidates are equally qualified, why should I pick you? Does/should the answer vary between men and women?

NC: If all candidates are equally qualified, is it then good to turn the discussion away from qualifications -- and on to something else?

GC: Why pick me? Because I can show you that I know your problems and can solve them.

NA: Yes, yes, yes. Learn to focus on the work and take control of the interview. This will take practice. 

PB: CG, do you know how often interviewers find people who have no clue what your business is about?

NC: Yup, I agree. Time to DEMONSTRATE while the other candidates are just talking.

GC: Both men and women go looking for a job without researching the organization.

GL: On the subject of the dynamics of the interview. . . we have a question from Tnkrbel:… Question: What's the best way to turn around an interview when you know you're just not clicking with the interviewer?

NA: I've taken it for a walk--literally. Gone on a quick tour of the place where we can meet up with other people and maybe get a new person.

GL: Excellent strategy, Nancy.

NC: What a concept: change interviewers in the middle of the interview! I love it!

PB: My suggestion.. stop it right there, tell the truth... ask, what is it you really want to know?

NC: That takes brass.

GC: It is a critical error not to somehow indicate during the interview that you have done your homework before hand.

NC: Connie, that's a very important point. Sometimes the candidate never gets the chance to do that.

GL: We have another thoughtful question from CCoburn. . .Question: As a woman you can carve out a niche after you are hired - but what is the best way to get accepted in the interview?

NC: I don't get that question: does CCoburn mean how to get an interview? Or how to get along with the interviewer?

NA: Assuming there's a basic fit, you have to persevere. Do all your homework. Show you really like the place and the people and the purpose. Is that what you meant?

GC: I believe that you can carve out a niche: I have done it, but you have to be sure what you are willing to do to get your foot in the door.

PB: I'll tell you a story about getting hired in a male-dominated sporting goods area. They said "but we've never hired a woman"

NA: How do you respond to "we've never hired a woman?"

GC: Ask why not? Were none of them qualified?

PB: I said, well it's about time you did, don't you think?

NA: Good Answer!

PB: Women have over 50% of the purchasing power in the USA.

NC: I saw a recent stat that said 60% of women like working...compared to 37% of men. .. What does THAT say about who you'd want to hire?

PB: Women are easily pleased?

GC: My father always said he preferred women on his staff because they were easier to manage and were more careful workers.

NC: Experience doesn't mean that much to me. I want to know, can you do THIS job NOW?

GL: We have a question along these lines from Deb of OZ that has to do with the experience factor…Question: Do women that have experience, such as 20 years Air Force, have a good chance with a technical company, simply because of the experience.

NA: Twenty years with the Air Force speaks of commitment and guts, I'd say, and fitting into a pretty tight group.

NC: Connie: Ah, a stereotype that might MEAN something. . .:-)

NA: Members of a high-tech, new product launch team, say, would find that compelling.

GC: Women in the military have lived with a male-dominated system and if they have lasted they have proven themselves. Good bets!

GL: LADYHUB has a question that plays off the issue of stereotypes in just this context.. . .Question: With women trying to compete in the technology field, don't they run across individuals who take offense at women who are aggressive in order to compete?

PB: Men, seem to have weird sensibilities about that issue.

NC: About aggressive women, Patti?

PB: Yes, It's hard to predict how they will respond.

NA: Yes, it is still a fine line. Assertive is not the same thing as aggressive. It helps to remember that the interview is the start of a long relationship.

NC: Are they "acting" aggressive, or are they really aggressive?

PB: I think that when you run into "resistance" back off and think of a new way to approach the issue but don't give up!

GL: (Excellent point, Patti.) Going back to the attractiveness issue, what about the converse--women who are very attractive? We have a question along those lines from Deb of Oz. . .Question: What about the opposite of that, does attractive cause a problem in a technical field???

NA: Yes, definitely. I knew a VERY talented woman who had long red fingernails and every (male) engineer I knew called her "the Barracuda" behind her back.

GC: When women dress professionally - suits, etc. - they convey a different image - one of being serious rather than frivolous. It helps in many professions - even with long finger nails.

NC: Patti, you've worked in Silicon Valley; what's the story?

PB: They like you to use buzz words.

NC: Are buzz words sexy? :-)

PB: Yes, it's like "club" entry.. in a new career situation, learn a few.

GL: What about women interacting with other women? Kay Butler has an excellent point to make. .Comment: Women want to get ahead, but still haven't learned that WOMEN need to help each other. It's not dog-eat-dog... it's lend a hand. Have you all found this to be true?

GC: Women who have made it by struggling often are the hardest to convince they should help their "sisters'' just starting off. I have heard horrid tales.

NC: I think one needs to be careful about re-inventing the "old white guys" club rather than creating a truly supportive environment that really MEANS something among women

PB: No, unfortunately....but enough times to make it worthwhile to "relate". Women have the same career issues as men, we have to balance our personal goals with our professional goals.

NA: Yes, it is still true that if you've climbed up on your own, you don't understand why or how to assist someone else. I can count on one hand the number of companies that would say to

their people, "Go get a life!"

NC: Do men help one another because they're men?

PB: Not any more Nick....

NC: That's my point. I think women face a similar situation whether they know it or not.

GC: I think men are quicker to help each other than women. Women need to be taught how to mentor. They haven't had the same experience, generally.

PB: I agree Connie, we don't know how to actually HELP each other!

GL: To change the focus a bit, we have an outstanding question from MewLady2. . . Question: I had to take time off to care for my father and have temped since then. Do I stop apologizing for it? And how do I make that into less of a minus?

PB: YES! Stop apologizing!

NA: I agree. You are getting superb project management skills by temping. You are growing in number and, I hope, in respect. But never, never apologize for your "lowly" status.

PB: Never, did anyone read my sister's article about taking a "lowly" job?

NC: Never succumb to the idiot interviewer who is more concerned about your "resume" than about the work you can do for him or her.

NC: Patti's talking about the article in Ask The Headhunter titled "My Adventures".

NC: Great reading. Answers THIS question quite nicely!

GC: I have found it necessary to sometimes take a lowly job to get your foot in the door.

GL: We have two more comments on the women-managing-interviewing-women issue: PegyZ has always felt that women treat female bosses differently and KMaczka. .. Is interested in hearing more about women managing women.

PB: I am too!! Tell us about managing women -- how is it different?

NC: Do women treat female bosses differently because they feel they SHOULD, or is it a competition issue?

GC: Women can be the best of managers - caring, delegating and supportive, but they can also be manipulative and turf-oriented, just like men. Maybe we are not that different when it comes to competition for a job or promotion!

GL: I notice a difference myself, but I'm not sure what it means or in whose favor it weighs.

NA: It's a relationship we scrutinize more, and I don't know why.

GL: We have a fantastic question from KMLowell. . .Question: What are some interviewing tips for women who have been out of the job market for some period, either due to family issues or otherwise?

NC: Nancy, you're opening up a very interesting discussion.

GC: Look beyond the tasks they have performed to see what the skills are so they can see these skills as transferable to the workplace - problem-solving, organizing, service-oriented, interpersonal communication competencies.

PB: Make it a positive... "I stopped working to really understand that part of the consumer market (or whatever)

NA: Here's an area where interviewing is changing--those unsightly "gaps" in one's career aren't so ugly anymore. Actually mini-sabbaticals!

NC: I think this is where heavy-duty, raw research on the employer and their business is most critical -- it can open the interview up for such a candidate.

PB: Good point Nancy!

NA: But you have to stand up for that experience and not sag underneath it.

NC: Yes, I think companies are starting to see these "gaps" as something they themselves are inflicting on the pool of workers, so they're not as sensitive to them as they used to be.

PB: Doesn't it seem that we have to educate our interviewers?

GC: Gaps are not as bad as they used to be. People are moving in and out of the workforce for multiple reasons, including elder care today.

GL: We have time for just a few more questions. We have one from JULGOUDY. . . Question: When asked what is your main strength - what is the best reply when your strength is that you have many strengths. This is a hard point to get across in a resume and difficult to summarize in an interview without sounding like a generalist.

GL: And we have another practical question from Etherbudd. . .Question: What about women who are older than their interviewers...any special advice?

NA: Try in your own mind to get it to 25 words or less; force yourself to focus on what you do really well, what those key strengths are.

PB: Make sure in your interview that you really get the chance to tell it like it is..

GC: Pick the strength that is most needed in that organization!

NC: "My greatest strength is solving your critical Problem X like this. . . ."


GL: What about the age question? What if an interviewee is older than the interviewer?

GC: Older than their interviewers? I went through that 2 years ago. I toned down myself and asked more questions so that I did not come across as a know it all.

NC: An older interviewee should focus on the work, not the interviewer.

GL: Well, folks, we're going to have to wrap things up tonight. Everyone is invited back to The Motley Fool--keyword: Fool, where we can continue our discussion in a more informal setting. Click on CHAT once you get to the Fool and voila!

NC: Gabrielle, thanks for a fine job tonight!

GC: Thanks everyone. It was fascinating and informative.

GL: Nick, Nancy, Patti, and Connie, THANK YOU ALL!

NC: And thanks to Nancy, Connie & Patti for joining us and writing some GREAT articles.

NA: Ditto--it has been great. And I loved all the articles.

GL: And thank you to those of you in our audience for your great questions!


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Special thanks to Cyndi Sandahl for re-formatting this transcript to make it easier to read.

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