How to Stop Hiring Managers from Asking Inappropriate Interview Questions

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A former Google and Meta executive has bragged on social media that he openly discriminated against female job applicants.

On May 22, tech pro Patrick Shyu admitted in a now-deleted Twitter post that was captured by Business Intern that he had a habit of trashing candidate resumes in front of them during job interviews and immediately rejecting them.

“I told them, ‘Go have kids. Don’t worry, I’m smarter than you, I know that,'” Shyu wrote.

After receiving criticism, Shyu tweeted that women shouldn’t work as coders and should instead “prioritize being a good mother and a good wife,” Business Insider reported. He also suggested that misogyny is a myth and an excuse for “incompetent women who have spent too long pursuing ‘misogyny’ instead of bettering themselves.”

On May 26, he tweeted that his views are unconsolidated, “much like how we never stop learning and growing as people.”

Shyu worked as a technical manager for Google from September 2014 to April 2018, according to her LinkedIn profile. He then worked at Meta as a staff software engineer from May 2018 to July 2019. It is unclear whether Shyu’s behavior led to his departure from each company.

Representatives for Google and Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Avoid asking these questions

Shyu’s reported behavior was beyond pallid, but while most other investigators don’t go that far, many ask candidates inappropriate questions that can be perceived as discriminatory and could lead to legal action against the company.

“Women, in particular, have always been the subject of such illegal questions which, in many cases, are aimed at discovering certain information about them which can be used not only to eliminate them as potential employees, but, in certain circumstances, for use in inappropriately targeting them in the future,” said Andrew M. Gordon, attorney at the law firm Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Gordon cited inappropriate specific questions, such as:

  • Are you married?
  • Do you have children?
  • Who is responsible for taking your children to school?

Not only are these questions inappropriate, Gordon explained, but they are also illegal and have nothing to do with a candidate’s qualifications for a position. They can also tarnish a company’s reputation and compromise its ability to recruit and retain talent.

“Employers need to be able to trust their investigators-in-charge,” Gordon said. “It is imperative that those interviewing potential candidates have a basic understanding of what questions are appropriate and what questions are not allowed, as well as the context in which certain questions are problematic and potentially discriminatory.”

Microaggressions in the workplace, a problem for women

For some women, the discrimination occurs once they get the job.

Women are more likely than men to face microaggressions that undermine them professionally, according to a report by McKinsey and company. These microaggressions include being interrupted and having their judgment questioned.

Women of color often experience a higher rate of these microaggressions, according to the McKinsey report. They are more likely than white women to experience microaggressions that reinforce harmful stereotypes or portray them as outsiders.

Women who regularly experience microaggressions are twice as likely as those who don’t to be burnt out, more than twice as likely to report having negative feelings about their work, and almost three times as likely to say that over the past few months they have had difficulty concentrating at work due to stress.

Kimberly Lee Minor, a black woman who founded and is CEO of boutique company Bumbershoot in Columbus, Ohio, has faced microaggressions throughout her career. When her first child was born prematurely, she continued to work shortly after birth as she had not planned to go on maternity leave so soon.

“During a meeting, my boss asked me if I was considering coming back,” Minor said. “I answered in the affirmative. Why would I continue to work during my leave if I did not plan to return? His response was simple: “I’m just checking because [someone] said girls usually don’t come back once they have their children. “

Soon after, Minor discovered that a promotion she had wanted had been given to someone who had not given birth.

“That’s just one of the stories,” she explained. “There’s a lot more about when I had to make a choice that my male colleagues didn’t or when I was judged for being a mother or a wife.”

Gender discrimination has proven to erode women’s confidence. The Society for Human Resource Management offers resources for employers to identify and eliminate gender bias in the workplace to create a more inclusive environment.

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