Gender biases in interview questions

My mind has been blown in the last few weeks as I continue to read about how gender bias plays a role in interviews. Among other places. The simplicity of the placement of words impacts the results of an interview.

Women are more likely to attribute success to their team, hard work and good luck. While men are more likely to attribute success to skills and innate qualities. Thank you for the intel.

I often ask an open ended, warm up question, like tell me about your path to here, right now. Boom. Just walked right in to gender bias if I’m not careful. Men are more likely to tell me about their skills and the qualities they possess that got them here. Think, my ability to close the biggest deal got me a promotion manager. While a woman might say, I’ve had really good luck with customers and the deal closed which led to the promotion. Would I walk away thinking that the man was smarter? I mean, the woman got lucky, but the man used his ability.

I learned to spend time thinking about what I want out of my questions. Why do I want to know about their path to here? I want to know about their interests professionally. I want to know about decisions they made during their career path. I learned to take these and make specific questions, to drive out the answers I want and to account for bias. Instead, I can ask, what skills do you think got you here? It specifically asks each candidate to talk about skills. Instead of relying on their own interpretation of what I’m asking.

Mind blown. Bring on the interviewees.

Let’s talk about the use of anonymous surveys

Our organization runs an anonymous survey to our entire employee base every quarter or so before a townhall. We try to gather thoughts in to themes and make sure we speak to them in the townhall. I love the idea of hearing what people think. I love the opportunity to hear what happens at the watercooler or whatever people talk over now. What do people talk over now? Is it still the watercooler? Maybe the foosball table? Espresso machine? Doggy daycare? I digress.

I love anonymous feedback tools. I, like most HR people, would prefer that we have created an environment that is so open and welcoming that people can say anything. But we’re all humans and some days we’re still trying to figure out how to tell our boss that she has a seed stuck between her teeth. So, anonymity can be helpful.


A few months ago, the survey came back saying that I was unapproachable. While this comment didn’t leave me feeling the same joy I feel eating a Starbucks oat fudge bar, it didn’t sting. I took it to heart. Someone was struggling so much and had nowhere else to turn but this anonymous survey. That had to change. More on that in some other blogpost.


I work on a team of wonderful humans. And the humans showed their wonderfulness by being worried about my feelings. In truth, the outpouring was unexpected. Emails, visits, notes, texts, IMs, even a box of doughnuts. It didn’t matter if they agreed or not with the anonymous commenter, they disagreed with the forum. With putting me on the spot like that.


It’s funny that one person’s complaint led to so much support. Life can be like that.


I still love anonymous surveys. I still think they serve a purpose. I’m still trying to create the perfect environment. Where everyone says what they thinks and we solve problems in the open. But, in the meantime, keep surveying!

Let’s change the way we work!

I am passionate about changing the way we work.

People contribute of themselves.

People aren’t contributing time.

Give them results, goal, outcomes, whatever you want to call it.

Let them do it.

Let’s stop living by a time clock. A believe that business has to take place between nine to five. Or Monday to Friday.

Yes. We have customers.
Yes. We have cars to produce.

Let’s start doing that differently, too. Let’s start exploring how we can work in different ways.

It will not be easy.

It will be better once we get there.

Let’s start!

managers should be asking five questions

I encourage managers to be able to answer five person questions about their employees. The questions don’t really matter, it’s the conversation and the relationship that matters.

The time invested into having these conversations is what will build more open communication, an understanding of each other and a stronger relationship.

Here’s a quick list of five to get you started:

What’s your employee’s favorite colour?

Where were they born?

Do they have any siblings?

If they had to be terminated, how would they want it to go down?

What did they want to be when they were a kid?

These questions should spark all kinds of questions. Especially the one about being terminated. If you’ve got an employee who is just answering that with a straight face and without questions, you’ve got a pretty strong indicator that they aren’t communicating with you. Most of the time, that question at the very least prompts a nervous laugh or a ‘what kind of question is that’ response. It opens the door for all kinds of conversation and sets a stage for difficult conversations. Conversations are one of the most effective ways to build a relationship that you will most certainly need down the road when things are hard – even fun things like moving to a new office is hard and leaning on the relationship you’ve built helps you be a more effective and efficient team.

Try it!

Women in the workplace

A particular area of interest for me is women in the workplace. It hasn’t always been the case though. I spent the first 15 working years focused on my work and career. I wanted to move myself forward. It is only recently that I started to think of the careers and experiences of other women. I want to see us all move forward.

It has been inspiring to watch a woman accept the nomination to run for president of the United States. I loved what Arianna Huffington said – another ceiling broken. I hadn’t thought about it that light until I read what she wrote. It’s an amazing time to be a women. We’re watching history unfold. There is still work to be done. And they may feel like baby steps to some, but they feel like steps to me. Small movements forward, towards equality. And they’re beautiful movements!

Can’t wait to see another Canadian woman prime minister, maybe for a longer tenure, though.

Social events and business metrics

My morning tea rumination landed on social events today. There is often disagreement about whether or not social events fall under the umbrella of human resources. But that’s a different post for a different day. Regardless of whether or not socials fall within Human Resources, should events be correlated to business metrics? Should we connect employee engagement results, sales figures, NPS results, and more to social events? If the business results are poor, should social events continue? If the NPS results are low, should there be more social events?

I think doing the research, being curious, experimenting and measure, will lead you to the right answer. Correlating social events with business results will give you some direction. You’ll learn if social events positively effect business performance. Likewise, you’ll learn if they impact your customer satisfaction.

Using this information, you can determine how to use social events for influencing business results. Social events are almost always a positive. It’s hard to argue with the idea of people getting to know each other better, building relationships and team building. But, connecting with metrics is important.

Go forth, party. Then measure the results.

Advice in the form of a question?

One of my favorite pieces of advice, is actually a question. How badly do you want it?

Such a simple question, but it’s so impactful. We can all find ourselves in a rut or a lull. Or, worse, feel like something we want is out of reach. That’s when the question, how badly do you want it, might help.

If you want to start exercising, but just can’t seem to get yourself to get started – try asking how badly do you want it? If you want to start a business, but you don’t know if it will be successful – try asking how badly you want it?

An oldy, but a goody.

The language of change management

I was reminded in a conversation this week about how excited I am to see the language of change management disappear. Not because it is not important or because we don’t need the help, but because we’ve fully digested the fact that change is not something to be managed. Or planned. But rather, that it is constant. It will have become part of how we operate. And someday the effort we give to managing a change like a new website, will be unconscious. Of course, this will be because of all the good work that the language of change management does today!

Summer dress codes

Ah, yes, summer is back. For many HR professionals that means dress code conversations. Depending on the workplace, this may include chats about flip flops, short shorts, baseball hats, tank tops, and I’m sure other clothing items. Sometimes, clothing impacts our business in a real, tangible way. Maybe for those forward facing with customers. Maybe for those who need to consider health and safety. But, for many others, we’re bringing our own standards of dress to the workplace. Sometimes, the work is what matters. Imagine what might be possible if we weren’t hung up on flip flops and short shorts. Imagine if we were hung up on outcomes, results and metrics. Just saying.

Can you cry at work?

Over the past few years, I’ve done a 180 on shows of emotion at work. I started my career thinking that feelings and emotions were best left at home. Or at the very least, in the bathroom stall.

I have come to think about people as a whole. If we expect people to give their best, be high performers, we have to expect them to be people. People have bad days. People are happy, sad, angry, frustrated, excited, well, you get the idea. I have come to think that we need to give people the opportunity to be themselves. Their whole selves.

For some people, that means crying when they feel happy, sad, frustrated, or angry. You can cry at work! Because it means you are engaged at work. It means you care. It means you care so much that you are getting frustrated. Let it out!