Although many workplaces and managers are adamant about supporting gender diversity, recent research shows that bias still rears its ugly head in the interview process. In fact, for many male interviewers, the bias is so innate that they are not even themselves aware of it.
So, as a woman, how can you be successful in an interview -- even when you know the deck is stacked against you?
1. Project Confidence
You can address any doubt than an interviewer might have about your skills with confidence. Interviews make everyone uneasy, and if you seem at all nervous, you may play right into your interviewer’s stereotypes.
The best way to combat nerves is to be prepared. That means you that before the interview you should a) do your research, b) prepare your answers, and c) practice out loud. If you’re walking into an interview without having done at least one hour of preparation, then you are not ready.
2. Disarm Your Interviewer
In the first few minutes of the interview, say or do something that will seriously impress your interviewer. Take him by surprise -- in a good way, and make him glad to be talking to you. There are lots of different ways to accomplish this:
- You can cite a fact or a piece of data you are familiar with that is relevant to the discussion
- You can reference something that came up in your research about the company -- but NOT something obvious. Choose a tidbit that you’ve inferred or that would take a long time to uncover.
- You can reference something interesting about the interviewer personally. For example, if in your research you’ve discovered that they’re really into sailing and you have something interesting to say about sailing, you can draw him in by saying it.
- Compliment your interviewer. This is trickier because you may not have obvious fodder, but if you know that he worked on a specific product launch for example, you can say, “you’ve made that product so successful. Great work.”
3. Demonstrate knowledge
When you’re answering his interview questions, be sure to get really specific about your past work and assignments. Bring your story to life by talking in detail about the work you’ve done and how you personally added value. Don’t be afraid to say “I” as opposed to “we” when you’re talking about past projects and accomplishments.
4. Be a great listener
Let the interviewer talk, and engage with what he’s saying. Let him think he’s guiding the conversation -- even though you have an agenda and key talking points you’ll get across. Ask thoughtful questions about what he’s saying so he knows you understand.
5. Thank him, but not profusely
Don’t let your interviewer think you are desperate for this job in any way. Make him wonder whether he’d be able to get you for the job. It’s just like dating! Play a little hard-to-get. If you seem to eager or available, again, you’re playing into stereotypes.
6. Go easy on yourself
Often, as women, we’re so tough on ourselves, we make interviews harder and more nerve wracking than they need to be -- and it negatively impacts our performance. Lower your standards for yourself, and you can bet you’ll probably still deliver on his. And, you’ll feel better coming out of the interview -- whether or not you get the job.
A version of this article previously appeared on Elle.com.
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