I recently saw this ad that reminded me of a recent interview I had with one of India’s biggest matrimony websites. After a brief run down of my resume, I was asked if I were married and when I nodded, the immediate question that followed is if I had kids. Now, its easy to assume that the recruiter was a fairly friendly woman who took a keen interest in learning about her prospective hires except her questions didn’t stop there. When I mentioned I didn’t have any kids yet, she followed up with a barrage of questions that became increasingly uncomfortable to answer. If I were married for over 5 years, why don’t I have kids yet? Do I plan to have them? If yes, when? And how soon? Besides being illegal in a few countries, this was just down right not one bit classy. So, if the law couldn’t protect me from the cheapness of this interview, I had to step up and stop her by saying that I wasn’t comfortable discussing my personal life with her. Although I was hoping these irrelevant questions would stop with the HR, even the hiring manager (a woman as well) asked me the very same questions but somehow since I was a bit more prepared for such irrelevance, I think it felt less awkward.
I knew at that very instance that I didn’t want anything to do with this firm despite being offered the job later. When I related this incident to a friend, he thought it was a perfectly valid concern for a recruiter and especially so, if the firm were a start up since I’d go MIA for 3-6 months depending on the company policies, law of the land, etc. Now at the outset, even though my friend’s argument seems rational, I wondered if men thought about this differently just because they are never subject to this.It’s so easy for us to be rational about things when we are not victims of a situation and hence, I started to wonder if I was being irrational in thinking that my interview was fairly inappropriate even in a country like India. I hadn’t felt awkward about this in the past, not even when my ex boss would ask me about my “family plans” in every single performance appraisal simply because we were well acquainted and I was naive enough to think he was keeping our review session light and personal!
I’m no feminist but isn’t this discrimination? Why don’t interviews get this personal with men? Is it because they don’t get 3 month paternity leaves? I am not even going to get into the debate of why men don’t need 3 months and why they never have to share the responsibility of rearing a new born equally for now. Also, even if men were asked these questions as much as women, it would still not make it any more appropriate because really, how is this even relevant to the job? The bigger question here is – Are 3 months that big a deal for a company with long term goals? Unless you’re a start up whose funding will run dry by a year’s end and traction’s a bigger bait than sustenance, an absence of 3 months is pretty insignificant in one’s career if you find that this person fares significantly well along all relevant recruiting parameters. I think the more important thing to ensure is that this person genuinely wants to return to you at the end of 3 months and your efforts should be aimed at facilitating that rather than worrying about when they’d leave!
P.S – You’re free to disagree with me, but I’m glad to be married to a man who actually believes it’s inappropriate to get this personal in a professional interview irrespective of one’s gender. Just saying.