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Need to ace this final interview - I'm up against a man

(54 Posts)
80sShoulderPads Wed 14-Oct-20 14:22:39

I've made the title a bit baity, but I have made it to the final stage of interviews for quite a significant "Head of" role, in a smallish but ambitious company which is already making headlines in the industry press.

This is the third round, and me and another candidate are the final two. The board is all male, with the exception of one female non-exec. The other candidate is male.

I'm perfectly competent, capable and able to do the job - but based on the routine misogyny in my industry, I am anxious that I will have difficulty "winning over" the panel, no matter how good I am. I'm already worrying that the job will go to the man, because I wasn't hard enough, assertive enough or forceful enough.

This is new for me - I didn't notice sexism happening right under my nose at work until sometime else pointed it out. Now I see it everywhere and it's creeping into everything.

I am naturally quite a smiley, cheerful, warm person, maybe a bit of a soft touch. I want to be myself, but should I harden the edges a bit? Does anyone have any tips to help me demonstrate that I am savvy and can assert myself in a senior role, just as much as I can use my influence and charm? I need to, erm, kick arse.

I am obviously quite aware that I might not get the job because the other candidate is genuinely better for whatever reason - I'm not saying that if I don't get it it will be due to the patriarchy! I'd just like to really maximise my chances, so any tips would be welcome.

OP’s posts: |
WINDOLENE Wed 14-Oct-20 15:21:43

Would you be like this if the other person had grey eyes, or black hair. Who or what they are has no bearing on how you should present yourself. And if you're not successful it'll be because of the entire process.. Unless the job you've gone for is exempt form thre discrimination act thing, E.g male carers for male client or vice versa

Hoppinggreen Wed 14-Oct-20 15:26:56

I think you should focus on yourself rather than the other candidate.
You can only do your best, you can’t control how the other candidate performs or do much about any conscious or unconscious bias the panel has.

Gastropod Wed 14-Oct-20 15:28:46

Watch this Ted talk

Very interesting stuff on body language, interview performance, self confidence, among other things.

80sShoulderPads Wed 14-Oct-20 15:40:48

Thanks for the link Gastropod. I think much of it will be about confidence.

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wonkypictures Wed 14-Oct-20 15:42:23

Watching this as I'm in a similar position!

OrangeGinLemonFanta Wed 14-Oct-20 15:46:48

What sort of interview is it? If you're giving examples of past work, women often find it hard to blow their own trumpet. Make sure you always say "I did this" not "we did this" and give yourself full glowing credit for work done and any good outcomes that may be even tangentially related to your work.

parietal Wed 14-Oct-20 15:48:27

There is a thing called 'stereotype threat' where if you give a bunch of students a maths test, the girls & boys do equally well. But if you tell them before the test that you are going to investigate if girls are as goo as boys, then the girls do worse. The idea is that thinking about yourself in terms of the stereotype makes you do worse. yet another reason why it is bad to think in terms of group characteristics rather than the things that each individual person can do.

So be confident and be the best that you can. Ignore the other person you are competing with and make a compelling case for why you are great.

SurreyHillsGirl Wed 14-Oct-20 17:01:32

Be a polished version of yourself, but if being 'ballsy' isn't you, don't be someone you are not; seasoned interviewers will smell 'fake' a mile off.

Good luck!

BlankProfile Wed 14-Oct-20 17:19:54

That Ted talk is fascinating. Wow.

80sShoulderPads Wed 14-Oct-20 19:21:31

Brilliant tips, thanks to everyone who commented - yes Parietal, this is certainly stereotype threat at work, even though I didn't know what it was called!

I'm not entirely sure how it's going to go - I've had the technical interview with a few competencies thrown in, then the HR "will she be a good culture fit" plus a few more competencies interview - this seems to be the final decision, made by two members of the board. I really don't know what they'll ask me!

I'll watch the TED talk in bed later.

OP’s posts: |
80sShoulderPads Sat 17-Oct-20 14:50:44

That TED talk is really helpful! I definitely use the passive poses (even on Teams - hunching forward and putting a hand on my neck slims my podgy face), I need to up my game and stop being so bloody apologetic for my existence.

Interview is on Tuesday, hopefully (should've been confirmed by now but hasn't). I am practising my wonder woman pose.

I don't know how to prepare because they haven't said what they're going to ask me. One is chief Operations guy and the other is chief Risk guy. I've already been interviewed in technical skill and general management competency, no real idea what the board is likely to ask me.

OP’s posts: |
jdoejnr1 Sat 17-Oct-20 14:55:19

Everything you've written only supports the argument that you're not ready for the post. If being 'you' isn't enough your not good enough or the company isn't. Either way its not meant to be. How will you fell if you loose out and the feedback is you didn't do/say what the real 'you' would've said.

80sShoulderPads Sat 17-Oct-20 14:57:22

Well, not everything is meant to be so if I don't get it, I don't get it. I won't be crying about it. I just want to maximise my chances and do the best I can, which I think is perfectly reasonable.

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TabbyStar Sat 17-Oct-20 15:35:15

The other alternative is to play on your difference and how this would be good for the company, e.g. - though put this in terms of your skills I rather than just being female. Being yourself is likely to come across as more genuine and trustworthy too I would have thought.

Interestingly there was a big pushback on the validity of Amy Cuddy's research that got pretty nasty, also attributed to sexism, see for a short version and for a more in-depth version of the story.

Good luck!

AuntyMabelandPippin Sat 17-Oct-20 15:59:30

Just to say, my DH works in a heavy engineering industry.

He has recently interviewed people for four different positions within the firm. Three of the jobs were given to women because they were the best at interview.

Not all men are misogynistic. Most are professional.

IAintentDead Sat 17-Oct-20 16:21:52

I had a friend who was in a senior role who was managed out for not being the right fit for the job.
She had complained because she was repeatedly sent in to clients when one of the other employees had upset them and she was expected to sort things out and show the caring, compassionate side of the company. Yes, she could do that, but she was generally direct and incisive and she wanted her own clients, not forever mopping up after men other employees. She was told that was why they had employed her, a statement that was later denied.
However, she did end up with a big payout for unfair constructive dismissal.

SebastianTheCrab Sat 17-Oct-20 16:34:36

I would take off your wedding and engagement rings if you have them (and if they haven't already seen you wearing them)

80sShoulderPads Sat 17-Oct-20 16:54:34

Thanks for those links @TabbyStar - really useful reading, particularly the BBC article. I was just reading the stats to my DH!

Funny you say that @IAintentDead, that was how I started in my current role - they always wheel me out to sort out the difficult clients, but they never promote you to a position of seniority. In my case I got a fancy role title and then got omitted from all the contact lists!

I hope that's true @AuntyMabelandPippin, unfortunately it's rather ingrained in financial services.

Haha @SebastianTheCrab it's a Zoom call, I hardly think that will be noticed! Anyway, as much as I worry they might be slightly biased towards hiring a man, I don't think the misogyny is quite that blatant.

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ForthPlace Sat 17-Oct-20 17:06:21

I interview often for senior roles. You need to be you, you need to be armed with all of the information you can about the company and apply your skills and related your answers to this particular company.

If by being the best you can be and yourself and you don't get the job then you and the company are not a good fit. Can you imagine, being 'different' at interview, being appointed and then it not working out because you are different to how you portrayed yourself.

Good interviewers will know that you are 'playing to the audience', we know when candidates are telling us what we want to hear, rather than giving a genuine answer.

I am sure you, as yourself will be fab and if not you will be snapped up by another company where you are the right fit. 🍀🍀🍀

80sShoulderPads Mon 19-Oct-20 18:38:59

Thanks @ForthPlace! I've had my interview confirmed for tomorrow, but the HR person I saw at 2nd stage interview has rather helpfully sent some tips for me via the agency.

He said "Less is more" (i.e don't waffle, which I sometimes do if I'm nervous and trying to get across everything I want to say), and to try to focus on showing how I have the gravitas and confidence to take up a leadership role which is a bit of a step up for me. I'm essentially doing it now, but I do it as a consultant (and being invited into board meetings) and not actually as a board member - that's the key difference.

How do I show that if they don't ask me about it directly - just in my general manner and answers? Is it something to bring up in the section where they ask me if I have any questions? I mean I know I'm ready and I can do the job and do it well - I don't want to put ideas in their head that I'm not convinced myself!

OP’s posts: |
ForthPlace Mon 19-Oct-20 19:11:36

I think the 'genuine' can do the job. They don't need to embellish or name drop, they don't shoehorn information in to score points, simply because they are confident in what they know.
Because they are confident and because they have researched the role and company, it all fits together as portraying a really comprehensive understanding.

WorksTheDinerAllDay Mon 19-Oct-20 19:20:53

Interesting, DH interviews a lot for technical roles and he says that with female candidates he finds he really has to ask probing questions to get them to sell themselves, whereas men tend to be more confident in their abilities. It's something that he tries to be aware of when interviewing and he gets frustrated at times when he believes that a candidate is probably capable, but she's selling herself short.

BraveGoldie Mon 19-Oct-20 20:12:06

Some tips for coming across as having confidence/ gravitas:

- wear a bold colour, which is strong but not flamboyant
- sit up straight.... feet firmly on floor, head held relaxed but high, breathing from diaphragm
- avoid using speech 'diminshers'. Women often learn to use these but they undermine us. Phrase like "sorry if this is a silly question, but..." instead say "my question is...". Not "I'm JUST wondering...." , say "here's what I would propose".... not "one way to think about it would be..." say "what's key here is.....".
- take credit where credit is due. Not 'our results weren't bad" say "my results were strong. Not "oh, it was a team effort" say "yes- I did X, Y, and Z. It was great contributing to/ leading a strong team."

Good luck!🍀

emptyplinth Mon 19-Oct-20 20:16:27

Is this a tech firm?

Bravegoldie has some good advice.

Be true to yourself and be decisive. They know your background, they've had feedback from your other interviews.
They like you. That's why you're still in.

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