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We had an interview with a candidate who from the technical and management point of view is very interesting for our company.

He has a long work experience in country A. Country A is internationally rated poorly on women's rights. It was his wife that applied on his behalf to the position as a lecturer there, so the interviewer asked:

  • It is interesting that she considered moving to country A, other wives might be reluctant to go there...

To which the interviewee replied:

  • Country A is often misconceived by its women's right. It is actually a paradise for women, as they have cheap jewelry and a chauffeur there. (they were not allowed to drive in Country A at that time)

As a piece of the context, he is not a national nor currently living in country A. He left due to limitations on having his children enrolled on the university there, since they are not nationals of country A. Therefore, I don't think he is trying to defend a country dearly to him.

He is applying to a senior developer position. While he will not directly manage the team, he would be the most experienced programmer of the company. It is important that he improves our methods and architecture, but at the same time, he should be open to junior suggestions and keep some sensible legacy code.

We are in a domain where there are few women working for us, but from this kind of mindset, I fear he might undermine their work due to prejudice. I think it is reasonable to evaluate this during his trial period.

Are there other impacts on his professional performance I am not considering from his supposed sexist view of women?

  • @JoeStrazzere No, according to him, his wife was tired of him jumping from startup to startup and the financial insecurity related to that. She was hoping he would take a more stable position such as a lecturer in a university. He used the term "she applied on my behalf", but I don't know to what extent she went in the formal application procedure. – Adam Smith Dec 9 '17 at 12:50
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    I don't see any sexist comments there. All I see that cultural statements made about the position of the UAE (I assume this is the country in question here). The interviewee isn't even a national citizen there. – user44108 Dec 11 '17 at 8:52
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    On the positive, his wife obviously "send him out" to apply at your company and he did. There is at least one woman in the world who's opinion and well-being means enough to him to base his decision for a workplace on. (Which in sexist circles tends to be a high-status thing for men to identify with having a "good job" and not being "pushed around" by the wife.) I see more of a "look away, look at the bright side" mentality than a personal sexist mentality here. I am a woman (if that is relevant). – skymningen Dec 11 '17 at 14:30
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    You might want to consider giving him another interview, and arrange for one or more women to be part of the interview process, if possible. Observe his interaction with them. Does he address them and their questions directly and respectfully, or does he ignore them or trivialize their questions? Make sure the questions are professional and not of a personal nature, you might end up confusing discomfort with lack of respect. – Francine DeGrood Taylor Dec 14 '17 at 21:59
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    @Snow - the sexist part is that he thinks all it takes to make women happy is "cheap jewelry and a chauffeur." As a woman, I wouldn't consider somewhere that wouldn't allow me to drive to be a paradise, and the fact that he was propagating that view is insensitive, to say the least. – EmmyS Mar 12 '18 at 21:32
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First, he answered an unprofessional question in an unprofessional way.

[Country A] is actually a paradise for women, as they have cheap jewelry and a chauffeur there.

I'm sorry to have to say this, but this is patronising against women. Patronising and at least a bad sign. Some people won't believe it, but women are as diverse as men, and pretending we all value cheap jewelry and being driven arround above everything else, is really offensive.

In my experience, people who have such an over-simplified view about a group of people, will try to squeeze said group of people into their views, and in my experience, this can lead to a toxic work environment.

Does it mean this person will discriminate women? Not necessarily. Some people are able to keep their world views for themselves and treat everyone as people. There is also the possibility that he was angry because of the question, and he didn't mean to make a sexist remark, and he behaves perfectly well towards everyone.

So, if you decide to hire him, I would keep an eye on possible bad behaviour*, and deal with it as soon as possible. Basically what Joe Strazzere suggested. Also, tell the interviewer to not to ask offensive questions next time, please.

*In my opinion, you should always do this.

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    Women are as diverse as men. Very true. The problem is that country A is very likely one of the countries where contact between the different genders are very strictly regulated, so as visitor you will only contact the high-status women who do like jewelry and being driven around (or at least pretend to like it), not the miserable housemaid. This filter bubble will severely distort the image. – Thorsten S. Dec 10 '17 at 12:02
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    It's not "patronising against women". It's giving a stupid interviewer the stupid answer that they deserve. The interviewer claimed that the candidate's wife was supposed not to like living in A. That's prejudiced and stupid. The candidate isn't going to change how country A works, and his wife apparently liked living there, so that's the answer. Rule: If you don't want stupid answers, then don't ask stupid questions. – gnasher729 Dec 10 '17 at 12:34
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    I remember Malcolm X writing what a great place the south of the USA was for young black Americans, including the police providing free water cannons in the summer so that people could cool down in the heat. I was very young and inexperienced when I read it, took my a while to get it. – gnasher729 Dec 10 '17 at 12:40
  • @ThorstenS. Since he has already lived in France, in the USA and in Canada, I would say he is perfectly capable of understanding that a great part of women is not the stereotype of buying jewelry and being driven around. I do think that the situation should not have been probed as the interviewer did, but my job is to evaluate the interviewee. As his answer is more related to stereotyping than to sexism, I think we will probe him further through interviews and evaluate his performance during his trial period. – Adam Smith Dec 10 '17 at 14:40
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    @gnasher729 It is patronising, and whether the question was justified or not makes no difference to how patronising it is. If the answer was intended to be sarcastic (it's only possible defence) then clearly he didn't communicate the sarcasm well enough. – DJClayworth Dec 12 '17 at 16:23
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My counterquestion: Why did the interviewer ask the question at all?

If the interviewee says something along the lines: "Yes, it is a very sexist und unequal country", but the culture is also noted for hospitality, the interviewer could think: "Hey, how ungrateful, fouling his own nest!". In some cultures it is even considered offensive to say anything against a host!

If the interviewee tries to stay neutral, the interviewer could think:"Hey, he is dodging the issue. He wants to hide something!"

If the interviewee as in this case defends the country, the interviewer could think he is sexist.

The interviewee cannot read minds, so how should he anticipate what the interviewer wants to hear? Heads I win, tails you lose?

It was a loaded culturally-insensitive question and the problem is that he did not even have to lie to give a supposedly honest answer. Remember: This is a completely different culture! Women are exactly as biased and archconservative as men and if they lived there the whole lifetime, they have a very different worldview and expectations, so many of them will answer in all honesty, sure, luxury is great. And the ones who do not find their life fulfilling will very likely not talk about that to a stranger. So confirmation bias sets in and you get a supposedly honest answer.

So simply look out how he actually behaves to women during the trial period and judge him accordingly.

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    I don't even know how the conversation would have got there. How did the interviewer learn that the wife arranged the Country A job? Pretty much as soon as answer contains the phrase "my wife" a smart interviewer changes the subject. I am having real trouble imagining the logic that led to "oh, let's drill in on that; it's sure to help us understand the fit for the job to get this person's opinion on gender issues in a country they didn't choose to move to." – Kate Gregory Dec 10 '17 at 18:36
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    That's the question. If the company invites people from this country, the interviewer should not undermine this policy by pushing some personal agenda. – pmf Dec 11 '17 at 13:22
  • @KateGregory Interviewer was probing him on his career path. He changed countries at least 4-5 times. He explained that for financial reasons his wife was pressuring him to take a more stable job as a lecturer at country A. And then the situation happened. – Adam Smith Dec 19 '17 at 21:49
  • @pmf He is not from Country A, he worked there for a couple of years. He is not a national nor living there at the moment. He left the country due to limitations on getting his children enrolled at the university, as they are not nationals of Country A. – Adam Smith Dec 19 '17 at 21:50
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We are in a domain where there are few women working for us, but from this kind of mindset, I fear he might undermine their work due to prejudice.

I think the interviewer introduced the prejudice first by making a comment that he is surprised about his wife's move to country A. I think that itself is more undermining than the candidate's response. Irrespective of what international ranking is, if someone is happy with a culture, they are happy with it.

Are there other impacts

What other impacts? I do not see any impact on the professional performance based on the information you shared. Instead of assuming his performance is related to his choice of country and his comments on why he thinks that country is great for women, you should gauge his performance through technical interview or questions.

his supposed sexist view of women?

Calling his views sexist is a stretch here. In what tone and context he meant is open to lot of interpretation. May be he just meant women like jewellery and it is cheap to buy there. (low cost of living) and chauffeur just adds to luxury of life. I do not see any obvious sexism here.

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    I agree with you that I would not have asked the question the same way as the interviewer, but I would definitely have probed further on his move, since it was his wife that applied on his behalf. While I agree that his statement does not confirm he is sexist, I do think it points towards this direction. That is why I am asking for potential professional problems he might encounter, since it impacts on the decision of hiring him or not. – Adam Smith Dec 9 '17 at 11:46
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    @Adam Smith It really depends on your company culture's priorities. I think many companies wouldn't consider the potential harm on the off chance he's a sexist to outweigh good professional credentials, but other HR departments will weigh risk differently. – Z. Cochrane Dec 9 '17 at 14:49
  • And the way that Adam Smith claims that the low number of female employees is all the women's fault, I would claim that the risk hiring him is substantially higher. – gnasher729 Dec 10 '17 at 12:42
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    @gnasher729 "the way that Adam Smith claims that the low number of female employees is all the women's fault" Um, where did he say this? I see absolutely nothing that implies this train of thought at all. – David K Dec 11 '17 at 13:04
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    +1 for mentioning tone and context. Was the interviewee's comment their genuine belief, or a spontaneous sarcastic joke? Perhaps they were surprised (and/or offended) by the comment about their wife, then perceived that the interviewer was being sexist, and responded sarcastically. There's not enough evidence here to assume that the interviewee would demonstrate any sexism in the workplace. – MikeQ Dec 11 '17 at 17:23
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What did actually happen here? The candidate worked for some time in country A. Holding that against him would be very, very prejudicial, and could be illegal discrimination. Just saying that because that apparently didn't occur to you.

Then the interviewer made a claim that something is wrong with the candidates wife for wanting to move to country A. (It also seems that he uses big words like "reticent" without understanding them). Double whammy: Attack against the country where the candidate spent many years and probably enjoyed it, and against the candidate's wife. Clearly, the interviewer got the answer he deserved. "Cheap jewellery and a chauffeur" isn't prejudicial against women. It's frankly taking the piss out of an interviewer who made a very stupid remark.

From this assuming that he might not be open to suggestions of juniors and that he might undermine female coworkers (of which you have very few, so maybe you should look at a mirror if you want to see someone who discriminates against women), makes you a candidate for the Guiness Book of Records for the furthest ever jump to conclusions. From your description, I see a lot of prejudice and a lot of looking for justifications for discriminating against a person because they lived in country A.

Summary: You don't want this candidate because he lived in A for a long time. There were no sexist remarks from the candidate except in your imagination. There was offensive behaviour by the interviewer. You don't hire women. And you are asking here for justifications for your discriminatory behaviour.

  • I agree that the interviewer question was not appropriate, but it is not the interviewer I am analyzing. Original question was in French, but could also be translated to "reluctant". There is absolutely no discrimination of him living in country A and as I have already stated he will probably be hired. We have few women despite making efforts to increase the numbers due to the lack of feminine representation in our sector of engineering. – Adam Smith Dec 9 '17 at 22:05
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    " "Cheap jewellery and a chauffeur" isn't prejudicial against women". Implying that having that makes a country a paradise despite the blatant inequalties, is really offensive. Suggesting that a group of people are all the same, is also really offensive. – DarkPurpleShadow Dec 9 '17 at 22:37
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    @DarkPurpleShadow: A flippant answer to an inappropriate and offensive question. – gnasher729 Dec 9 '17 at 23:10
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    My first guess was that it was a joke to get off the subject – Kate Gregory Dec 10 '17 at 18:38
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    I don't think it's because he lived in country A for a long time. It's that he lived there, and doesn't care about how unfair the country is to half the population living there. How can a woman expect to come to him about a professional issue when he sincerely thinks that all the women he works with really don't want to be there, because they'd rather be driven around to shop for jewelry? – swbarnes2 Dec 11 '17 at 20:44
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While the views expressed by the interviewee do not themselves impact the candidate's ability to do the job, they are an indication that he might hold other views which do. I would consider them a red flag, rather than a negative. You need to probe the candidate's views on women further, to see if there is anything that might disqualify him, for example a belief that women shouldn't be in the workplace, or a belief that they are inherently worse at software development, or that he has difficulty working with women or taking orders from women.

For example you can ask if he has worked with women in the past? Ask for an example? How would he treat a woman colleague? How would he react to having a woman boss? Talk a bit about your company's policy on non-gender-discrimination, and see how he reacts. If in other ways he is fine with women, then no problem.

(Except for the minor point that if he goes round expressing views like that in the workplace, implying that most women are more interested in buying cheap jewellery than in receiving equal rights, he will annoy quite a few women colleagues)

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    "You need to probe the candidate's views on women further" at first I had bad feelings about that advice. I pictured an interviewer asking strange questions about women's rights, but then I thought about Trump. Bad feelings went away. Nothing worse than working with someone who slipped past HR. – user7360 Dec 9 '17 at 22:27
  • Just to be clear I'm not proposing 'strange questions about women's rights', but pertinent questions about interacting with women in the workplace. – DJClayworth Dec 12 '17 at 12:48
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    I think it was the OP that opened the door to strange questions. :) – user7360 Dec 12 '17 at 14:40
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this might be a bit off based on the actual question, but I think there is an underlying issue here too: how to vet candidates against sexism or similar.

In my experience this is really very very simple: have him come back for a technical interview with a small group of interviewers that includes at least one woman. Let her handle some of the questions directly, and also, make sure she gives feedback to some of his answers and see how he reacts.

If he is ignoring her, speaking down to her, you know, doing the things you don't want him to do in real life...you can bet he won't improve in real life. This won't weed out all sexist applicants, but it will catch some of them.

I would also add that if you have female engineers, and you want to be proactive about fostering a non-sexist work environment, you should follow an interview procedure like this for all candidates. It will also reflect well on your org when interviewing female candidates.

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