(Un)employability

Jyoti Shekar

Whenever I go to an interview, I am invariably asked – what is the most challenging thing I have ever had to do. I rack my brains to think of the right thing to say, while in reality I want to say ‘answering personal questions in an interview’.

I mean, sure it is important to find out if your prospective employee has what it takes, but talking about family planning with them is taking it a bit too far, in my humble opinion.

Interestingly, none of the men I have met in my life have had to go through the sort of questions that we women have to. So much so, that a woman in her 30s is practically unemployable.

If you are newly married, they think you are not worth hiring because you can have kids anytime.

If you have kids, then you may be more focused on the kids and hence not a good hire.

Newsflash – men have kids too, and stay awake at nights to change diapers too.

As if that’s not enough, if you are looking to get married, then there is no point in hiring you because you may quit and leave anytime, with no regard to the company’s need of your services.

And no, if you are single without any of the above situations and without actively looking to get hitched, you do not get any respite.

I remember a time when I went for an interview at 32. I wasn’t married at the time and no intention of looking for someone. So the biggest concern to the interviewer was that I was not committed enough. To quote the lady who interviewed me, ‘how do you plan to commit to your work, if you are scared of committing to a life partner?

So basically, there is no win for us women in our 30s (I will comment on the later age brackets when I get to that age!!).

The only hope is if companies change their mindset and hire talent based on just that – TALENT!! I have always believed and always advised that a person is a great hire if they are dedicated to learn and take ownership of the work they do.

So it was refreshing to meet Karthik Sharma of Insta Flights, an online travel agency providing international travel consultancy services for United States and Canada.

He had a very refreshing take on why he prefers to hire women who are new mothers, or are back on the market after a break. And none of his reasons have anything to do with being charitable or bringing a social change. He lists out purely commercial reasons for his choice.

Here are a few snippets of my conversation with him:

Jyoti: A lot of companies talk about non discrimination policies for hiring. What is your take on that?

Karthik: We believe in an egalitarian work environment, where a person’s professional competency, and not their personal attributes, are evaluated. An organization with an inclination for a particular ethnicity, or gender, or race has a limited access to the talent pool and can never harness the best of available resources. Any employee, irrespective of gender and marital status, should be treated as per the company policy which in turn should be uniform for all. 

Jyoti: People are usually afraid of hiring a newly married woman, a new mother, and a woman who has taken a career break. What is your opinion on hiring them?

Karthik: See, hiring a married woman or a mother is no different than hiring any other employee, of course, as long as their professional competence remains insulated from their personal chores or responsibilities, and moreover, we feel that females tend to be ethically stronger and are more target oriented.

I repeat, every employee should be judged under the ambit of a uniform organisational policy.

Jyoti: In your view, should interviews contain personal questions like when someone got married, what is their family planning schedule like, etc.? Or should these questions be avoided? I don’t see men being asked these, but I myself have faced these questions on interviews. 

Karthik: Hiring process should strictly be about somebody’s professional competence and not their personal situation because at the end of the day, as an employer, you would like to see an efficient employee, and not a good mother or father or a good daughter or son.

After speaking to Karthik, I realize that the corporate world is definitely changing for the better. The judgments and cold looks are slowly becoming a thing of the past. In fact, there are a few companies who have also adopted a hiring SOP where they are not allowed to ask personal questions at all.

So rather than feeling annoyed with the unpleasant interviews we end up going to, let us actively try to search for a company whose culture and outlook suit our ethos. After all, we spend most of our waking hours at work, don’t we?

*All images used in this article are either Eyra’s own design or widely and freely available on the internet.*

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