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In each of our twelve (to date) Gender Equity Advocates cohorts, we invite our Advocates to reflect on their past experiences in job interviews and in the interview process. What went well? What didn’t go well? Many have experiences that are indelibly imprinted on their minds and in their hearts that have motivated them to improve the process for others–for good and for bad. Their responses–and yours–can help inform our future choices as we head into the hiring process, as employers, and as candidates. What do we want our interview experiences to be like? How do we want to tap into our candidates’ full potential as people, and at the same time preserve our commitment to equity and to an equitable process?

We start with aspirations.

What are questions that we wish we’d been asked in job interviews? These often tap into our hopes and dreams for dialogue with future or prospective employers, questions that allow us to tap into our best selves, or the selves that we hope to share with prospective employers. What side of ourselves might we like to shine? What work, skills or relationships would we like to emphasize? Employers rarely pause to think about the “user experience” in job interviews, of course, seeking to gather as much information about candidates as possible (and this is not an incorrect approach–just perhaps an incomplete one). Shifting to consider how a candidate might experience the process is valuable, and to considering their aspirations on the job and in the process may offer employers insight into the candidate, too.

What’s a question you wish you’d been asked in a job interview?

  • What kind of work environment do you want to work in? What workplace values matter most to you?

  • How might we help you to be most successful in this position?

  • How might we support you in balancing your life and work responsibilities? Or How can we support your ideal work/life dynamic?

  • We have saved time in this interview for you to ask us some questions. What can we share with you to help you better understand (our organization, this position, our workplace culture)?

  • What are you hoping to learn from your supervisor? What are you hoping your supervisory experience will look or feel like?

  • How are you best supported on the job? What is the best (management or supervisory) way to help you grow and succeed on the job?

  • Is there something that you feel strongly about doing in this role? About NOT doing?

  • What makes you work at your best and stimulate your interest?

  • What motivates you to succeed? What impedes your success?

Next, we release what hurts.

We also invite our Advocates to release the difficult, hurtful or damaging questions that they may have been asked in interviews–or asked themselves–and even the ones that have been illegal, offensive and biased or discriminatory. This is an important part of our process, as we invite ourselves to acknowledge and let go of these pain points on the way to developing more effective processes and language. Naming these questions and releasing them diminishes their power to harm. Note that none of these questions are actually drifting into categories that are illegal, but are ranging from very close to illegal to engaging deep biases or lines of questioning that are all inappropriate.

Share a hard (or bad) question that you have asked or have been asked that you want to release… and never hear again.

  • Do you have a rabbi who can serve as a reference for you?

  • Your name doesn’t sound Jewish. Did you convert?

  • So where are you from?

  • What are you?

  • Do you know my friend/colleague ___?

  • A lot of young people leave quickly; are you planning on sticking around for more than a year or two?

  • How do you feel about Israel?

  • I love your ____. Where did you buy it?

  • I love your accent. Where are you from?

  • How’s your health?

  • Why have you moved around so much?

  • Tell me about your family/spouse/children/parents/significant other.

  • This job involves multitasking. How do you handle multiple responsibilities?

  • We often require extra hours or late hours to get the job done. How flexible can you be?

  • What is it like to be (single/married/divorced/adopted/LGBTQ+/a person of color/part of any marginalized group)?

  • How would you describe your personality?

  • Who's your rabbi?

  • What's your favorite smell?

  • If you were a flavor of ice cream, what flavor would you be?

  • How are you planning to get to and from work?

  • What do you do for childcare?

  • Where did you go for vacation?

Last, we recall the good.

After a multi-layered process of learning about rubrics for evaluation, how to ask better questions, and why questions are a valuable tool for learning about candidates, our Gender Equity Advocates recall the good as they continue to pack their toolkit with the best questions they have heard in their own interviews. We invite Advocates to share the very best they’ve heard so that we can share from the excellence that lives in and across our field as we uncover resources and share them generously with one another.

Share the best question you’ve ever been asked in an interview.

  • Tell us about the boldest thing you’ve ever done.

  • Tell us about the journey you took when you developed/designed/created something new at work and it was ultimately successful. What made it so?

  • What do you expect from us as employers?

  • What type of professional development and personal learning are you looking for? What might we be able to offer you to help you grow on the job?

  • Share a professional challenge you experienced, and how you worked to resolve it.

  • Tell us about something you’re proud to have accomplished at work. What made you feel that pride? What can you learn from it?

  • How does this job fit into your long-term career goals? How might you have answered this a few years ago?

  • What job title would you use to describe this position, if not this one?

  • How might someone who has worked with you describe you? How might someone who has been supervised by you describe you?

  • Tell us something about you that we cannot learn just by looking at your resume.

  • What’s the best way we can get to know you? What’s the best way we can get to know you on the job?

Teaching our Advocates to use different kinds of questions to elicit different kinds of information is at the heart of our work, and helps us all to ask questions that are clear, measurable, and equitable. We want to ask questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no, questions that elevate dialogue and build relationships, but we also want to allow candidates to share insights into who they are so that we can assess their capacity to do the work, from a variety of perspectives and based on a variety of criteria.

Questions are only one component of a giant hiring process–and only one element of the interview, too. Use them wisely, and steer clear of illegal or inappropriate, hurtful or awkward questions that won’t get you the information you need to make effective and equitable hiring decisions.

So, how might we? How might we use the data available in the Open Salary Spreadsheet for negotiation purposes? It's the question driving many of us when we look at what's arrayed before us. What can we learn that will help us to negotiate better as employees...or what will help employers navigate this process, too?

First, let's think about what a negotiation is. We employ a combination of definitions, ranging from Fisher, Ury & Paten (1991)'s Getting to Yes (always a favorite) to contemporary (21st century!) definitions like Honeyman & Kupfer Schneider, eds., found in their excellent The Negotiator's Handbook (2017).

We understand negotiation to be a conversation, discussion or dialogue between two or more individuals or parties that is intended to reach a beneficial outcome. We don't start from the place of--or the assumption of--negativity. In general, negotiation begins where a challenge exists over one or more issues, and is an interactive process that engages compromise, to resolve points of difference, mutual benefit and mutual interest. As in, yes, it's a challenge, but not a fight, and we want to envision the hard work of negotiation as being mutually beneficial, and good for us all. We know that it isn't always clear or cut and dried, and in some instances, positions are offered and concessions are made in order to reach a final agreement.

So in this definition, we appreciate that we might bring many tools to bear on the negotiation process, including expertise, experience, relationships, empathy, and skill. We also know that data is vital in the negotiation process: we must know what kind of data is needed, where to find it, and how to harvest it, so that when the time comes to use it, we have the right data collection that will benefit our negotiation. The Open Salary Spreadsheet is one tool among many that we might use for negotiation purposes, to gather data about salary and benefits, as employees seek to benchmark their salaries and benefits and analyze their corner of the field or the field as a whole. Many others exist, from one-on-one conversations to formal organizational reports to government data.

We believe that effective salary negotiations include benchmarking salary by gathering a number of data points for comparison. The OSS helps to take the hard work out of some of that research, by offering a space in which negotiators can gather information in the aggregate at the beginning of their process. This is one place to stop on the road to collecting data about salaries.

However, note that the OSS should not replace talking to people about their salaries. We still and always will recommend the person-to-person interactions that allow us to be in conversation about salary and the brave work of asking people what they make. This conversation will offer more than just salary insights, of course, and the experience of asking helps each of us to rise and helps us to model difficult conversations so that we can all rise. Again, this is one tool that can help you to begin those conversations. Consider language like “I noticed in the Open Salary Spreadsheet that…..” or “I wonder if you can tell me about how your salary and benefits compare to what I learned from the Open Salary Spreadsheet.” Consider what you see here the beginning of (or an invitation to) a conversation. This data becomes richer when you can match it with more, from your specific corner of the field and from the conversations and research that you will continue to do.

Know that you can relax (a bit). The experience of negotiation can be a challenge and when we are in the midst of the process, we often feel anxious and unsure about how to proceed. When information is kept private or obscured, employees may feel increasingly anxious about how difficult it is to get accurate data. With this resource, you have the opportunity to lean on the contributions of anonymous colleagues across the field whose shared data supports you as you negotiate. This act of radical transparency is a gift that others are giving you--and we invite you to consider its value and how you might want to contribute yourself.

If you need support with your negotiations in addition to collecting data from our Open Salary Spreadsheet, or would like to learn more about how to use this data in your negotiation, please be in touch with us. The Gender Equity in Hiring Project offers a variety of different negotiation supports, from our Ask For It Negotiation Workshops to one on one negotiation coaching (one time or packages available) to resume, cover letter and interview support. We're here for you, to make sense of this data and make sure that you know how to use it most effectively.

Be in touch!

Over the last number of years, GEiHP received regular inquiries about the original Open Salary Spreadsheet, often more than 100 a month. Folks consistently asked for updates, recognizing that the landscape of the job search, salary benchmarking and analysis, and the experience of salary negotiation had changed substantially, even if base salaries had not significantly changed.

Due to this continued interest, we undertook preliminary conversations about the possibility of adding to or expanding the OSS so that it might serve more users. However, given what we learned in our initial 2019 experiment, we wanted to approach this deliberately and with the necessary care and intention that would result in a better quality product, more thoughtfully aligned with our organizational values.

In the summer of 2022, six open focus groups and ten user interviews, engaging more than 50 current and past spreadsheet users, were convened. Participants were queried about what they felt was missing from the original data collection, what might be added, what they hoped to learn in the next iteration of the spreadsheet, and what kind of data they needed. We included more than 20 additional interviews and small group conversations to build on what we learned and help to shape our design. This data was used to shape and map a new survey, which provides the appropriate inputs for our new Open Salary Spreadsheet.

Listening to our users, both our contributors and those using the data, helped us to determine what to include and what felt less urgent. For example, we recognized that in our original 2019 experiment, we did not get the specific location and geographic information that folks needed and wanted, in part because we allowed participants to self-describe their geographic location entirely. Now we strive to refine this properly, and we know that we’re closer to “correct,” but still are certain we leave some folks out. We have defined geography both by where each contributor is located as well as where their workplaces and employers are located, and also include relevant geographic data sorted by region and city/community size. This example helps us to clarify and draw more effective boundaries without compromising our contributors’ anonymity. Our current data collection strives to balance the shifting state of the Jewish workplace and our larger communal ecosystem, as well as changing understandings about the world of work and learning from other similar data collections.

Gathering and inputting new data was an important component of our work, and we hope to eliminate some of the glitches in our original data collection. We have selected AirTable, because it enables us improved flexibility for data collection, an opportunity to update content immediately, a maximum level of data protection and anonymity, and a user-friendly design that enables a better user experience. Sure, we could use a true “open spreadsheet,” but this would be harder to design, less user-friendly, and more easily open to breaches or accidental edits by others. To add one’s data, contributors to our 2023 and beyond data collection will complete an anonymous AirTable survey linked to a spreadsheet that will immediately update with new data.

Sure, no one tool is perfect. No one way of doing this is easiest or will provide the perfect level of anonymity. And we’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way.

Until the last moment, for example, we continued to edit our language for Jewish, ethnic, gender and racial identities, as we are continuing to learn and wanted to make sure that we included as many as possible in our proverbial tent.

Another important adjustment and learning for us was the shift to “self-describe” over “prefer to self-describe,” acknowledging that when folks self-describe, they are not “preferring,” or choosing their description. They just are that person, and they want to identify as such without having to prefer it. Note that all language in this survey includes “self-describe,” to make room for anyone and everyone to include their identification, but not to have to “prefer” it. This is with regard to pronouns (20), for example, but also for the description of your department (2) or organization (29), too.

If you have specific questions about how our survey was constructed or would like to help us reflect on the questions we’ve asked for next time or for future edits, please be in touch. This is an important learning opportunity for us and we relish the opportunity to be in conversation with others as we continue to develop this tool and learn from you.

Be in touch!

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