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Recommended Interview Questions from Our Gender Equity Advocates

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.


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