Thursday, August 7, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Working against negative stereotypes at interviews

Most jobseekers think they’re the right one for the job – but what they should be thinking is “why am I not?”

A recent study finds that when applicants directly address the popular, negative stereotypes that work against them, observable opposition from the interviewer – such as trying to end the interview prematurely or hostile body language – is significantly reduced.

The study, funded by Rice University, measured resistance to hiring pregnant applicants for jobs with 161 retailers, all hiring for positions at three malls in the same metro area.

Reviewing literature involving pregnancy discrimination, researchers identified four major stereotypes: incompetence, lack of commitment, a need for special accommodations and inflexibility, explains Whitney Botsford Morgan, a University of Houston professor and lead author of the study.

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  • When applicants in the study – all visibly pregnant – directly addressed a stereotype, such as inflexibility, by saying: “My schedule is flexible. I have the help I need so I can work whenever you need me,” test observers recorded less resistance from the interviewer.

    In theory, notes Morgan, directly counteracting common negative beliefs should benefit other types of workers such as the long-term unemployed. However, since she hasn’t tested for different scenarios, she’s reluctant to state that categorically.

    But Lyn O’Brien, owner of, says she’s seen that applicants who rehearse statements to counteract discrimination before an interview and deliver their responses easily have seen positive results.

    It’s best to address issues indirectly, says Haley Cousins, recruiter for Naviga Business Services. “Instead of saying, ‘I’m pregnant, but don’t worry, I will still work really hard,’ just describe how you are a hard workers and will work around the clock until a project is completed,” she advises.

    © CTW Features

    Marilyn Kennedy Melia CTW Features