Look at the industry giants, though: 30 percent of Google’s workforce is female, but these women hold only 17 percent of the company’s engineering/tech jobs. Facebook and Twitter also have pitiful percentages of women in tech roles at 15 and 10 percent, respectively.
As a female leader of a tech company, this imbalance is something near and dear to my heart. I have a strong group of women on my staff, but it took years to find them — and I want to hire more.
It All Begins With an Interview
I have no problem finding female candidates, but once I bring them in for interviews, I see the same problems pop up again and again. This could explain why a staggering 40 percent of women with tech degrees don’t ever land jobs in their field or why they end up leaving their tech jobs within five years.
There are plenty of skilled women out there, but the problem begins with how they present themselves to potential employers at job interviews.
Here are five tips to help women make the right first impression:
1. Tell me why you’re the best candidate.
The first thing I notice is a lack of confidence. Sometimes it’s in your body language, but often it’s in your words. Men never seem to have issues telling me they’re the best fit. Women, however, tend to avoid bragging and would rather appear modest.
Employers want somebody who will take charge and get things done. First, believe you’re the best. Then, tell me why you are.
2. Show me you actually want the job.
It’s frustrating when candidates are shy about saying they want the job. Just showing up for the interview isn’t enough. Tell your interviewer flat-out you want to be hired. Don’t worry about appearing too aggressive; you’re just speaking confidently. Be sure to stress that you want this job, not that you want a job.
Also, tailor your resume and cover letter to the opening you’re applying for. This will speak volumes about your work ethic.
3. Show me you’re flexible.
So many candidates show up for interviews with rigid, canned responses to my questions, and they get flustered and unravel when thrown a curveball. Job interviews won’t always feature the same standard questions. Employers will likely go out of their way to see how you react to the unexpected.
For example, sometimes I do group interviews to see how well candidates stand their ground in a crowded room. Being inflexible about the interview style or any questions we ask will raise red flags. Be ready and open for anything; we want to see how you behave under pressure.
4. Show me your style.
As much as we like to deny it, we all judge one another based on appearance. Wearing the wrong outfit to an interview can ruin your chances of getting hired. Employers need to know you can dress appropriately.
Do some research before the big day. Peruse the company’s website for photos of the team in action, or walk by the office during lunchtime and see what employees are wearing as they head out for a bite. On interview day, also wear your best smile.
5. Ask me for help.
Your interviewing skills won’t matter if you never get interview opportunities. In my experience, women don’t ask for help because they want to make it in their careers on their own. Studies show they are less likely to get help from their co-workers in finding promotions and job opportunities, and they are also less likely to ask for raises.
Leaders like myself love to help connections find success in their careers; all it takes is a simple question. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help.
While the stats are disappointing, I feel the tech world is headed in the right direction. My seven-year-old daughter is learning about tech topics I didn’t learn about until high school. The awareness is there, the programs are in place, and there are certainly women with the potential to become future tech leaders.
Ania Rodriguez has advised Fortune 1000 companies on user interface design, product design, and user research for nearly two decades. Her company, Key Lime Interactive, masterminds all things usability for web, mobile, tablet, and medical devices, using both qualitative and quantitative research methods.
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