Most of us approach job interviews with apprehension, bordering on dread. While it is always a source of some trepidation to present yourself to strangers (sometimes groups of them) so that they can judge your talent and worth, it is also important to not lose sight of the fact that work, and joining a new company, is a two-way relationship. While the company and people interviewing you have a right to ask you difficult questions to gauge whether you are suitable for the role and compatible with the culture and company's values, you have the same right.
With the impostor syndrome most women secretly deal with, it can be tough to make yourself believe that a company has to hold up to your standards as much as you have to come up to scratch for theirs. If you find yourself stressing about an upcoming interview, here are five questions you need to memorise and ask - remember, you're perfectly within your rights in asking them.
Can I meet the person I will be reporting to?
Just like your company has the right to run a background check on you, you should be able to do your own background check of the person you're going to be reporting to. Asking to meet the person will allow you to go back and ask your contacts in the industry about your reporting manager's reputation and make an informed decision about what you're going to be getting into - if you end up getting an offer. Besides, it will help you weed out potential creeps and people with a reputation for harassing female colleagues. It says a lot about a company if they are allowing a person with a known reputation for harassment to continue working for their company. Instead of joining and finding out the hard way, wouldn't you just rather just give yourself the chance to pre-empt future unpleasantness? Definitely ask to meet your direct manager.
What are the company's policies/initiatives to protecting women from sexual harassment?
If this question startles the HR representative interviewing you, you've already gotten your answers. How they handle this question will tell you a lot about the integrity of the company, its top management and how much it values its female employees. According to the 2013 Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, Redressal) Act, any company that employed more than 10 people was required to have an internal committee to address sexual harassment complaints. The committee had to be headed by a woman and more than half its members needed to be women. In addition, to prevent any undue pressure on a complainant, the committee was required to include an NGO or another qualified body familiar with sexual harassment laws to be a neutral third party.
What is the maternity leave policy? Does it cover adoption?
While the company's official policy will be specified in your contract, asking this question will open the doors to other ancillary enquiries such as flexi-timing and work-from-home options, as well as whether there are any provisions for creches or day care centres. Even if you're not planning a child in the near future, or at all, asking this question will help you gauge how committed the company is in retaining and developing its female talent, as well as how empathetic it is to the challenges that working women in the country face.
Do you provide leadership training and growth prospects for women?
Ideally, your research on the company should tell you how many women are employed within the country's top management, but in case such information is not available online - as can be the case in growing private companies, make sure you ask. It is no secret that women often get passed over for promotions and top spots in management due to covert and overt sexism in the workplace and in the minds of the decision-makers (who are very often male). If a company has a robust leadership training programme targeted especially for women, you will know that it is committed to motivating and developing its talented female employees.
Are the men and women paid equally?
This is a tricky question, and you might not be comfortable asking it, particularly when you're at the start of your career, but if a company markets itself as a female-friendly organisation, it is definitely something you can hold them accountable to. Calling yourself a pro-women, feminist organisation means nothing if they are actively paying women less than men for the same job.