When I scored my very first job interview as an international student in London, I was overjoyed and it already felt like I was hired based on the first conversation with the manager. It was a waitressing job at a beautifully decorated and quite modern restaurant in central London. The manager got me started the day after my job interview and introduced me to their very friendly staff. It took some time to learn their routines, but the staff guided me along the way and helped me follow through with my duties successfully. Although this was a job I enjoyed doing as a student, I was prepared that this was just temporary and I would need to start looking for jobs in journalism and media instead. However, I was not concerned at all. It seemed so easy to score that one job at the restaurant, almost too easy.
As I finally started applying for journalistic jobs that I was passionate about, I was lucky enough to score a few interviews, which again left me hopeful that I would be granted a full time job after my studies. It was rather the opposite. The interview processes were long and tiresome – most of them consisting of several steps:
Step 1: A 20 minute phonecall
Step 2: A face-face interview with the founder of the company
Step 3: A “test”, where I was put on a time limit to prove my potential
And in one extreme case – I was promised a full-time position, but had to go through a two -week full time unpaid work trial to prove my skills before I was provided a contract that was in fact very different from what I was promised.
Additionally, some of the interviews I attended came across as questionnaires – almost an interrogation, and it truly felt like I was being treated like a young and naïve high school student, despite how hard I tried to prove them wrong.
After attending multiple interviews and being shortlisted for weeks, following through with all the steps and then being rejected once again, I started doubting myself…doubting my abilities…and mostly, doubting my qualifications that I worked so hard for, for several years.
What’s the point of a university degree or a portfolio if nobody is going to hire me?
What’s the point of achieving the perfect grades if nobody will even browse through my applications?
As a young and passionate woman, I had higher expectations, but rather felt neglected. Most of my job applications were never read or even browsed through. I remember spending hours on applications and then receiving my quite robotic rejection thirty minutes later. It makes me wonder, why? Do they take me less seriously because I am a young woman?
Without being specifically told, I automatically tend to dress up in my fanciest clothes during every interview. Sometimes, I even go as far as buying new clothes for that one thirty minute-long interview. Because subconsciously, I feel like I might have a higher chance of scoring a job in my field if I dress to impress – if I’m even lucky enough to get to the interview stage.
Finding a job as a young woman means empty promises, robotic responses and multiple “tests” to prove my abilities – despite the many things I have achieved during my time at university and beyond.
I have learnt that I am not the only one. An article by Sky News has explained that two-third of all women in the United Kingdom blame unemployment on discrimination and bias. Simultaneously, about 40% of unemployed women/women who are looking for work are struggling to balance their mental health and their financial stability. The International Labour Organization has also stated that women are in fact more likely to work and accept low quality jobs and in vulnerable conditions.
It is not a secret that men are dominating the job sector – with women’s salaries being 20% lower than men on a global basis. According to a report by ILO, women are more likely to achieve a higher education than men. However, education is definitely not the reason behind a woman’s lower pay or unemployed status. The same source argues that women fail to receive the same dividends for education as men. As a result, women are less likely to be invited to a job interview than the average male with the same experience and qualifications based on a study by María José González, Clara Cortina and Jorge Rodríguez-Menés called “Are Women Less Likely to Get Hired?”.
Additionally, the same study suggests that it is even more difficult for women with children to score a job as they experience more discrimination during the recruitment processes. The authors have argued that “womanhood” and “motherhood” is like facing a double penalty – where the chances of getting an interview invite is 35.9% less than fathers.
However, they have pointed out that a woman can in fact increase her chances of employment by preparing well for a job interview – if she has received an invite. Similarly, it is also of benefit to showcase any skills or additional languages spoken in order to be considered for a position.