I'm wondering what people's thoughts on this are as I've heard very mixed things… I've heard that as a woman interviewing, a department may wonder more about the influence of your spouse more so than a man interviewing as well as be concerned about the possibility of a near in the future maternity leave if you're wearing a wedding or engagement ring—all of which could decrease your appeal as a woman. I've heard this more from the older school generations and that when interviewing for academic jobs its a good idea for women to not wear these rings… Do people find this is still the case? I also wonder about wearing my rings and then not ever mentioning the fact I have a spouse, it seems like a giant elephant in the room since interviewers are not supposed to ask.
Date: 13 Nov 2012 16:12
Number of posts: 18
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Whether you wear a ring or not and whether interviewers are supposed to ask or not, you will be asked about your personal life. You will be asked about your partner. You could be asked by deans whether or not you have children. You will be asked about politics. Anything that is off the table could be on the table in a heartbeat. I have gone on interviews and had my marital status relatively ignored but most places have commented. I don't think this had anything to do with my ring as I never felt like people were checking out my left hand. Some places have been concerned about an academic spouse (mine is not academic) and are quickly relieved that my partner could easily relocate with me. Many commented on the fact that they would be more concerned about me moving to the locale of their school if I were not moving with a partner (i.e., schools in rural areas).
Do what makes you feel comfortable. But be prepared to either change the subject smoothly or talk about your personal life no matter what choice you make.
Wear the ring, and have a story about how excited you and your partner are about the job, and how he has started looking for positions in X city where right now there are good opportunities, and why the location is such a good fit for both of you.
The interviews are long. Whether the SC is trying to get information from you or just make conversation, you WILL be asked about your personal life. It might seem weird to them if you are purposefully trying to hide a spouse (though really they should understand why). I think you should wear it and as ringbearer said have a story about your spouse that leads them to believe the spouse won't make it harder for you to take the job (and could possibly even make it easier for you to do so for some reason.)
I agree - leave the ring on. If you've worn the ring for years, it would likely leave a visible ring around your finger anyway even if off. I've used my spouse as a great talking point on interviews given easy "movability" which is always a plus. And talking about joint personal interests that would make us feel at home in the area is always something SCs like to hear about.
It's interesting the different experiences folks have. I had several academic job interviews last year (some I wore my ring, some I didn't), and I was never asked about whether I had a spouse, children, or really anything I would consider personal. The most "personal" questions I really was asked were about what I like to do outside of work. And the jobs I wore my rings, no one mentioned the fact I obviously had a spouse until I brought it up… and then everyone I interviewed with then after brought it up and asked me about it.
This is a tricky topic, because it's totally unfair and illegal for them to presume anything or make decisions based on your marital status. That said, there's still an undercurrent of fear that departments will go ahead and do it anyway. Moreover, you can't necessarily escape discrimination by being (or pretending to be) single: a lot of departments in small towns have problems with retention due to lack of available partners. Basically, unless you have schizoid personality disorder or a partner who can work absolutely anywhere, this is an issue that you are going to encounter.
The fact of the matter is that it's not an unusual circumstance for women applying for tenure-track jobs to be married. While there may be some departments out there who still openly and illegally discriminate, most places want to recruit the best candidates on the market, AND want to have a strong representation of women on their faculty. If they exclude married women, they are going to severely restrict their pool.
I am a married woman with a small child, and the advice that I have been given is to not go so far as to pretend I am single, but to not openly advertise that my willingness to take a job would depend on my partner's (uncertain) ability to obtain a job in the area. On the other hand, in areas where my partner has excellent job prospects, I openly discuss it as a major selling point, so that they know that they will have an easy time recruiting and retaining me. Discussing having a small child is another whole question….
I feel like there is an implied adversarial relationship between candidates and search committees/departments that misses the point for all concerned. Departments WANT to hire someone. They want you. A job interview is not only about you impressing them. It is about them recruiting you. We want to hire someone! Believe me, there are few things worse than a failed search. I think the idea is to be yourself and to not miss opportunities to let the department you might be working in (for the rest of your life) get to know you and who you really are. Of course, you want to put your best foot forward, but your best foot is not some person who has no identity beyond their vita. I think that folks on the market sometimes underestimate the level of motivation on the other side. Sometimes information about a partner is very important for departments to know because it allows them to do an even better job of recruiting. Once they know you have a spouse who works in X industry or Y department, they can take steps to find out information for you about opportunities for that person. When a job candidate has let us know that, say, they have a young child (or two or whatever), it lets us know to brag about our amazing preschools. It might even mean setting up a visit to the world class daycare on campus. We want you to want our job, not just because you really want a job, but because Our Job is such a great fit for you, your partner, and your family. Most departments are well aware that we cannot ask upfront about these issues. So, we ask vague questions about hobbies and so forth waiting for you to drop the 411. Once you have, we can then go into full on recruitment mode.
Unfortunately in my interview experiences I've had more experiences where the department seemed to forget they are recruiting me too. I remember at one interview I felt like I was under a firing squad being interrogated about why they could possibly want me as a faculty member as well as others that are just so disorganized that its off-putting—completely missing a scheduled phone interview or giving me 3 phone numbers to try you at during the scheduled phone interview time….. I feel like there are more search committes then not who forget they need to make a good impression too.
I had a different perspective of this when I went on interviews last year. I always wore my wedding ring because, quite frankly, I'm a woman who looks quite young. One of my fears was that I would not be seen as a mature adult, but a young girl grad student instead. I wanted to be taken seriously. Whether a ring can make a difference in that regard is debatable, but wearing it did make me feel better. For me this was similar to the question, "do glasses make you look smarter?" It's hard to know how people interpret these little signals like glasses or rings. I'm sure someone has done a study on how people rate the intelligence of people wearing glasses vs. not wearing glasses, but who knows about how people rate those wearing wedding rings?