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Interviewers: anything he can do, she can do better – or can she?

Do male or female interviewers perform a better job when selecting candidates to fill vacancies?

Is it true that women can spot lies and exaggerations more easily than their male counterparts and do they really have a sixth sense when it comes to figuring out which applicant to hire and which to run a mile from? Business owner Yvon Chouinard, co-founder of outdoor clothing company Patagonia, thinks so, but does he have a point or is this another case of unfounded gender stereotyping?

In a recent interview, Chouinard – an avid climber and environmentalist, whose company aims to use business to find solutions to the environmental crisis – admitted that he is not very good at hiring. He confessed to being easily taken in and having no idea when people are being less than honest; for this reason, he only trusts women to recruit staff for his company.

You may or may not agree with Chouinard’s logic; however, as far back as a decade ago, a study of 1,000 interviewees by HR consultancy Water for Fish found that more than half of the respondents felt that female interviewers were more skilful and better prepared than male interviewers.

On the other hand, Nicolas Roulin, a psychologist and professor at the University of Manitoba, has carried out many studies on the subject and concludes that interviewers are generally like Chouinard in being bad at spotting dishonesty; furthermore, experience, personality and gender had no apparent effect.

The impression that women are better at interviewing candidates may stem from that fact that females are usually assumed to have better ‘soft skills’ and can rely on instinct or gut feeling to spot a lie; however, there is no scientific evidence to prove that this is the case. Indeed, of the numerous experiments carried out by Roulin, only one found a slight gender difference. In this single study it was found that women were just a little more likely to assume someone was lying than the male study participants.

Regardless of whether you believe men are from Mars and women from Venus, the jury is still far from reaching a unanimous verdict on the superiority of female interviewers; in fact, the only way in which you can ensure your recruitment team spots and hires the best people for the roles you need to fill is by ensuring the right training is given to interviewers to prepare them for the complicated task of sifting through dozens of resumes to find the hidden gems.

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