Engagement Rings and Interviews

Listen On:

Transcript

Jenna Forstrom:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have a career you want, and make a difference in life. I’m Jenna Forstrom, taking over the hosting position. I’m joined with Mac Prichard, our Publisher, and Ben Forstag, our Managing Director.

  On August 12, 2016, Bruce Hurwitz posted on LinkedIn, “When interviewing for a job, lose the ring.” For our listeners, this post was all about how, if you’re interviewing for a job and you’re female, you should not wear a wedding ring because your chances of getting hired are limited. He called women wearing big rings to interviews “high maintenance.” Mac and Ben, if I came in and interviewed at Mac’s List with a huge wedding ring or engagement ring, would you have still hired me?

Ben Forstag:

Absolutely, if you were qualified for the position and it was a good culture fit. I’ve read this article. I remember when it came out in August and all the media firestorm that ensued. Bruce, I’m sure he’s a very competent guy and recruiter, but I think this is kind of out of left field. Saying anyone, any applicant who comes in with a large engagement ring is high maintenance or might be seen as high maintenance, I just don’t see that. Mac?

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, I agree. I also think it’s, obviously it’s illegal to make hiring decisions based on marital status or relationships outside of the office. Bruce’s point in the article, and we’ll include a link to it in the show notes for this episode, is he sites examples from his career where a woman competed for a job, she took the ring off and got an offer but previously she wasn’t. That’s an interesting anecdote but there’s no research to support it. Also, I think that not only is it illegal, you probably wouldn’t want to work in a place like that.

Ben Forstag:

I actually spent some time trying to think through this one a little bit, because again that connection if “big ring equals high maintenance” makes no sense to me. I thought maybe there’s some other thing that the ring is just a variable for, or an indicator of. Theoretically, I guess I could imagine an employer who, they might see a ring on her finger and think,” This is maybe a young person who’s going to get married and then go off and have children, and so I’m going to have to hire again or give this person a prolonged maternity leave.” Again, not cool to not hire someone for those reasons, but that would seem to make more sense than just looking at a big ring and saying, “This person’s going to be too difficult to manage.”

Jenna Forstrom:

I was the same way. I was trying to figure out situations where it might not be good to wear a wedding ring, and mine came up with silly things like, “If you’re interviewing for ‘The Bachelor’ or ‘The Bachelorette,’ you probably shouldn’t be wearing a wedding ring.” Or if you are working in food services – I have some friends that do that, and they can’t wear any sort of jewelry in the same way that they also can’t have their fingernails painted, so maybe showing up to an interview. Then again, if you’re interviewing and it’s not a practicum, it wouldn’t make sense because you’re just getting to know people and meeting with people, and who cares if you’re engaged or not? This was just a really interesting article.

Mac Prichard:

I would add two things to this discussion, and I think it’s important to remember there have been times when employers legally would not hire women who are married. I’m thinking about school teachers, for example. My mother was in this generation where it was common practice, certainly before World War 2, but even later in the 50’s when she first entered the workforce, for teachers who got married to lose their jobs. There was this assumption, and it was legal – it was wrong, but it was in the law – that you should go home once you got married and start a family.

  The other thing we haven’t talked about, and this is a different situation. Women who are pregnant and are applying for jobs will report that it’s difficult to compete, because they say employers are worried about that they will want to take family leave immediately after starting.

Ben Forstag:

No matter what way you cut this, right? I think we can all agree that this is pretty old-fashioned thinking on the employer’s part if they’re really discriminating against women based on this, and nowadays probably illegal. Now, the crux here is it’s really hard to call people out for this and say, “This is the reason that I didn’t get the job, because I had the giant ring on my finger or because I was pregnant.” That’s what makes this whole process so difficult.

Mac Prichard:

I’m wrestling with this, because I do think there, as we talk, there are probably people who are not hiring women because of their marital status.

Ben Forstag:

That’s true.

Mac Prichard:

It’s hard to, as you say, both catch that and enforce the law.

Ben Forstag:

That’s true, but I guess my thought would be the ring itself is not the issue then. It’s their bigotry, and they’re going to find some reason to keep women, or blacks, or whoever out because they’ll find some way. The ring itself, this is just a proxy thing. I don’t know, the amount of press this got just seemed disproportionate to the actual concern there, or the actual realness of it.

Jenna Forstrom:

I was going to say, maybe the recap would be: If you’re going out on an interview this week, ladies, don’t worry about your ring. If you are really nervous about it, get your man to buy you a second smaller ring. Bam, there we go.

Mac Prichard:

Maybe the closing is: Look, discrimination in hiring is real. It’s hard to detect and enforce the laws that prevent it.

  Maybe there isn’t a hopeful way to say this. Maybe it’s, to your point, discrimination is real. It happens, we know that. People are discriminated against because of their gender. Is it because they’re wearing a wedding ring? There’s no data to support that, but there’s a bigger problem here which is that women are being held back in the workplace.

Jenna Forstrom:

Thanks, guys, for joining in the conversation.

With engagement season fast approaching, the Mac’s List team talks about the controversial advice offered by Bruce Hurwitz in his LinkedIn post, “When interviewing for a job, lose the ring!

This article was published on August 12, 2016, and caused a  frenzy, with over 1,403 comments and 1,020 shares.  Hurwitz suggests that women who wear large engagement rings are seen as “high maintenance,” which raises warning flags for potential employers.

The Mac’s List team offers their feedback and advice. Their take: it’s not clear whether there really is a “bling bias” in hiring. But if there is, it is a product of  broader (and undeniable) gender discrimination, rather than about jewelry.

Some employers don’t want to hire young, married women, who they fear will leave the workforce to raise a family. (Such discrimination, of course, is illegal but the laws are rarely enforced.) For these hiring managers and organizations, an engagement ring may be a signal that the woman isn’t committed to her career.