Confronting A Biased Hiring Manager

by | Mar 22, 2023

What do you do with a biased hiring manager?

I opened a can of worms. After each edition, lovely readers send me more stories! So it’s a good job I like venting here every other week because sometimes I feel like I’m just howling into the wind, hoping that anyone involved in hiring would just, quite simply, be kind.

This one I heard first hand. And promptly deafened the teller of this tale of woe with a stream of expletives that still didn’t encompass my shock.

The story goes.

A hiring manager asked her female recruiter to look for a female for her team because…

Wait for it.

Are you sitting down?

You sure you are ready?


Because, she didn’t want the man in her team being intimidated by another male team member.





Once I finished swearing about this biased hiring manager, I asked for permission to share this here because I know that recruiters and talent acquisition experience situations like this way more often than anyone is letting on. Bias in recruitment and selection is never ok!

The biased hiring manager

When I finally stopped swearing I said, ‘As an opinionated Aussie woman, I can be way more intimidating than a man!’ (I know some of you just laughed at that!) and then I pictured all of the fabulous, strong, independent, trail-blazing women I am honoured to call friend, and fumed further.

I felt such incredible anger that a fellow woman would make such a gross generalisation about other women, men and non-binary. In her biased view of the world, she can’t see how wrong her request is and it is up to you, as the recruiter, to challenge it, whether you want to or not.

I talked about female-led sexism in the last article so won’t elaborate further suffice to say, in one sentence she falsely suggested women are the meeker sex.

It’s poor leadership

On the surface it appears that this manager is taking her team member into consideration and looking to hire someone to complement his qualities. But she is actually avoiding the situation hoping it will go away. Instead it would be better if she developed her leadership and difficult conversation skills so that she can discover the source of any insecurity and work to build up his confidence.

It’s unfair

Finally, it’s totally unfair to this male team member! If he really does get intimidated by fellow team members, especially male ones, then the manager owes it to him, the team, and the company, to get him a coach or someone who can help build his confidence.

And I sure hope that their job advertisements and career site don’t include a DEI statement, because acting on this request would be unfair to any male or non-binary applicants!

The solution to a biased hiring manager

It is your responsibility to slap up a boundary and challenge the hiring manager.

‘Ms Hiring Manager, I am surprised to hear you infer that women cannot also be intimidating. In my experience all genders can intimidate. Rather than hire against our DEI policy, what do you think we can do instead to support your team member and build his confidence?’ If you are feeling super confident, you could proffer a solution with the addition of, ‘What if we got him some coaching?’

To learn more about boundary setting, watch this video from Michelle Zelli.

Not sure you could confidently tackle a biased hiring manager? Come join The Collective.


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