Keep the Ring, Lose the Sexism
Recently, a recruiter named Bruce Hurwitz wrote a post on LinkedIn called, When Interviewing for a Job, Lose the Ring! In it, he advised women to leave their Hope Diamond-sized engagement rings at home, lest male interviewers perceive them as high maintenance, and female interviewers worry that they’ll fall to second place.
Yes, really. Here’s the quote:
“When a man sees that ring he immediately assumes you are high maintenance. When the woman at the office who has the largest diamond on her finger, sees that ring, she will realize that if you are hired she will fall to second place and will, therefore, not like you. Lose the ring!”
My soul died a little bit when I read that, and judging from the comments Hurwitz received, I was not alone. (Most popular comment: “This is ridiculous drivel. As the former SVP of recruitment and talent for a Fortune 50 company I would FIRE any firm who gave this kind of advice to candidates. It’s biased. It’s ridiculous and it makes women sound petty and small. Welcome to 2016 Mr. Hurwitz you may want to join us here.”)
In response to criticism, he later clarified in a subsequent post that he wouldn’t wear anything expensive to a job interview, noting that a Rolex might lead interviewers to wonder if they could afford a candidate, while a Timex would not.
However, he also wrote:
“The problem with a large engagement ring, as I noted and was confirmed by a couple of women in the Comments of the previous article, is the message it may send. When a man gives a woman an engagement ring, he buys the least expensive ring that he believes it will take to get her to agree to the proposal. For women it may be a symbol of everlasting love, but for men (when it is expensive) it is akin to a business transaction.”
There Is So Much Wrong With This, So Where to Start?
First of all, let’s consider the possibility that Hurwitz is correct: large rings turn off hiring managers, making men fixate on the potential high-maintenance nature of a person they’ve literally just met, while women try to judge their relative spot in some sort of bride-price derby. He claims that his experience as a recruiter indicates that this is true, at least anecdotally, mentioning several instances in which clients got hired after leaving the ring at home, and linking to another firsthand account by a woman who feels that wearing her ring inspired inappropriate questions from interviewers (but no offers).
The problem is, he has no way of knowing whether or not the engagement ring itself is more of a problem than the Rolex mentioned earlier. He’s noted correlation — ring on, no offer; ring off; offer on the table — but he isn’t a mind reader. There’s no way for him to know exactly what those hiring managers where thinking when they didn’t extend an offer.
What seems more likely is that Hurwitz did what humans do, and interpreted events according to his own unconscious bias. This doesn’t make him a bad person; we all have unconscious bias. The goal is to be aware of it and to try to counteract it, by making decisions based on data, not hunches.
Think of it this way: when you interview for a job, and make it to the salary negotiation phase, you don’t (or shouldn’t) ask for what your friends with similar jobs have told you that they make. You have no way of knowing if they’re well-compensated according to the market (or even telling the truth). Instead, you research salary ranges, and set yours according to the data. Going by hearsay or hunches will mislead, when it comes to important career decisions, while looking at the data will not.
Hurwitz could have just as easily said, “My clients who took off their large rings seem to have received offers more readily than those who left them on.” There was no need to guess as to why. If he got curious, he might start tracking whether watches and earrings and headbands and loud neckties also made a difference. But until he had significant data with firsthand accounts from hiring managers (e.g., “I didn’t hire her because her ring made me feel like I didn’t negotiate hard enough when my husband bought me!”), he should leave it alone.
When it comes to human motivation in a professional environment, it’s almost always a mistake to guess.
Tell Us What You Think
Do you think Hurwitz has a point, or should we be beyond this by now? Talk to us on Twitter or leave a comment.