‘Why Aren’t You Married Yet?’: Asked My Sexist IIM Interviewer

Posted by Luna B in Careers, Sexism And Patriarchy
April 10, 2017

After spending lots of hard earned money and hours on coaching in preparation for highly competitive CAT exams, only a small percent of people get selected.

In 2016, 2.5 lakh students attempted CAT for just 10,000 seats. So we can only imagine the high level of competition and pressure.

Now, students need to score 98-99 percentile just to get shortlisted for interviews and after the interviews, comes the selection. The success ratio is approximately 3:1.

Yes! After working hard all year and scoring 99 percentile, your chances of getting in after a successful interview are still one in three.

Personal perspective

This is what happened with my IIM interview.

I was so excited. Of course, getting called by IIM is a big deal in our country. The interview was to take place at a hotel in Delhi.

When I arrived, my first disappointment was the cheap hotel in a remote corner of city.

I shrugged it off, focusing on the interview ahead. I entered the hall to find around 70-80 candidates waiting, only four of whom were girls.

They randomly grouped six of us in a single group and called us in for a group discussion and personal interview.

The interviewers were two men, in their late thirties or yearly forties, one bald and the other bearded.

The group discussion started and as the candidates were putting across their points, the interviewers looked completely disinterested as if they were waiting for time to pass, looking at their phones and drifting off.

As soon as the group discussion was over, we stepped out and everyone in the group started joking about how the bearded guy seemed stoned.

Everyone had noticed their casual attitudes. Within the next two minutes, I was called in again for an interview.

I mention the time because I feel that, ideally, they should’ve spent some time (at least five to 10 minutes) reviewing our performance before calling us in again for individual interviews.

I walked in to the room, sat on the chair and introduced myself. The bearded guy looked at my picture on my voter ID and then stared at my face, and finally, asked me when the picture was taken.

I immediately felt weird as this had no relevance to the IIM selection process.

I replied that it was from last year.

Of course, I wasn’t going to renew my picture for an IIM interview, not that it matters!

Then they started asking me random questions about my role at work, and I thought, ‘Okay this is going great, I know my work!

I explained everything about my work in detail. I am always excited to talk about my work.

They seem unimpressed and asked me if I know how to do programming. I have a background in engineering, so I told them that I know C (programming), HTML and MATLAB.

The bearded guy was quiet, while the bald guy said, ‘No… I want to ask about programming languages such as Java and Python’. At this point, a waiter interrupted and they ordered samosas and tea.

Despite knowing that I have no work experience in programming as I work as Head of Operations and Marketing (nor have I studied it as I was an electronics engineering major), they kept on asking me questions around computer science programming.

At one point I thought I was interviewing for a programming job at a software firm. It was so deep!

They even asked me of the uses of Zener diode, how LEDs  and photovoltaic cells function, and every little technical thing possible.

I answered almost everything about electronics. Thank god, I was a nerd in college!

Then, they asked me about my hobbies, and I thought, ‘Phew! I can finally get myself back in’. I told them about my passion for reading and cooking.

Suddenly, out of blue, the bearded guy asked me, “Are you married?”.

I was taken aback, but uttered, ‘No’,

He then went ahead and asked, “Why aren’t you married yet?”. I was lost for words now.

They both gave each other looks that seemed to convey that they weren’t convinced that I am a good enough candidate because I am a 26-year-old unmarried, ambitious woman.

I composed myself and said that I am focusing on my career right now. Obviously, they were both sceptical.

They were not even grilling me. They were genuinely like ‘Why does she want to go for higher education, she should be married by now’.

I don’t know how to better phrase their sceptical attitude, they just didn’t believe me. It seemed to me that they felt like I should pack up and marry already.

They didn’t ask me anything related to being a manager or a decision maker. They didn’t even ask me my goals, opinions on issues/current affairs or why I want to do an MBA degree.

After those questions, the interview didn’t last long. They asked me few more random tech-related questions and sent me away.

Sabzimandi Sojourn

The experience was disappointing considering it’s one of the top institutes of the country. We study our asses off for years to get a high percentile and to get a call from the IIMs.

The attitude of the interviewers was unprofessional. Maybe they don’t understand that they are deciding someone’s whole life.

The other part that stuck in my side was the type of questions they asked me. Asking me things that have no relevance to me being a good decision maker or manager, tells you nothing about my eligibility to pursue an MBA.

How exactly are you judging that I will be a good manager by asking me to draw a Zener diode or write code?

Personal interviews are for judging personality, character and leadership potential in candidates.

The interviewer was a programmer and kept insisting on making me write code. It was about him, not me.

He wanted to ask me things that he knew.

The irony of the situation was that there were only four girls among almost 70 boys. And the selection committee didn’t use the chance to show me why more girls don’t apply.

Shouldn’t they have been proud that I made it till there and that I want to be part of their institute?

Instead, they questioned me like some random uncle does at party. The whole process was very sabzimandi like.

When you are interviewing some of the top minds of the country, I think it’s a big responsibility because you are choosing leaders who will shape the future of the country.

Where are the innovators and creators with original ideas?

Maybe the interviewers believe IIM degrees are just a stamp to get high-paying jobs so they don’t care to know more about the candidates.

The lethargic and narrow-minded attitude of the IIM interviewers convinced me of one thing though, that I won’t be joining it.