Redefining Language For Inclusive Tech Interview Questions

4 mins

Inclusive language in interview processes is essential to transforming hiring tech practices across various sectors to enhance inclusivity standards. In the tech industry, which has historically struggled with diversity, there is a significant need for change and development within this area to attract and retain talent during an ongoing tech talent shortage. 

This guide will explore the importance of inclusive language during Tech interview questions. From how traditional interview questions are phrased to how we can transform terminology within the sector to create a more inclusive overall interview process, we will offer your organisation practical strategies to develop inviting interview questions that assess skills effectively. 

Understanding the Problem

The tech industry, historically dominated by white men, continues to face challenges with diversity and inclusion. Non-inclusive language in Tech interview questions can worsen these issues. Over 95% of FTSE businesses still use gender-biased and non-inclusive language in recruitment adverts. Additionally, up to 50% of candidates would decline a job offer if the organisation didn’t have inclusive values and language practices

Since interviews are typically first impressions, ensuring that the language is inclusive and welcoming is essential. This helps create a positive and respectful environment, making all candidates feel valued and increasing the likelihood of attracting a diverse range of top talent.

Inclusive language in tech can also bring many other benefits to businesses and their teams, including:

  • Promotes a Diverse Workforce: Attracts a broader spectrum of applicants to engage in the interview process.
  • Enhances Interview Experience: Makes candidates feel valued and respected, resulting in improved performance and a favourable view of the company.
  • Mitigates Unconscious Bias: Reduces the influence of hidden biases, ensuring more fair and just hiring decisions.
  • Boosts Company Image: Businesses recognised for their inclusive practices appeal to various candidates and customers.

Tech companies perceived as non-inclusive often struggle to attract top talent and face higher turnover rates as employees seek more inclusive workplaces. Non-inclusive language in Tech interview questions can significantly contribute to this problem. But what does non-inclusive language in Tech interview questions look like, and how does it differ from other industries? 

Let's explore this.

Technical Jargon

Have you ever been in a conversation where everyone seems to speak a different language? That’s how candidates feel when bombarded with complex technical terms during an interview. Overusing jargon can intimidate those with the skills but may not be familiar with specific industry terminologies. This can make them feel overwhelmed and less confident, affecting their performance. 

Judging candidates based on their familiarity with jargon rather than their actual abilities can lead to unfair assessments and the exclusion of competent individuals.


  • Biased Question: “Describe how you would implement a binary search tree using polymorphism in an object-oriented language.”

Such questions can be daunting for skilled candidates not well-versed in specific terminologies, leading to unfair evaluations.

Cultural References

Questions assuming specific cultural knowledge can alienate candidates from diverse backgrounds. Imagine being asked about something deeply rooted in a culture you’re not familiar with; it can make you feel out of place and anxious. These references can make candidates feel excluded or misunderstood, affecting their confidence and performance. This bias can lead to hiring decisions that don't accurately reflect a candidate's technical skills or potential.


  • Biased Question: “Can you think of a time when you used the concept of 'six degrees of separation' in your network design?”

This question can disadvantage candidates unfamiliar with specific cultural references, impacting their ability to showcase their skills effectively.

Assumptions About Backgrounds

Do you know someone who is self-taught and excellent at what they do? Asking questions that assume a particular educational or career path can disadvantage self-taught programmers or those with non-traditional backgrounds.  

Phrasing questions in a way that assumes a specific educational or career path can disadvantage self-taught programmers or those with non-traditional backgrounds. While many roles in the tech industry typically require formal qualifications, the sector also values diverse experiences. Assuming specific backgrounds can lead candidates to struggle with relating their experiences to the questions asked, resulting in a misrepresentation of their true capabilities.


  • Biased Question: “How did your computer science degree prepare you for software development?”

Such assumptions can overlook candidates' unique skills and perspectives from non-traditional backgrounds, limiting diversity.

Gendered Language 

Tech has historically been a male-dominated industry. While it is becoming more diverse and inclusive, gendered language remains a significant issue, especially in interviews. Businesses and organisations in the industry strive to break these stereotypes, support inclusivity, and promote diversity within their practices. 

However, gendered language during interviews can unconsciously persist, undermining efforts to create an inclusive environment and damaging the company's reputation for diversity and inclusivity.

Gendered language can result in the reinforcement of these stereotypes along with a potential reduction in confidence from non-male candidates, leading to a decrease in diversity within the sector overall. 


  • Gendered Language: Using terms like "guys" to refer to a mixed-gender group.
  • Gendered Question: “So, you're a woman in tech? That's awesome! It's great to see more girls like you in this field.”

These phrases can perpetuate gender stereotypes and make non-male candidates feel unwelcome or out of place.

Irrelevant or Personal Interview Conversation 

Irrelevant personal questions can perpetuate stereotypes and make candidates feel uncomfortable. Candidates from various backgrounds might encounter questions about personal hobbies, lifestyle choices, or cultural practices that reinforce stereotypes and have nothing to do with their job qualifications.

For instance, asking someone about their religious practices, marital status, or even assumptions based on their appearance or accent can create a pressurised and non-inclusive environment. These questions can make any candidate feel uneasy and undervalued, leading to a less favourable interview experience for top tech talent.


  • Biased Question: “How do you balance your work with family responsibilities?”

These questions in Tech interview questions can unfairly pressure candidates, suggesting that personal responsibilities are a concern in their professional capabilities, regardless of their gender or background. This can result in candidates feeling judged not on their skills and experiences but on their personal lives.

4 Practical Strategies to Redefine Tech Interview Language 

Creating a more inclusive interview process involves rethinking the questions we ask and how we evaluate candidates. Here are five practical strategies to help ensure that the language in your interviews is bias-free, inclusive and assess candidates' skills effectively.

1. Focus on Skills and Abilities

As we discussed in the previous section, non-inclusive language in Tech interview questions can manifest in multiple ways. This may seem daunting, but there are many ways to refocus interview questions to limit this bias and make interview language more inclusive for everyone involved. Focusing on skills, abilities, and experiences is crucial rather than relying on assumptions or stereotypes.

Focusing on the skills and abilities required for the role is key to making your Tech interview questions more inclusive. This eliminates unnecessary technical jargon while still assessing relevant skills for the tech role.

Create Questions Directly Related to Skills

Develop questions that directly address the essential skills needed for the role. Avoid questions that might assume specific cultural knowledge or educational backgrounds. Redefining language so that it relates directly back to skill sets still allows you to assess practical and interpersonal skills, all while approaching questions in an inclusive form. 


  • Instead of asking, "What did you learn in your computer science degree?" ask, "Can you describe a project where you implemented a complex algorithm?"

Focusing on direct skills ensures candidates are evaluated based on their practical experience and problem-solving abilities rather than a predetermined expectation regarding a tech candidate’s education.

Creating Clear and Specific Questions

Ensure your questions are clear and specific to the skills and abilities required for the role. Avoid vague or broad questions that might lead to assumptions based on the candidate's background.


  • Instead of asking, "How do you approach problem-solving?" ask, "Can you walk me through your process for debugging a piece of code?"

Clear and specific questions help candidates understand exactly what is being asked, allowing them to provide focused and relevant responses.

Eliminating Industry Jargon Buzzwords

Industry jargon and buzzwords can be exclusionary, especially to those who might be new to the industry or come from diverse backgrounds. Simplifying language can make interviews more inclusive.

How to do it:

  • Replace unnecessary technical jargon with clear, straightforward language.
  • Explain any necessary technical terms within the context of the question.
  • Provide background on the technical concept if needed. 


  • Instead of saying, "How would you utilise agile methodologies to enhance your workflow?" ask, "Can you explain how you organise and manage your projects?"

By removing jargon, you ensure all candidates can understand and respond effectively to your questions, regardless of their prior exposure to industry-specific language.

Tailoring Questions to Your Business Needs

When creating interview questions, tailor them to the specific needs of your business and the role you are hiring for. This ensures that you are assessing relevant skills for your tech team.


  • For a tech role in your business, ask, "How have you contributed to the success of your previous tech team?" instead of, "Tell me about your teamwork experience."

Incorporating these strategies into your technology interview questions can create a more inclusive and welcoming interview process. This helps build a diverse team and ensures that your equality and diversity interview questions effectively assess the candidate’s abilities and potential contributions to your business.

2. Use Behavioral Questions

Behavioural questions require candidates to provide examples of past work experiences that focus on how they handle specific situations. This method reveals candidates' real-world skills applications and promotes fairer assessments.

Encourage candidates to structure their answers using the Situation, Task, Action, Result (STAR) method. This method provides a clear and detailed response framework. Using the same behavioural questions for all tech candidates ensures consistency and fairness.

Behavioural questions focus on skills and experience by asking about past situations where tech professionals have demonstrated those particular skills. Examples include:

  • "Tell me about a time when you had to manage multiple deadlines. How did you prioritise and handle the situation?"
  • "Can you describe a time when you faced a challenging problem and how you resolved it?"

Tailor questions to be more inclusive. Instead of a standard "Tell me about a time you..." question, make it broader:

  • Example: "Think about a project where you had to collaborate with a diverse team. Describe a situation where your skills helped achieve a successful outcome." This approach allows candidates to showcase their abilities in contexts beyond traditional tech environments.

Use both behavioural and technical examples. Ask candidates to describe specific instances where they applied their skills in real-world scenarios to understand their practical experience without assuming specific educational or cultural backgrounds.

  • Example: Instead of asking, "Do you know how to use version control systems?" ask, "Can you give an example of how you managed version control in a past project?"

Implementing these strategies can create a more equitable and effective assessment process highlighting each candidate's capabilities.

3. Avoiding Stereotypical Assumptions and Neutralising Gendered Language

Creating an inclusive and equitable hiring process is crucial for promoting diversity in tech. When conducting technology interview questions, it is essential to be mindful of the language and assumptions made about candidates. This approach helps build a diverse tech team and ensures all candidates have a fair chance to demonstrate their abilities.

Understanding the impact of language and assumptions in tech interviews is key to making the process more inclusive. Up to 30% reported experiencing gender-biased language during job interviews, including language like "guys" or "girls" at work, which can make candidates feel excluded or uncomfortable. This biased language and behaviour during interviews can undermine inclusivity and negatively impact candidates' perceptions of the company.

Job ads and interview questions using excessive masculine wording like "leader," "analytical," and "autonomous" are perceived as less appealing by women (4.16 vs. 4.50 on a 6-point scale). These issues highlight the need to carefully consider certain language and stereotyping in tech interviews.

Steps to Avoid Stereotypical Assumptions and Use Neutral Language

Implementing the following practices can help create a more inclusive environment during Tech interview questions, ensuring a fairer assessment of all candidates and contributing to building a diverse tech team:

  • Identify and Replace Gendered Language: Replace terms like "guys" or "girls" with "team" or "everyone." Avoid terms like "leader," "analytical," and "autonomous” to ensure that all candidates feel included and respected. 
  • Use Inclusive Pronouns: Ask candidates for their pronouns and use them consistently. This demonstrates respect and awareness of diverse gender identities.
  • Adopt People-First Language: Use language that puts the person before any condition or identity. For example, say "person with a disability" instead of "disabled person."
  • Avoid Assumptive Questions: Avoid questions that dig into personal circumstances or make assumptions based on appearance, name, or other characteristics. Instead, focus on their professional abilities and experiences.

Focusing on equality and diversity in your technology interview questions can create a more inclusive hiring process. This approach helps in diverse hiring and ensures that your tech talent contributes to a well-rounded and effective tech team.

4. Continuous Improvement and Feedback

A significant aspect of redefining Tech interview questions language for more inclusive hiring practices is maintaining an openness to change and development. While following the strategies outlined above will enhance the inclusivity of your interview language, the concept of inclusivity itself evolves over time.

It is crucial to continuously assess and improve the interview process based on feedback from both candidates and interviewers. This ongoing refinement helps adapt the language and practices to be more inclusive, ensuring the hiring process remains fair and equitable. Regular reviews prevent stagnation and allow for proactive adjustments in response to societal changes.

Let’s discuss how your business can ensure you are taking a robust approach to continuous improvement with the interview language below. 

Candidate Feedback

Gathering feedback from candidates is essential for identifying areas for improvement and ensuring that their experiences are positive and inclusive. This feedback provides direct insights into the candidate's perspective, highlighting what works well and needs enhancement. To achieve this, collect feedback from candidates about their interview experience.

Here are some examples of how you can collect and use candidate feedback:

  • Provide a post-interview survey asking candidates about their experience and suggestions for improvement.
  • Allow candidates to provide feedback anonymously to ensure honesty and transparency.
  • Regularly review feedback and implement changes as necessary to enhance the interview process.

By implementing these methods, you can gain valuable insights directly from those who experience the interview process, leading to more informed and effective adjustments.

Interviewer Reflection

Encouraging interviewers to reflect on their practices helps identify and mitigate biases, creating a more inclusive interview environment. Reflection enables interviewers to analyse their methods and improve their techniques critically.

Here are some strategies to encourage interviewer reflection within your organisation: 

  • Hold regular meetings where interviewers can discuss their experiences and share insights on improving the interview process.
  • Encourage interviewers to self-assess their performance and identify areas for personal improvement.
  • Implement a system where interviewers can provide constructive feedback to one another, promoting a culture of continuous improvement.

These strategies ensure that interviewers remain aware of their potential biases and actively work to create a fairer and more inclusive interview process.

Review and Adaptation

It is essential to review and update your Tech interview questions regularly. This ensures they remain relevant, unbiased, and inclusive as societal norms and expectations evolve. Consistently evaluate your interview questions to align them with current best practices and inclusivity standards.

Here are some ways to review and adapt your interview questions:

  • Periodically assess whether your questions still reflect the skills and attributes necessary for the role.
  • Examine questions for any unintended biases that could disadvantage certain groups.
  • Modify questions to be more inclusive based on the latest understanding of diverse candidate needs.

By staying proactive in these reviews, your interview process will continue to evolve, promoting a more inclusive hiring environment.

Incorporating continuous improvement and feedback mechanisms into your hiring process enhances inclusivity and aligns your practices and language choices with societal changes. 

Inclusive Language in Tech Interview Questions: Closing Thoughts

Inclusive language in tech assists in attracting diverse talent to your organisation while enhancing the company's reputation and innovation. Employers and interviewers must take proactive steps to implement these inclusive practices. Regularly reviewing and refining technology interview questions, seeking feedback from candidates and interviewers, and being open to change are all vital components of this ongoing effort.

By prioritising inclusivity, companies build a more diverse tech team and create an environment where all employees feel valued and respected. This commitment to continuous improvement and inclusivity ensures that tech companies can build stronger, more innovative teams and contribute to a more equitable industry that benefits everyone involved.

Are you Looking to Transform Your Tech Hiring Processes?

At McGregor Boyall, we are experts in DE&I and technology. We believe these principles should go hand in hand to achieve a better future for the industry and develop businesses. Our consultants have successfully placed skilled tech professionals with reputable companies, specialising in development and testing, change and transformation, cloud, DevOps, and infrastructure.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you with your tech talent pipeline and help you build a more inclusive and effective team.