Handling Illegal Interview Questions
Bottom line? Any question about
- Race, ethnicity, or color
- Gender (sex) – including gender identity
- Country of national origin or birth place
- Disability status (currently or previous)
- Marital or family status or pregnancy
Are prohibited from being asked of you during an interview. Questions should stick to one tenet and one tenet only…Does it pertain to the job? There is almost nothing about the categories I just mentioned that pertain to a job or your ability to do a job. Even if you are going to work for an institution or company where topics like religion or sexuality are part of the mission, your ability to do a job is not relevant to your race, age or where you were born.
Now, people make mistakes. Hiring managers slip up and often unintentionally. You may also have a junior or unseasoned person conducting the interview. I’m all about the benefit of the doubt, for better or worse! They may want to get to one topic but phrase their question in a way that puts them in the realm of inappropriate. So what do you do?
1.You can be uncensored and unfiltered and tell the interviewer that what they are asking you is an illegal question and you refuse to answer it. That is certainly an option, but you might as well just get up and leave at that point. In my opinion it’s overly confrontational and like I said, people make mistakes. But if you get a vibe that the values of the company don’t fit yours, then leaving is probably best anyway. But remember, industries are small world and people know each other. How you handle an interview can potentially harm you if you were perceived as inappropriate!1.
2.You can refuse to answer the question by indicating that the question makes you uncomfortable. You are certainly within you’re rights to do so and it’s not a poor option. But it also doesn’t show any problem solving or diplomacy skills.
3.Or you can redirect the question and potentially reframe it. This is where judgment and emotional intelligence come in. You can always say something like, “Would you mind rephrasing the question?” OR “Before I respond, can you clarify how this may be relevant to the role?” An astute hiring manager or interview panel might realize at this point that they messed up and hopefully apologize and get the interview back on track. Either way, how you handle something like this, especially if you are very interested in the position, can help you stand out among the crowd of people being interviewed. You don’t want to be part of the herd in this situation.
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