Job Interview Questions Interviewers Can't Ask

There are lots of job interview questions that interviewers can't ask. Basically, they're not allowed to seek any information that doesn't relate to your ability to do the job you're applying for. They can't ask you about your age, your marital status, your sexual preference or your ethnicity. Big companies have mandatory training sessions for their managers on what not to ask. Some even require structured interviews, following a script, to keep interviewers from straying. ("You can't say we discriminated when we asked everyone the same questions.")

But they stray anyway. How do you protect yourself?

Let's face it, you'll lose points if you huff, "You're not allowed to ask me that!" First, the interviewer will be embarrassed. Second, if you respond that way to a question like, "I went to Podunk State too. What year did you graduate?" the interviewer may think that although you seem awfully well-preserved, it must have been 1940 at the latest.

Legally, of course, that's not supposed to matter. But let's face it, it does; and there's nothing you can do about it. Lawsuits for wrongful termination often succeed, but try to prove that you weren't hired because of discrimination. For starters, you may have a hard time finding a lawyer. Lawyers don't want to waste their time on long shots, especially if they're paid a percentage-and percentages don't cover costs. No matter what deal you make with the lawyer, filing fees alone can run into the hundreds of dollars. Then, if the defendant is a good-sized company with staff attorneys close at hand, it may drown you in expensive depositions and document requests. Also, the detailed background checks that are being done these days may inform a prospective employer that you filed a lawsuit. It's all terribly unfair, but it's the way the system works.

Often these questions are asked innocently. They may even show that the interviewer finds your comments interesting. And aren't interviews about establishing rapport? The closer your interview comes to a conversation, the more likely you are to be offered the job and to like it. If you were asked at a party by a fellow alumnus what year you graduated, you might say, "So long ago that I got a typewriter for graduation." If you can't pass as a Gen-Xer or Gen-Yer, it probably wouldn't hurt to give a similar answer here and move on.

Some questions, however, aren't so well-intentioned. "Are you planning to start a family soon?" and "Do you think you'll be retiring soon?" are totally out of bounds. Maybe you don't want to work for an organization where people ask such questions. If you do, you might say, "Right now, I'm focused on my career," or "Retire? I can't imagine what I'd do with my time," in hopes of keeping your standing while you make your own decision on whether to pursue the job.

"Will any obligations keep you from traveling?" and "Will you be able to keep long hours if you're required to?" are tougher, especially for a woman. They both translate into "Can we count on you to put your job first even if your kid or nanny gets sick?" and thus are squarely in the illicit category. They're also similar to "Have you stopped beating your wife?" in that you can be seen as hardhearted if you give them the answer they want. But you can see why employers want reassurance. You may want to take it head on: "I've traveled and kept long hours in many jobs, and my family has been completely supportive." Or put on your sincerest look and say, "When I take on a commitment, I keep it." Or keep it light: "I love traveling. It's one of the reasons I want this job. I even like airline food."

These questions, if you stretch a bit, can all be taken as bearing on your ability to do the job. There's no way you can excuse, "You have an unusual name. What kind of name is it?" Again, maybe the person just wants to know, so you may want to be cool as you say, "It's my first name and my last name," or, better, "I thought no one else had that name, but I found 10 people on Google. One of them is a serial killer."

Remember the illegal questions and replay them when you get home. If you think they were deliberately offensive, you won't want to take the job. But it's good to have the chance to make the decision yourself.

Article provided by Homesteader

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During a job interview, you might fumble the answer to a question, or your mind will go completely blank. But, at other times, the problem with the interview isn't you. Interviewers who haven't been trained properly or who are trying to screen out candidates for reasons other than their qualifications might ask you personal questions that are awkward at best and illegal at worst. This Q&A can help you handle these nosy interview questions.

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