Illegal Interview Questions

Are there some illegal interview questions that should not be asked? Well although the specifics of the law will depend on where you live, interview questions should always be related to your ability to do the job. Anything outside of this may reveal personal information that employers could use to discriminate against you.

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Discrimination in the interview is like discrimination in the workplace. It’s not right and it’s not OK.

Ethical and sensible employers really shouldn’t be asking questions about the following:

• National origin

• Religion

• Race

• Sex

• Marital status

• Age

• Birthplace

• Disability

How to deal with Illegal Interview Questions

Let’s work on the premise that since you have been invited to interview, you stand a chance of getting the job. The truth is the interviewer is probably not looking to find a way to discriminate against you. Interviewers themselves have different levels of competence; though the majority know how to pose their questions in the right way, some will not.

If you are faced with what you think is an illegal question, here are your options:

1) Don’t answer the question

If you feel the question has crossed the line, you can always let the interviewer know that you don’t feel it relates to your ability to do the job.

VERDICT – While you may have won a moral victory, this is the least favourable option because it creates a standoff between you and the employer. This may threaten the rapport you’ve built up. Interview questions give you an opportunity to show why you are the right person for the job. Not giving an answer is a missed opportunity.

2) Just answer the question

If you don't mind providing the information and you don't want to make waves, you can respond to the question and move on to the next one. Keep in mind, however, that you should only answer the question if you truly are comfortable providing the information.

VERDICT – OK, you’ve answered the question, but have you done yourself justice? If you feel it was an illegal question, it probably wasn’t relevant to your ability to do the job. It’s hard to answer this kind of question effectively.

3) Answer the question the interviewer really wanted to ask

Just because the interviewer asks a bad question it doesn’t mean you have to give a bad answer.

Why not give the interviewer the benefit of the doubt? They really may not have meant to phrase the question in an illegal way, but are trying to find out about your ability to do the job. For example, an interviewer might ask how old you are. This is both an illegal and irrelevant question. However the question of how experienced you are is very relevant to your capability to do the job. So you could respond by taking the opportunity to describe your appropriate industry experience.

VERDICT – This is a win-win situation. The more you know and understand your potential employer, the easier it will be to focus on what they are really looking for. Another good reason to do company research as part of your interview preparation.

Now that you have the low-down, it’s best not to worry too much about illegal interview questions cropping up. Most employers will avoid using them anyway. Once you make it to the interview focus on giving a great interview performance. After all, there is no discrimination against excellence.

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