Sadly, for any job seeker, illegal job interview questions are a lot more common these days than we’d like them to be. If you don’t know how to navigate those kinds of question, you could miss out on a good job opportunity. But first what is an illegal job interview question?
The questions are fairly common, but the answers are anything but easy. What year were you born? Are you married? Are you planning to have a family? As a job seeker, how are you supposed to handle these illegal job interview questions? Whether out of ignorance or wilful disregard for the law, interviewers can sometimes ask interview questions of job candidates that are not legal. Any question an interviewer asks should relate to your work skills and your experience.
Interview questions that aren’t about your ability to do the job are, for the most part, off-limits. However, sometimes an interviewer asks a question that seems like a “getting to know you” question. It might be something like, “What do you like to do on weekends?” “What kinds of hobbies do you have?” “How long have you lived here?” While innocent on the surface (and they likely are), without realising it, you could be answering an illegal interview question.
In order to avoid getting flustered, I’m going to show you how to handle illegal job interview questions.
1. Ask A “Clarifying” Question
My advice to you is to ask a “clarifying” question. Forget the first impulse to attack or make assumptions about the interviewer that this person knows what they are asking is an illegal job interview questions. You need more information as to why the question was asked in the first place. You might say something like this,”I’d be happy to answer that question, but I’d like to understand a little bit more about how it’s relevant to the job.” That way the interviewer will have to clarify how it affects your role for the job.
This way you will understand if they know its an illegal job interview question or not. At this point, you can decide to either answer the question (because you know it was innocent) or maybe say, “You know, I hate to say this, but that is technically an illegal interview question and I’d really prefer not to answer.” It’s totally your choice. But now, you’ve at least got something to work with, so that you have a reason to give your response in either direction.
2. Use The “Two Strike” Rule.
My second piece of advice is to consider using “two strike” rule. The first strike is when they ask the illegal question, and you decide to answer it. Of course, it must have been after you clarified how the question impacts your role. So anytime you ask a clarifying question, it would be sending a subtle message to the hiring manager.
That first time around is their first chance. But if they ask a second time, that’s when it’s a second strike. That’s when I would go ahead and say, “You know, this is the second illegal interview question that you’ve asked, and I’m really getting uncomfortable answering them.”
By saying this, you’re showing them that you gave them a chance, and you were polite in that first response as well. You may even have to clarify for them why the question was illegal, so you should be prepared to do that, too.
Be also ready on that second strike to say, “This is really hard for me to share with you, but that is technically an illegal interview question, and I’d really be more comfortable not answering it.” If you can say that with sincerity and kindness, it’s going to help them understand that you’re not trying to sabotage your chances“.
3. Trust Your Instinct When Dealing With Illegal Job Interview Question
My third tip is to follow your instinct. Sometimes you can just feel that somebody is really innocent, and is ignorant of what he or she is saying or doing. Maybe they’re asking if you have any children because they want to talk about family. Or, they could really be trying to pry and figure out what kind of commitments you’ll have outside of the job.
It’s very hard to tell, but i suggest you keep an open mind and focus more on the individual thats asking you these questions. You’ll be able to get a feel of whether or not this is a savvy, seasoned hiring professional who knows right from wrong when it comes to legal questions, or if this is somebody really new who isn’t used to recruiting or hiring people and probably hasn’t had any training and is mistakenly asking the wrong question.
To know this and have an instinct about it, you need to fully know what illegal questions are. Either way, if you follow your instinct and the first two tips, you will get a feel of everything and then understand without going on the attack and jeopardising your chances.
4. Try To Answer The Question
My fourth tip is to answer the question, but make sure that you add something at the end which makes it clear to the interviewer that it is a discriminating question. Let’s go back to that example of, “Do you have any children?”
You might respond with, “Yes, I actually have two children, but let me assure you that my personal obligations with my family outside of work will in no way affect my ability to do this job exceedingly well.”
When making this statement, you’re driving home your point that this shouldn’t be something that should be considered when thinking about someone as a candidate. It’s a nice way of saying, “Hey, this is not a legal question.”
Dealing with illegal interview questions is hard, but now you know that illegal interview questions can be sneaky—and you also know how to answer them correctly.