There are lots of different questions employers CAN and do ask in job interviews, but some are off limits…
Most employers are well aware of their legal boundaries, but a survey conducted by CareerBuilder indicates as many of 20 percent of employers are still asking questions that are really not legal or appropriate.
Furthermore, one-third of all employers were unsure about what’s legal to ask. So it’s a good idea for every job seeker to know what’s okay and what isn’t.
This week let’s talk about 10 questions employers cannot ask in an interview.
Why Are you Asking Me This?
First of all, remember that every question has a reason. Sometimes it’s just small talk, but most are designed to align your professional values and experience with the open position.
Questions that have legal problems, however, are personal in nature and have nothing to do with the job. Here’s a simple list of what’s not okay for an employer to ask you about.
- What is your religious affiliation?
- Are you pregnant?
- What is your political affiliation?
- What is your race, color or ethnicity?
- How old are you?
- Are you disabled?
- Are you married?
- Do you have children or plan to?
- Are you in debt?
- Do you social drink or smoke?
At face value, some of these questions are not illegal. However, they imply an illegal motive and that’s what would make them illegal. So keep that in mind if you are ever asked one of them.
Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination, but it doesn’t contain a specific list of questions that are legal or illegal. Again, it comes back to the intent and relevance to the job. Most employers should know relevance is key and that these questions can be used as evidence of discrimination against them.
What Should You Do?
Let’s say you get asked a question about whether you have children or not. Keep your response professional and relaxed, but also confident, as you may be misreading their intent or possibly they are not aware it’s inappropriate. Try to think about what their motive is and re-direct them with your response. Consider the following:
“If you’re concerned about my availability or focus at work, be assured I am very dedicated. Everyone has a life outside of work and there’s always the potential for illness or other unforeseen circumstances, but I believe I have a great record of showing up to work on time and missing very little.”
This strategy re-directs the question into something you are strong at (ideally). But it also relieves some potential awkwardness that could be perceived if you appear to be offended or upset.
Bad interview questions can and do happen, even during harmless chit-chat. But you do have the right to expect a fair interview, free from potential biases brought on illegal questions and motives.
Doug Perry is an expert resume writer and job search coach. He and his wife, Tracie, who is a dental hygienist, created GetHiredRDH in response to the challenging dental hygiene job market and have helped thousands of dental hygienists through tips and individual services. If you need individual, click here to contact Doug.