Even though various United States federal laws govern the type of job interview questions that an interviewer can ask, you may still encounter illegal job interview questions at some point. In fact, very possibly more than once during the job interview process.
Businesses with well-staffed and trained human resources departments tend to be careful to avoid such questions, but a number of companies operate without formally trained HR departments or no trained HR personnel at all. How many businesses do you know where people carry multiple job responsibilities including areas where the only training they have had has been on the job. Also, unfortunately in a smaller number of cases, interviewers may have knowledge of laws governing job interview questions and chose to ask illegal job interview questions anyway.
Examples of illegal job interview questions include:
Are you married?
What is your race?
What is your sexual orientation?
You don’t sound like your from this country. Where are you from?
What are your plans for having children?
What do you do if you encounter one of these illegal interview questions? You have three different options. The first option is to point out to the interviewer that he or she has asked an illegal interview question and that you chose not to answer it. Do not be surprised if the interviewer appears embarrassed, flustered, or even angry. By giving the first answer, you definitely run the risk of the interview being cut short and/or having yourself ruled out for the job.
The second option is to provide the answer to the interviewer’s question. For example, if you know this start up company is looking for energetic people who can work 18 hour days, telling the interviewer that you are single with no family might work to your advantage here. Be aware that this is thin ice. If you guess wrong on what the company is looking for, you may doom your candidacy.
The third option, and the one I recommend, is to provide a neutral answer. Basically, you take the illegal question that you have just been asked and turn it on its head. Here’s how. Answer that my plans for children will not affect my ability to do an outstanding job for this company. My martial status will not affect my ability to do an outstanding job for this company, etc… The answer diffuses the question without putting the interviewer on the defensive.
Once your interview is over, you can then go home and weigh whether you want to work for a company that bases its job applicant decisions on illegal job interview questions. This is a decision only you can make depending on your particular circumstances.
(Please note that I am not a lawyer and none of the above information is intended to be construed as legal, financial, or other such advice. You should consult a licensed professional for such advice.)
If you would like to read more about job interviews, check out 5 Tips for Best Job Interview Outfit.