From time to time you may come across an interviewer who will ask illegal interview questions. Not all interviewers are experts, you can tell the difference between a professional interviewer and an amateur by the questions they ask.
Professional interviewing is a skill which requires training and an understanding of employment legislation to ensure that the interview is conducted in a transparent, fair and non-discriminatory manner.
Trained interviewers know that asking illegal interview questions is strictly prohibited. It is helpful to remember if you are asked an illegal question, in the majority of cases it is because the interviewer is uneducated about what constitutes an illegal question.
As a rule of thumb interviewers ask tough interview questions, in order to challenge you as well as to be reassured on any areas of concern they may have regarding your candidacy for the position. The intent is the same with illegal interview questions.
You can be sure if they ask you an illegal question then it is highly likely they will ask other candidates too, so try not to take it personally. Before we look at how to turn the tables on interviewers who ask these types of questions, it is useful to first consider what constitutes an illegal interview question.
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Although laws vary from country to country, in general interviewers are not allowed to ask you questions in any of the following areas:
Sexual orientation or marital status:
– Are you married or single?
– How do you feel about women’s lib?
– What is your sexual orientation?
– Are you part of any gay groups?
– What type of job does your spouse do?
– Are you married?
– What race are you?
– What nationality are you?
– Are you a member of a minority group?
– Where were your parents born?
– Does your religion prevent you from working weekends?
– What is your religious affiliation?
– Will you be taking religious holidays from work?
– What holidays do you celebrate?
– How old are you?
– Do you feel you will have the energy to do this type of work, considering your age?
– How do you think my older/younger employees would react if I hired you?
Health or physical disabilities:
– Do you have any disabilities that affect your work?
– Have you any recent illness?
– What is your health like?
– Does any illness run in your family?
Pregnancy, childcare or family:
– Tell me about your family?
– How many children do you have?
– Are you planning to have children?
– What type of child care arrangements have you made?
– Do you have a criminal record?
– Have you ever been arrested?
– Have you ever been involved in a law suit against an employer?
– Where are your parents from?
– Where were you born?
– What nationality are you?
When faced with an illegal question you have a number of options at your disposal. You can choose to answer the question directly if you feel comfortable to do so, however by doing this you may be giving the interviewer information which is nothing to do with your ability to perform the job.
You are also well within your rights not to answer any illegal interview questions and you can firmly assert this in the interview. Be warned however that the interviewer may be taken aback by this and perceive you as being defensive or evasive.
Remember the interviewer is testing you here, so instead of taking the bait, consider using the alternative options below:
Most illegal interview questions have an underlying concern that you will not be able to perform the job and they are attempting to draw this out of you. The first option is to respond by addressing the underlying concern directly by reassuring the interviewer of your ability to meet the requirements of the job.
Sample illegal interview questions and how to turn them around
– “This job requires a lot of travel and may require working long days and sometimes nights. What is your health like?”
Asking about the state of your health is an illegal question. The underlying concern here is that the job may be challenging and you may not have the energy and stamina to perform as required.
Instead of talking about your medical history, you can respond by saying:
“I can reassure you that I am very capable of performing all the duties described in the job description and should I be hired you can expect me to commit 100% to the goals and targets set for me.”
If you can then back this up with examples of were you performed similar tasks in the past, this will be a bonus.
Interviewers are legally obliged to ask you questions which will give them information about your ability to perform on the job. If they ask you an illegal question, which falls outside of this requisite, then a second option is torespond to their question with a question:
Simply say “Can you please clarify why that is relevant to my ability to perform on the job?”
“I’m not sure how that relates to my ability to perform on the job, can you please rephrase the question?”
Sample Illegal Interview Question:
“Do you think that you might have children in the next few years?”
A: Asking questions about your family is illegal. When answering this type of question you have a choice, you can ask them a clarification question such as:
“I’m not sure how that relates to my ability to perform the job, can you please expand on this?”
Or, you could respond honestly by saying you either don’t plan to have any children, or when you do have children, it is unlikely to affect your performance at work because you are very focused on your career. Backing this up with examples of people you know that balance work and family life well will further reassure the interviewer.
The key to handling these questions is not to be thrown off center if they come up, keeping your cool will help you navigate these questions in a diplomatic and tactful manner. Remember you are perfectly within your rights not to answer these questions and you will need to intelligently intuit which approach to take on the day as each situation will call for a different response.
A word of warning, a trained interviewer would never jeopardise themselves or the company they work for by asking illegal interview questions. If you are asked a number of these types of questions, then this should be a red flag and you may wish to re-evaluate whether or not this is the type of company you want to work for!
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Originally posted 2016-09-06 15:45:42.