How to Handle Inappropriate Interview Questions5/25/2011 4:36 PM By William Pirraglia
In the US, the federal government has implemented many regulations targeted to eliminate hiring prejudices in all forms. Since these laws have been sanctioned for countless years, you might think that every business owner, interviewer, human resource employee and hiring manager is well aware of all manner of inappropriate interview questions. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
If you are a member of one of the primary protected categories, you may still face questions that relate to your gender, age, race, political affiliation or religion. While you cannot prevent these questions, you should have a workable game plan to manage your answers. Here are some suggested responses to too often asked, inappropriate—or illegal—questions.
Place of Origin
If you are obviously not originally from the US, you may hear questions that attempt to reveal information. “Where are you from?” “Is English your native language?” These and similar questions attempt to learn about your ethnic background.
While it can be disadvantageous to simply refuse to answer, you can massage them effectively. For example, you could deflect a native language question by responding, “I speak English perfectly and I also speak (yuo native language), which might be valuable to your company and this job.”
Questions about your native country or the home of your parents can ellicit a response that you were born or raised in the US, without answering the essence of the question. If you don’t wish to answer and don’t mind being upfront, you can respond directly that you prefer not to answer.
Marriage and Children
Women often face illegal interview questions about marriage and children. Sometimes, these questions are disguised in conversation, such as, “We’re a very family-oriented company. Do you have children, too?”
If the question is implicit, answer the real concern, will you fit the corporate culture? A suggestion: “My research suggests this is a wonderful company to work for, which is why I am so interested.”
Should questions regarding marriage and children be more direct, compose a thoughtful response that doesn’t answer. Try something like, “Could we refocus on my qualifications to become a valuable employee at your company?” This statement is respectable, empowering and avoids you from answering something you don’t have to.