In an interview, it’s all about the questions. The conversation is pretty much a standard question-and-answer format for the most part. But there are some questions that should not be asked because it is illegal to do so. Federal and state anti-discrimination laws are designed to get you hired based on your skills, not a stereotype.
Doostang recently posted a list of Ten Questions You Should Never Be Asked In An Interview. It’s a clear list of questions that could be discriminatory and the possible “fair” questions that would be similar. The basic categories are simple:
- Who you are — your race, national origin, disabilities, age, gender, marital/parental status. These things should not affect your job in themselves, although being eligible to work in this country (national origin) or capable of doing the job with/without accommodation (disability, age) can be fair questions.
- What background you have — bankruptcy, arrest records, type of military discharges might come up in a security check, but they should have disclaimers or be part of a credit check you approve. They shouldn’t be reasons not to hire you.
- Which groups you belong to — political, social, religious groups or unions; if the employer is a religious association, they can give preference to those belonging to their religion, but for the most part, it shouldn’t be asked. Job-related groups like professional associations are different.
There are many reasons an inappropriate question comes up during an interview. Often, it has nothing to do with wrong motives. The interviewer is just unaware they crossed a line. Your response can be professional, tactful, and firm without creating more problems. Try answering in the form of how it affects your job. “I am able to fill all the requirements of this position” sounds a lot better than “That is a discriminatory question! You have no right to ask me that!”
Of course, if they push it, you could go there if it’s clear you are dealing with discrimination. But be professional, tactful, and firm about it and you’ll have a better response.
It is important to be prepared for potentially discriminatory questions, and that is part of your interviewing skills. There are a number of helpful posts when you follow the link, and each one will give you good advice. Professional Resume Services has a goal: we want to see you go through the interview successfully and get the job you want!