Dealing With Illegal Interview Questions

shutterstock_161758760

Over at Lifehacker, there’s a comprehensive breakdown of some of the most common illegal job-interview questions, and how to deal with them. Unfortunately, many a job seeker has run into inappropriate queries about age, arrest record, health, marital status, and much more.

While the law makes it illegal for a prospective employer to ask questions about, say, your disabilities or religion, some companies have gotten very good about reframing questions in ways that skirt around the edges of existing statutes.

The trick is to enter the interview prepared for as many contingencies as possible. You can deflect by asking a question in return (for example, if the interviewer probes into your ethnic background, you can ask why they’re asking those questions); you can restate your commitment to the potential job while declining to explicitly answer the original question; you can even tell the truth, if you feel the answer wouldn’t harm your job prospects.

If the interviewer keeps asking inappropriate questions, you can politely thank the person for his time and excuse yourself from the room. Alternatively, you can make the spontaneous decision to treat the experience as “practice,” and continue onwards simply to see which questions the interviewer asks, and how you react to them. But always remember there are boundaries to the information you’re required to give.

4 Responses to “Dealing With Illegal Interview Questions”

  1. Darian Dunn CISSP, CISA

    I have been asked illegal questions. The first time was interviewing with an insurance company in Maine. A group (Manager & staff, ~8 people) went out for a lunch interview. Everything is going good and then one of the guys asked if I was married. The manager about choked on her food trying to tell her staff member that “you can’t asked that”. The staff member was shocked and apologized for asking the question. He didn’t know and was just trying to make conversation. I think this is what happens most of the time.

    Three ways to handle it.
    1. Lie: If you NEED the job and the question is illegal, lie. What are they going to do, fire you for saying you are a Muslim, Christian, married, not married, gay, not gay……, but expect them to make your life a living hell if it really is important to them.
    2. Push back. IF you are sharp enough, this might work, but you need to be sharp to turn the conversation without them knowing that you just caught them doing something illegal. This could end the interview.
    3. I generally call it out and then answer the questions. This is my normal process. I don’t have to have the job. If I am moving companies, I want to fit into the new company. IF they are racists, sexist,….F-them. I don’t want to work for them.

    And again, I think most of the time, the interviewer doesn’t know what to ask and are trying to get a feel or who you are. They don’t’ know the illegal questions. I look them up before going into an interview so I don’t make and * out of myself.

  2. Darian Dunn CISSP, CISA

    Lets try this one more time.

    I have been asked illegal questions. The first time was interviewing with an insurance company in Maine. A group (Manager & staff, ~8 people) went out for a lunch interview. Everything is going good and then one of the guys asked if I was married. The manager about choked on her food trying to tell her staff member that “you can’t asked that”. The staff member was shocked and apologized for asking the question. He didn’t know and was just trying to make conversation. I think this is what happens most of the time.

    Three ways to handle it.
    1. Lie: If you NEED the job and the question is illegal, lie. What are they going to do, fire you for saying you are a Muslim, Christian, married, not married, gay, not gay……, but expect them to make your life a living hell if it really is important to them.
    2. Push back. IF you are sharp enough, this might work, but you need to be sharp to turn the conversation without them knowing that you just caught them doing something illegal. This could end the interview.
    3. I generally call it out and then answer the questions. This is my normal process. I don’t have to have the job. If I am moving companies, I want to fit into the new company. IF they are racists, sexist,….F-them. I don’t want to work for them.

    And again, I think most of the time, the interviewer doesn’t know what to ask and are trying to get a feel or who you are. They don’t’ know the illegal questions. I look them up before going into an interview so I don’t make and * out of myself.

  3. John Doe

    So that’s your answer to dealing with illegal questions? Don’t deal with them?

    Record the conversation, then sue them for a billion dollars for discrimination and destroy their reputation. Settle for half a million.

    That’s how you “deal” with them.