By Lisa Cohn, Account Representative
When an employer representative is interviewing you, his or her goal is to gather as much information as possible about your career goals and experience, while getting to know you as a person. Unfortunately sometimes an employer may accidentally ask you illegal or inappropriate questions in an attempt to gain this valuable information. I caution applicants to be aware of your rights and be able to recognize interview questions that are inappropriate and/or illegal to protect yourself. Questions directly asking about one’s age, race, national origin, gender, religion, marital status, disabilities, pregnancy status and sexual orientation are illegal. These areas are protected by state and federal laws and regulations, and if asked, may open up the employer to potential discrimination lawsuits.
In most cases, you want to refrain from volunteering information that’s too personal, as you may be providing too much identity information that is not relevant to the job you are seeking. However, there is a fine line with balancing legality issues related to the reality of the hiring process. If you are too evasive, you may appear secretive to the employer, as if you are hiding something. For example, if an interviewer were to ask if you have any children, or if you are planning to (and you have 2 kids), you could explain that child care is never an issue for you, and that you have a perfect attendance record at your old job. Or, if the interviewer asks how soon you were planning on retiring, your first instinct may be to tell them that it’s illegal, or ask them why they are asking you this. But a better approach may be to respond, “I’m planning to stick around for as long as possible.” By answering the question, it allows you to showcase your personality and not appear confrontational. Using humor or can be a good way of navigating questions you’d rather not and should not have to answer.
Examples of Illegal Questions
- How old are you?
- What country are you from?
- Are you married?
- What religion are you?
- Do you have children?
- Have you been arrested before?
- What is your native language?
- Do you have a disability?
- How soon will you retire?
- Have you had any recent medical operations?
Examples of Appropriate Questions
- Are you least a certain age (example 18 or 21, if required related to essential duties)?
- Do you have access to personal reliable vehicle (if required for job)?
- Are you authorized to work in the United States?
- Have you ever been convicted of or pled guilty to a crime?
- Are you available to work a flexible schedule to include weekends, per business need?
- Can you perform the essential job functions with or without reasonable accommodations?
- Which languages can you read, speak or write fluently?
While it’s important to be aware of your rights and of illegal interview questions, it’s also wise to come to the interview with a personal strategy of how you will tackle these questions. In general, try to remain as objective as possible, and refrain from giving subjective answers or becoming too emotional. Do not provide additional personal information if it’s not asked of you, and focus on using your personality to your advantage to get the job.
By Lisa Cohn, Account Representative, JCS Career Center
JCS offers a full range of career services. For more information about the JCS Career Center click here or call 410-466-9200.