I’ve been talking to a number of job seekers lately about illegal interview questions. They keep coming up, and I keep asking myself why that is. When you’re a job seeker, you may not realize how common illegal questions are because you’re interviewing for only one or two jobs at a time. But, surprisingly, they’re popping up in job interviews quite a bit.
Common illegal questions include: What is your marital status? How many children do you have? Are you planning to have more children? How old are you?
Honestly, it’s hard to understand why these questions are coming up. I have wondered how hiring managers don’t seem to know what not to ask. And, I’ve wondered why they’re even asking at all.
In some cases, the hiring manager may be simply trying to make small talk. They may be trying to get to know you. But, it’s really hard to say. In some cases, the hiring manager is clearly asking the question for unethical reasons. But, in other cases, someone may have been trying to make casual conversation and may have unknowingly stumbled into murky waters.
So, why does it keep happening? My best guess is this. Hiring managers are rarely trained on what not to ask. Human resources often assumes that in today’s day in age, we all know what not to ask. Then, when the hiring manager does ask these questions, the candidate doesn’t react negatively. The reason is this. If you want the job, you don’t get upset by a potentially off-putting question. That’s a fast way to eliminate yourself from the candidate pool. So, the hiring manager gets no feedback in the moment. After the hiring process, if you’re not selected, you have little to no interaction with the company. You are at times lucky to get an automated rejection email for your time.
What’s a company to do? I propose that companies should install a system to solicit feedback from candidates. This would close the loop on hiring. The company could ask the candidate for anonymous feedback about their interview. It could then be routed to human resources who could be alerted to potential issues in questions. This would protect the company’s interests, educate the hiring manager, and improve the experience for the job seeker. It’s a win-win-win.
One company that is implementing something similar to this process is Amazon. After a candidate interviews with Amazon, they receive an anonymous survey titled “rate our phone interviews.” The survey asks whether or not the interview experience was frustration free. It also asks for what they could do to improve, and it gives the job seeker a free form text box to provide feedback.
Implementing this sort of feedback treats the job seeker like a valued player in the process – similar to a customer. And, this is a great foundation of mutual respect on which to build a future working relationship.
Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher where I discuss career advice every Tuesday! If you’ve already heard the podcast and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review in iTunes or Stitcher.
What’s the most unusual question you’ve been asked in an interview? In theory, the answer to this question should be a challenging question about your work. But, theory and reality don’t always line up.
What would you say if I told you I was once asked, “Are you married?” What if I told you I was also asked, “Do you have children?” And, what would you say if I told you I was also asked, “Do you plan to have children anytime soon?”
The first thing you may be thinking is…. “Angela, is this a joke? Surely nobody asked you these questions. They’re obviously ILLEGAL and INAPPROPRIATE! Nobody would ask these questions.
Well, if you guessed that, you would be wrong. Not only was I asked all three of these questions, but I was asked all three of these questions in ONE job interview.
You might assume that the person who asked me the questions was junior in their career. I mean, these are the kinds of things HR is supposed to brief hiring managers on, right? Wrong. The hiring manager who asked me these questions was a C-level executive at a very well known company. If I were to name the company, you’d know it. You’ve probably spent money with them before.
So, what can you about this sort of thing? Well, the first is, don’t be part of the problem. It’s obvious, but when you’re hiring, be sure to brush up on which questions you can and can’t ask candidates. To be honest, some are less obvious than you might think.
If you’re interviewing for a job and you’re asked these questions, it’s really up to you. You can answer the questions in a straight forward way, you can be direct and tell the hiring manager that the questions are illegal, or you can sidestep the questions completely.
Nobody would blame you for any reaction. You wouldn’t have blamed me if I had gotten up and left the interview, would you?
What I did may surprise you…
I answered the questions directly. Then, I made a mental note that I would not want to work for someone who was so disrespectful — and who so openly was willing to break the law by asking these questions.
If you’re asked illegal questions, just be prepared for how you might want to answer them. Remember that there’s no right way. It’s whatever you feel most comfortable with.
Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher where I discuss career advice every Tuesday! If you’ve already heard the podcast and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review in Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.