I often get asked, “What should I do if I’m asked an illegal question during an interview?” This is such a tough one. First, you’re caught totally off guard. And, you know the question isn’t right. You know it. But, you only have a moment to think about what to say, and the mold is set. So, in that moment, what should you do?
If you’ve never been asked an illegal interview question, you are fortunate. They are incredibly tricky.
To demonstrate the point, I’ll share with you a time when I was asked multiple illegal questions, back to back. You see, not everyone can guess my age very well. So, sometimes interviewers have questions about me. During an interview, the hiring manager said, “Do you have children? Are you married? Do you plan to have children?”
Yes, this really happened. When it happened, I was a little surprised. But honestly, I wasn’t as surprised as you’d expect. The reason is because I’ve been asked this sort of thing before.
I’m honestly not sure why these questions still pop up at this point in time. But, I can only assume that human resources isn’t training hiring managers well on what they can and cannot say. My guess is that they don’t spend much time on it because frankly, it seems obvious that this question isn’t appropriate.
But, I digress.
So, back to the point. How do you answer an illegal question?
Some interview coaches would tell you that you should say something light, yet quick witted, such as, “I think you’re asking if I’m committed to my job – and I am!” Answers like this can avoid the question, while at the same time, sticking up for yourself in a non-confrontational way. If you’re up for it, this can be a great option.
But, what I always think is this. Is it more about how I answer the question? Or, is it more about the person asking the question? I mean, when I’ve been asked “Do you have children? Are you married? Do you plan to have children,” it’s a sign to me. It’s a sign that I would prefer not to work for this hiring manager.
And, I’d also like to keep the tension in the interview low, so I can keep a good relationship with the company – in case I ever want to interview there again (for someone else). For me, I choose to politely answer everything I’m asked.
But, I make a mental note of what was asked. I think about it afterward and decide how I want to use the information I’ve been given. And, honestly, I’d much rather know in the interview that you (the hiring manager) aren’t going to treat me fairly than find out after I’ve been hired.
So, thank you ‘illegal-question-asking-hiring-manager’! You’ve helped me to avoid a huge career pitfall!
Let’s be real. If you’re thinking of leaving your job for another one, there’s at least a 50% chance there’s something very wrong where you are now.
Sure, more money and a bigger salary would be great. But, if you didn’t hate your boss, you might be happy to come in to your current workplace.
When you land a new job, the most interesting thing happens. That same boss who’s been ignoring you and overlooking your for promotions suddenly wants to know what went wrong. They also want to know if you’ll be making more money, what your new title will be, and where you’ll be working.
This can be confusing. For the first time in a while, your boss seems to care about what you have to say. You might feel important, and like you could help make a difference for those you’re leaving behind.
This might (emphasis on “might”) be true. Your old company may genuinely want to know what they can do to keep their best talent.
But, I have to tell you, more often than not, this isn’t the case. Even if you suggest a great idea that could be implemented, or a way your manager could be a better leader, it’s hard to create real change based upon one person’s feedback – one person who’s quitting in two weeks.
And, it’s much easier to take feedback as a personal slight. Your company or your boss may feel attacked or put down. And, they may even feel the need to bite back.
Unfortunately, you will need your old boss in the future. It may not seem like it now, but sometime down the road, you’ll need a recommendation for another new job. And, when that time comes, you won’t want a bad exit interview hanging over your head.
This is a very personal decision. But, before you begin to talk, really think — what difference will this information make? Will the company use this information for the greater good? What are the potential downsides to my future if I’m brutally honest?
You know the drill. “If you’re interested in a job, apply on our website. If you’re a good fit, we’ll call you.” That’s what the company’s telling us anyway.
So, what’s wrong with this approach? And, what should we really be doing?
This is a great question. The first thing that’s “wrong” is that applying online almost never works – really. There’s a good chance the applicant tracking system (the online website) the company uses doesn’t work. It’s not the company’s fault. They’re probably relying on a third party product they purchased to help them to manage their hiring process. But, when you put your resume into one of these systems, there’s a pretty slim chance that it will make it to the hiring manager. And, even if it does, there’s a smaller chance the hiring manager will select you.
Why is that? Well, when a hiring manager is hiring, they try to think of someone they already know. Or, they may ask around to find a friend-of-a-friend. They’re definitely not going to look at online applications first.
So, if you don’t know the hiring manager already, what can you do? I often advise job seekers to find a way to connect to the hiring manager. Perhaps you reach out to them on LinkedIn. Or, maybe you find their email address and send them a note.
As you can imagine, reaching out to a total stranger can be a scary thought. I often hear questions like, “Won’t I scare the hiring manager away?” This is a good question, and in all honestly, it’s possible that you might. But, let’s consider this.
- The hiring manager may never learn your name otherwise.
- You could be just who the hiring manager was looking for. And, they may be grateful that you reached out.
- The hiring manager may network in the same way. Being a competitive job seeker may be the way they became the boss.
- Nobody has ever not been hired because they were too excited about a job.
- What do you really have to lose?
So, let’s look at it this way. What’s the worst thing that could happen? The worst thing that could happen is…. Wait for it…. Your email is ignored.
Yep. Almost always, the worst case scenario is that the hiring manager ignores you. Is it because you “scared” them away? Probably not. It’s more likely that:
- They were busy.
- They misplaced your email and forgot to respond.
- They gave your application to HR, and asked them to add you to the list for consideration (but never emailed you to tell you).
- You weren’t a good fit for the role.
Picture this: You’re a perfect fit for a job. You are so excited that after you apply, you reach out to the hiring manager directly via email. You send a killer cover letter about how excited you are about the role, and you attach your resume.
In this example, what are the chances that the hiring manager responds by thinking, “Man, that person is the perfect fit. I mean, their resume is just what we were looking for. And, they’re super excited about the job. And, they’re proactive too. But, no. Let’s not interview them. It’s totally weird that they sent me an email. I’m sure we can find another equally qualified candidate in the stack of applications from the internet.”
I’m exaggerating, but you get the idea. The chances that this occurs is slim.
So, get your courage together and test out contacting the hiring manager directly. You’ll show that you’re excited, qualified, and proactive – all great qualities to have when you’re interviewing for a job.
Do you wake up every day feeling like you’ve already lived the day before? Do you dread getting up in the morning? Is there a predictable amount of hate that you feel while driving into work? Is saying “good morning” to your coworkers just a tiring exercise?
Unfortunately, unlike the winter, a terrible work environment is not a problem that Punxsutawney Phil can save any of us from. You will continue to have a negative experience until you decide you’re really ready to make a change.
Fortunately, the pain that Groundhog Day can evoke may actually turn into motivation to find a new job. And, it makes sense. We’d be less likely to look for a new job if there weren’t problems in our current one.
So, stop waiting for the hope that the pain will go away – and start looking. Once you’ve made the decision to make a change, everything gets easier… especially if you don’t wait until you’re at your wit’s end.
In the spirit of creating change, start by creating goals. Answer the following questions.
- How much time each week can I devote to my job search? Will I find the time after work, or on the weekends?
- How many jobs do I want to apply for each week?
- How many networking events do I want to attend each week?
- How many people from my network do I want to reach out to?
Making big change requires structure and discipline. Setting goals for yourself is a great way to put this change into motion. It’s amazing how taking small steps can add up to big progress.
And, that progress can eventually lead you to a new day that’s happier, and brighter all the way around!
Have you ever wanted a job where you can work from home, a coffee shop, or the beach? If so, you’re not alone. In just the past two years, searches for remote jobs have grown considerably.
Below is a graph that represents the growth in searches for work from home jobs on job website Indeed.com. As you can see, interest is going up fast.
This is great news, for both the job seeker and the company. Remote working allows the job seeker to do their job from any environment that works for them. It can be helpful for parents with small children, people who want to live in a specific area (where certain jobs may not exist), and for those whose spouse must relocate frequently for work.
Hiring remote workers allows the employer to have a broader base of applicants. And, if done right, the employer can save money on things such as office space.
I hope that in time, more and more remote jobs will be created. Very often, deciding whether or not to move to a new job’s new location is the biggest struggle the job seeker faces. Just think of how many more jobs you might be interested in if you didn’t have to move.
With that said, the question becomes — How do I find a remote job?
The honest answer is, there isn’t a perfect solution to this issue — yet. There are still many job postings out there listed as “remote” that aren’t as legitimate as you’d assume they are. Whatever you do, be sure to do your homework when it comes to remote jobs. You want to know as much as possible about the company in advance.
To find remote opportunities, search on sites like Indeed.com for jobs located in “remote” or “work from home.” This is what I mean:
Another option is to do research on companies that have entire departments that are remote. Some companies, including Bank of America, have entire departments that have employees working from home. This is a great situation, because you won’t be the odd man out when the entire department works remotely.
The last option (which is rarely thought of) is to pitch your current employer on the idea of you working remotely. Now, you do need to be careful with this option. You don’t want to give the impression that if the company doesn’t go along with your request, you’ll leave. But, I have seen multiple highly respected employees gain permission to work remotely at their current job. It allows the employee to relocate to another area, and to work from home. In the cases where it works, the employer is able to retain a great employee. And, the employee is able to have the personal flexibility they’re seeking.
If working from home is on your goal list, don’t stop looking. These jobs will continue to grow in the future. But, as I mentioned before, do your homework! It can be harder to tell a legitimate company from others in a remote environment.