Thursday, May 9, 2013

Between a Rock and a Hard Place—How to Respond to That Illegal Interview Question

Nobody likes a smart ass.

That’s why, when I read this advice from Laura Strachan, Esq, author of "10 Things You Can't Be Asked at a Job Interview," I wasn’t so sure I agreed.

What did she say? She said that if you’re asked an inappropriate question at an interview you can tell the employer that the line of questioning is illegal.

Okay, to be fair, that’s not all she said. Here’s the entire statement:

"As a job-seeker, confronting an illegal interview question can be uncomfortable, if not downright awkward to address; but the bottom line is that you do not have to answer them, and can tell the employer that their line of questioning is illegal or report the company to a local Equal Employment Opportunity office."

Well, she’s right of course. No one has to answer any question at a job interview.

But I can tell you that your chances of being hired after telling the employer that his question is illegal is about slim to none.

Because as I said, nobody likes a smart ass, and that’s how you’re going to be perceived.

As a troublemaking, non-team playing, abrasive smart ass.

I’m not saying it’s right. In fact I think it’s wrong.

Because in my experience, an interviewer who asks questions like—

“That’s a pretty engagement ring! Have you set a wedding date?”


“Any kids?”


“____. That’s an interesting name. Where are your people from?”

… is just a butt, and he’s probably not interested in being rehabilitated by you.

It’s so unfair, because now you’re in a situation that’s darned if you do and darned if you don’t.

So, I appreciate that Strachan at least took a stab at offering some solutions, unsatisfying though they may be. It’s not her fault, really.

See, interviewing is a skill, but unfortunately, not everyone believes that. So instead of seeking education to improve this skill, some just start talking and hope everything will work out. And stuff is bound to go wrong from time to time with that attitude.

So if anyone has any stories about a job interview in which he or she was asked a completely inappropriate question and then was hired and everything worked out great because it turns out the interviewer wasn’t a butt after all, just not that skilled of an interviewer but really a good soul and a fantastic boss—

Please tell me about it.

Because after reading Strachan’s article, I need to be cheered up.

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