Wood Words

Um, Can an Employer Ask That?

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Tell me about a time when you used your service skills to help an upset client.

How many golf balls can you fit inside a Volkswagen Jetta?

In a job interview, you expect to be asked informational, behavioral and “zinger” questions like the ones listed above. And over the years, we’ve written great blog posts to help you prepare for them (check out the links we included).

But ILLEGAL interview questions?

Yes, you need to be prepared to handle these, too.

Unfortunately, unscrupulous or poorly trained interviewers may not be familiar with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s prohibited policies and practices (such as asking certain interview questions) that have a “disproportionately negative effect” on applicants or employees of a particular race, color, religion, sex or other protected class, if the polices or practices at issue are not job-related and necessary to the operation of the business.

There are many topics which an employer should not broach in an interview; they should stick to asking questions that relate to your ability to perform a job well.

What should you do if you’ve been asked an illegal interview question?

Any question regarding your age, sex, marital/family status, religion, race/color, national origin/birthplace or disabilities should cause you concern. If you think a question your interviewer just posed is illegal, use your best judgement to handle the situation appropriately:

  • If you feel it inadvertently slipped out as a genuine conversation-starter (e.g., “So, where are you from?”), you may want to politely answer or gracefully dodge it – and continue with the interview.
  • If a question makes you uncomfortable, however, it’s appropriate to ask the interviewer to clarify how the question relates to the job.
  • And if you’re absolutely certain the question is outright illegal, you’re within your rights to refuse to answer it. You also have the option of filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

When deciding how to handle a “questionable” question, consider:

  • what the company and work environment might be like, given the fact that you were asked a suspect question during the interview;
  • how much you want/need the job;
  • and how deflecting or refusing to answer the question might impact your candidacy.

Ultimately, you have to determine the best course of action for the situation and your career.

Sample List of Illegal Interview Questions

While this list is by no means comprehensive, familiarizing yourself with questions like these will help you respond effectively when you’re in the interview “hot seat”:

  • Are you planning on having kids?
  • Are you a U.S. citizen?
  • How would you handle managing a team of all men?
  • How many years do you plan to work before retiring?
  • Do you smoke or drink?
  • What religious holidays do you observe?

Searching for jobs in Cool Springs – or anywhere else in Middle Tennessee?

Check out Wood Personnel’s technical & management jobs, industrial & warehouse jobs, and office & administrative jobs here.