Friday, April 22, 2011

Don’t Answer That Interview Question

Inappropriate interview questions and how to respond (diplomatically).

By Lisa Vaas

He was in his early 50s, and he looked every bit of it.

The questions on the job application went right to his age.

After stewing over the form and discarding his first draft, he filled out a second copy. Then, he sat and waited for his interview. As he waited, an attractive, young woman entered the room for a job interview.
She was called in before him. She wound up getting the job.

He didn’t. He did, however, receive $50,000 after filing age-discrimination claims with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The above encounter happened to a friend of Matt Rosen, who shared the story with TheLadders but asked not to identify his friend.

Rosen has seen employment discrimination from almost every angle. He has been a certified labor and employment attorney since 1981, has worked in human resources since 1995, and recently found himself looking for a new job. He’s been on both sides of the interview table and witnessed many inappropriate questions that can lead to discrimination.

“Every place, it’s mind-boggling,” said Rosen, who recently began HR and legal work for Franklin Street Financial in Florida. “You are always asked for birth dates, for EEOC (-related information such as race and disability status). ... Places, in my viewpoint, just ask for too much.”

The reason interviewers ask inappropriate questions varies. Sometimes they discriminate, as they did in the scenario above. Sometimes they need the information for internal statistics, he said.

And then sometimes interviewers are simply trying to make conversation, according to Ellen B. Vance, senior consultant and advisory services practice leader for Titan Group, a Richmond, Va., human-resources consulting firm. “Many inexperienced hiring managers use questions about family as an icebreaker for interviews, not realizing that what seem to them as innocent inquiries about spouse, children, etc., are unlawful.”

Most job seekers don’t want to sue over these practices. They just want to know how to deal with them diplomatically. Job seekers want to avoid appearing combative and thus jeopardizing their chances of being hired and want to avoid handing over information that can be used against them in discriminatory situations. Knowing what questions to shy away from is the starting point, and knowing how to skirt them is the next step.

Answer the questions they should have asked
Vance typically advises job seekers to redirect inappropriate questions back to the interviewer. For example, if asked whether you have children, you can respond by saying, “It sounds like family is important to you — tell me about yours.”

“By redirecting, the applicant is not placed in the situation of being perceived as adversarial,” Vance said. If an interviewer presses, she suggests that another response option is, “I am perplexed by your question because I cannot determine why my age/my marital status/my nationality is critical to performing this job. Would you shed some light on why you are asking this question?”

“If that doesn’t cause the interviewer to catch their mistake, then the applicant is left only with the option of saying, ‘I would prefer not to respond to that question,’” Vance said.
Don’t answer these questions - to find out which questions and how to answer read the complete Ladders article 

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