When you’re applying for a job and get called in for an interview, there are a million things racing through your head. What to wear? How early should I arrive? How should I explain my employment gap? Etcetera, etcetera. With all the things to consider, it probably doesn’t even enter your consciousness that the interviewer can ask you an illegal question, but it happens all the time.
Identifying Illegal Questions
It is important to be able to first identify what is legal and what is not, then you can determine what the best way to handle it is. Any question which pertains to the following characteristics is considered illegal because it can be used for discriminatory purposes.
o Marital Status
Employers do not typically ask blatantly discriminatory questions. More frequently, they will mask their intent by rewording the question to seem innocent. Examples of such deviousness include, “how many children do you have?,” “what year did you graduate?,” or “what is your native language?”
What to Do?
After identifying an illegal question, you are then faced with the decision of what to do. While this can be a very uncomfortable situation, it is important that you do not provide answers to discriminatory questions. No matter how badly you want the job, it is in your best interest to do one of the following options:
Your first option would is to avoid the question and politely change the topic. Your transition does not have to be seamless. In fact, making it apparent that you are intentionally avoiding the interviewer’s discriminatory questions can be to your benefit. If they were genuinely curious and did not realize they were asking inappropriate questions, they will quickly adjust and appreciate your cue.
If the interviewer does not catch the hint, and continues to ask inappropriate questions, you have two options. You can either bring it to the interviewer’s attention that they are asking discriminatory questions and that you refuse to answer them; or, you can exit the interview.
Regardless of how you handle the scenario, you should consult with an employment lawyer to discuss your legal options. Laws are in place to prevent employers from asking discriminatory interview questions and protect your rights.