As you probably already know, when you sit down for a job interview, you are going to field a host of questions. Asking questions is how your interviewer determines whether you have the technical skills, along with those all-important soft skills, that make you an excellent fit for the position and the company’s culture.
When employers ask appropriate interview questions, they can learn your strengths and weaknesses, which help them decide whether you will succeed in their organization. When they ask inappropriate questions, however, they leave their company vulnerable to a lawsuit. As a candidate, you should know which questions are off limits in an interview, so you know you’re being assessed fairly.
Subjects the interviewer is not allowed to ask you about
- Age: Anyone who is 40 or older is protected from employment discrimination based on age
- Race, ethnicity or color
- Gender or sex
- Country of national origin or birthplace
- Marital or family status or pregnancy
Many times an interview becomes informal and seems more like a chat session. Don’t reveal something you don’t need to because of an innocent-sounding question. No matter how vaguely it’s couched in small talk, hiring managers may not ask questions relating to the topics above.
Five seemingly innocuous questions that cross the line
- When did you graduate from high school? They might as well ask for your date of birth.
- Will you need personal time off for any specific religious holidays? Religious discrimination is prohibited.
- What does your spouse do for a living? This question is irrelevant in the hiring process.
- How long do you plan to work until you retire? The answer could lead to age discrimination.
- What country are you from? National origin is a federally protected class.
Don’t let an interview stray off course. Make sure the questions are focused on the skills, experience and behaviors you will need to perform the job. If it does start to go in the wrong direction, politely bring it back to what you have accomplished in previous jobs.
Don’t voluntarily offer information the interviewer would not have asked for
Some candidates are open books and offer up facts about their personal lives that a hiring manager would not be allowed to pursue. And while the interviewer could not legally use the information, it could sway the final decision in favor of another candidate.
For example, you and another candidate are finalists for the position of office manager. Both of you are skilled and qualified equally, but you already shared the joyful news with the interviewer that you and your husband have decided to start a family. Who would you think will be the next office manager?
Don’t give an employer the opportunity to eliminate you with questions that are not allowed, and don’t disqualify yourself by volunteering those answers anyway.
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