There is always healthy debate over what is appropriate to do and/or say in an interview setting. Well – most of the press goes to what’s INAPPROPRIATE in an interview setting, but I’d like to take this nugget of time to discuss something interesting:
WHAT IS APPROPRIATE FOR AN EMPLOYER/RECRUITER TO ASK IN AN INTERVIEW?
The short answer is that an employer/recruiter can ask ANYTHING they want in an interview. “What?!?!?!!?”, you say.
Yes – it’s true. We can ask anything we want to of a candidate. How many kids do they have? What’s their marital status? Do they smoke? Etc etc etc
What we CAN’T do is base our decision to hire/recommend them on their responses and what we perceive to be negative about them. This is where things get tricky, and this is why there are TONS of articles on the web and in print that tell HR folks to stay away from those questions at all costs.
As a seasoned recruiter I can say that I certainly DO stay away from most of the questions that walk the line between discriminatory and non discriminatory. What I don’t know can’t hurt me (or subconsciously influence my decision to recommend a candidate). But there are some buccaneers who like to push the envelope and ask some interesting questions.
So what happens when the person that’s doing the hiring asks you, the candidate, a question you’d rather not answer? It’s a tough position to be put in, and the answer isn’t black and white.
As a candidate you need to ask yourself WHY you’re being asked a particular question. What kind of information is the employer/recruiter trying to ascertain?
I have to say – most personal questions asked are completely innocent in nature. For instance, I had a candidate once become thoroughly weirded out when a hiring manager asked if he had a family. The hiring manager’s motivation was…… finding common ground with the candidate and making small talk. THAT’S IT! Pretty innocent.
Though I can understand if an older candidate were asked when they graduated high school or if a female candidate were asked if she’s pregnant (NEVER A GOOD QUESTION TO ASK OR AN APPROPRIATE ASSUMPTION TO MAKE IN ANY ENVIRONMENT). I’ve dealt with employers who really have discriminated based on age and sex (as a side note – this is not while at TxMQ, and I’ve never continued to work with companies who display that kind of disregard for discrimination or the law).
If you’re asked a question you’d rather not answer you can retort with:
“I’m sorry, I don’t feel comfortable answering that question in this setting”
“Can you help me to better understand the relevancy of that information to the job description?”
Or in the case of being asked personal familial questions you can say “yes I have a lovely family” and then quickly change the topic. The employer will get the gist that you’re done with that discussion.
Finally, when you push back if THEY insist – what do you do?
Again, a lot of this is circumstantial. But remember what I stated above: In an interview setting an employer/recruiter can hypothetically ask anything they want to, and so long as they do not use that information in a discriminatory fashion, they are within their right to do so.
Take, for instance, this question: “What year did you graduate from college?” – assuming it’s not listed on your resume. Is the employer trying to do the reverse math and figure out your age? Or are they trying to verify your education? Or are they merely trying to understand where your achievement fell within your career timeline. Did you go to college as a traditional or non-traditional student? Did a company pay for you to go back to school? Did you maintain a full time job ALONG WITH a class schedule?
This is one of those grey area questions that I think should be answered if an employer pushes back. While, sure – it’s possible for an employer to reverse engineer your age, they’re probably just trying to get a feel for your background as a chronology. As a candidate if you push back TOO much on these types of questions you risk your image over something seemingly menial.
ANYWHO – just some food for thought…
Please feel free to comment on this – I’d love to see this blog turn into a discussion! It’s a hot topic.