© Written By Jimmy Sweeney
President of CareerJimmy and Author of the new,
"Job Interview Secrets"
When you go into a job interview, be aware that employers cannot ask you certain illegal job interview questions. There are those which deliberately probe aspects of your background that are legally protected. These include your race, national origin, religion, marital status, sexual orientation and your age. The purpose of these prohibitions is to eliminate the process of screening out qualified candidates on the basis of this personal information. It's possible, however, that your interviewer might ask you some illegal job interview questions without intending to. Many interviewers aren't aware of these regulations and may stray into illegal territory out of insensitivity or curiosity.
For instance, the kind of "getting to know someone" small talk is typically fraught with illegal job interview questions, such as whether the other person is married and has a family. If someone has an unusual last name or speaks with a noticeable accent, it's natural to want to know its origin, even though those questions are technically forbidden during a job interview. In a similar manner, asking when someone graduated from high school or college may seem like an innocent enough question but could take on a different interpretation as an effort to gauge the age of the interviewee.
If you are in an interview where someone asks an illegal job question like this, you may wonder how to handle the situation. Though a part of you may want to stand up for your rights and inform the interviewer that the question is inappropriate, another part of you may want to keep the interview pleasant and preserve your chances of getting the job. This desire to stay quiet is especially strong when you sense the illegal question results from a lack of understanding and simple curiosity, and not from a desire to discriminate based on personal characteristics. Under those circumstances, you might feel that making a big deal out of what was intended to be a harmless question would embarrass the interviewer and ruin your chances of getting the job.
The best advice would be to take notes about any incidents of illegal job interview questions and convey a summary of your experiences to someone else as soon as possible after the interview. For instance, you might want to write an email to a friend about what you experienced as well as create an entry in a journal. If you do not get the job and have reason to believe that it was because of discrimination, you might have some legal recourse both through the U.S. government and through the civil court system. Either one of those methods of redress will require that you be able to back up your claims of illegal questioning during the interview, preferably with documentation from as close to the incident as possible.
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