4 Illegal Interview Questions & How to Handle Them…Professionally

You’re all dressed up, you’ve made it to the interview round and now there’s just one more hurdle: the questions. While some are perfectly legit, others could get you into trouble. Here are four illegal interview questions and how to respond if they come up. (Hint: It’s all about staying professional.)

Looking for a job is hard enough as it is, without running into potential roadblocks along the way – which is why knowing what illegal interview questions to watch out for is key. With that in mind, here are four of the most common ones to watch out for – along with tips on how to handle them like a pro.

So, what exactly are illegal interview questions? They are any questions that related to protected characteristics, such as race, religion, national origin, gender, age, or disability. Asking these types of questions is not only unethical – it’s also against the law.

ILLEGAL INTERVIEW QUESTION #1 – HOW OLD ARE YOU?

ILLEGAL INTERVIEW QUESTION #2 – WHAT IS YOUR SALARY HISTORY?

ILLEGAL INTERVIEW QUESTION #3 – DO YOU OWN A CAR?

ILLEGAL INTERVIEW QUESTION #4 – HAVE YOU EVER BEEN ARRESTED BEFORE?

Illegal interview questions are, unfortunately, more common than you might think. In fact, a study by the Society for Human Resource Management found that nearly 60% of employers have asked at least one illegal question during a job interview. The Fair Labor Standards Act Laws (FLSA) prohibit all types of discrimination based on gender, race and other specified protected classes. To obtain more details, click here.

Fortunately, there are ways to handle illegal interview questions professionally. If you’re ever put in this situation, here’s what you should do:

1. Thank the interviewer for their time and say that you’re not comfortable answering the question because they may be illegal based on FLSA practices.
2. Always start of with the question, “how is this question relevant to the job?“.
3. Respond with a general answer that doesn’t provide any specific information about your protected characteristic. For example, if you’re asked about your religion, you could say that you respect all religions and believe that everyone has the right to practice their own faith.
4. Redirect the conversation back to your qualifications for the job.
5. If the interviewer persists, politely end the interview and contact an attorney or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for consultation.

Although you can never be too prepared for an interview, having a general understanding of what is and isn’t appropriate to ask will help ease your mind. If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being asked an illegal questions, don’t panic. Stay calm and collected and remember that it is more important to maintain professionalism than to jeopardize your career. Finally, if you need additional help or have any questions about how to handle a difficult interview situation, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here. I would be happy to offer my assistance!

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StoryTime Career Series – Episode 2: Toxic Work Environment

This is second of the StoryTime Series on my podcast and YouTube channel sharing stories of all of our experiences in the world of careers, jobs, contract work, independent consulting and business interactions. In the second episode, I share one of my experiences while working in a toxic environment. The names, dates and other information were kept confidential to protect the innocent or guilty party.

The objective is the learn and grow from our professional and personal experiences to become a better version of ourselves, professionally. This particular story hits home and taught me so much about myself and the level of restraint I earned during that time. If it wasn’t for a great friend talking me off the proverbial ledge on a weekly basis, I probably would have been arrested for physical assaults and verbal altercations. The tension was thick and my stress level went through the roof! I am grateful to have survived it without loosing my composure.

What did I learn from this experience?

I learned that people and their preconceived notions are so strong, it allowed them to spread malicious lies about other people’s character. Keep in mind, they never took the time to get to know the individual but somehow felt entitled to assume things about people. Needless to say, the very sword those people intended to injury others, they ended up falling the same swords.

I learned corporations set up “certain people” for failure. For example, training some employees on the 25% – 30% of their duties while training other employees on 90% of their duties. They followed up by measuring each employee’s job performance without the same level of detailed training. So the employee with 30% of the training will never perform at the level of the employee that received 90% of the training. When questioned about why the training levels are different when the expectation of performance is the same, you receive responses like “training is a privilege“.

I learned that we all have a choice with the work environment we choose to spend our time. In my case, this employer terminated me for job performance, when I received less than 50% of the necessary training to be successful. It was the second termination from a job that I felt relief! The relief of not ever setting foot in that toxic environment.

If you find yourself having to self-talk your way into the doors of your job every morning…just so you don’t want the entire place to explode while you’re on a lunch break…It’s time to get a concrete career plan specifically tailored to you leaving that toxic environment for GOOD! Start by grabbing my eBook, “From Clueless Teenager to Consummate Professional”, 7 Steps to Cultivating the Career and Economic Life You Want here. It will help you cultivate your exit plan and career strategy. While you’re at it, grab my FREE DREAM Career Guide specifically formulated to help you document your Career Strategy step by step.

Looking for direct individual Career Coaching? Schedule your Career Strategy, Interview Coaching and Resume Consultations.

Want to share your crazy, quirky job story? Go here and leave your information via email or voicemail.

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