Sep 12
2014

How To Answer Illegal Interview Questions

download (1)Recently, it has become the norm in many companies to implement panel interviews.  Unfortunately, many individuals selected to be on these panels have ZERO experience with the procedures of human resources.  In addition, these individuals possess absolutely no knowledge or training regarding the Federal and State laws that dictate what questions are permissible to ask during a job interview.

WHAT IS AN ILLEGAL QUESTION?
Any questions that reveal your age, race, national origin, gender, religion, marital status and sexual orientation are off-limits.  State and federal laws make discrimination based on certain protected categories illegal, such as national origin, citizenship, age, marital status, disabilities, arrest and conviction record, military discharge status, race, gender, or pregnancy status.

DO ILLEGAL QUESTIONS REALLY HAPPEN?  SADLY, YES, THEY DO.
Despite laws to the contrary, I have experienced a few interviews during which illegal questions were asked.  At that point in the interview, the dilemma becomes:

  • Does one answer the question, despite it being illegal and improper?
  • Does one change the subject?
  • Does one politely decline?

In my experience, it seems to be an inexperienced interviewer on the panel who will blurt out an illegal question and then become offended if the interviewee declines to answer and/or they are informed that their question is illegal.

When a candidate is deciding to join the ‘team’, illegal questions can lead to unintended bad impressions about the organization.  The candidate may feel that the organization is disorganized or get an impression of  illegal bias from panel members.  A few of my alumni members have disclosed to me that they have opted not to accept certain job offers because an illegal question gave them an impression that a panel member was racist.

SHOULD LINE STAFF TAKE PART IN PANEL INTERVIEWS AND HAVE A VOICE IN SELECTING THEIR FUTURE SUPERVISOR?

On a separate but related subject, I have never understood why some organizations will ask line staff employees to sit on a panel to select their future supervisor.  In my experience, most highly unprofessional and illegal questions have come from line staff members.  This is due to their zero to minimal experience and knowledge in human resource laws.

Furthermore, in my own opinion, employees should never have a voice in selecting their future boss/supervisor due to bias.  Some employees can  possess secret motivation in selecting an individual who will not hold them accountable once hired.

In addition, line staff employees may not be the most unbiased in grading future coworkers either.  One may mark down a qualified candidate based upon fear of being out-shined by him/her and/or an inner desire for one’s friend to be hired instead.

For organizations, this leaves some food for thought….  Are you scaring off talented candidates due to the illegal questions being asked by your unqualified interviewers?  Is your interview process failing to select talented candidates due to having improper interviewers on the panel?


© Reina Ashley Canale, Esq., My Advice Blog, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Reina Ashley Canale, Esq. with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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