I was in a job interview this week, and the hiring manager asked, “Whether I had children, and if I planned to have more. He can’t do that, can he??
Private in Provo
In the very first episode of the Mary Tyler Moore show (1970–OMG, Crabby is getting old), this dialog took place:
Interviewer: Lou Grant: What religion are you?
Job candidate: Mary Richards: Mr. Grant, I don’t quite know how to say this, but you’re not allowed to ask that when someone’s applying for a job. It’s against the law.
LG: Wanna call a cop?
LG: Good. Would you think I was violating your civil rights if I asked if you’re married?
OK, what can’t be asked in an interview? There are so many things, that Crabby can’t figure them all out. And, when Crabby was hiring people, he was more into finding out about the candidate than worrying about what questions could be asked and which ones weren’t to be used. In today’s environment, with lawyers seeming to invade every aspect of human life (they must be hurting, too), it pays to be careful, so here are some illegal interview questions.
- How old are you? However, you can be asked if you are between 18 and 65
- Are you married?
- Do you have children?
- Do you plan on having children?
- Do you have disabilities or how is your personal health? Although, you can be asked if you are capable of lifting a certain amount of weight if it is related to the job
- What ethnicity are you? However, you can be asked if you are legally able to work in the country where the job is
- Are you heterosexual?
- Have you ever been arrested? Although, you can be asked if you have ever been convicted of a specific crime
So, what can you do? You have options, but perhaps not as many as you would like.
- You can answer the question. Sometimes this is the best option. When Crabby asked an applicant if she/he was married, he was simply finding out more about the applicant, and not hitting on her/him, or trying to find out some devious information on her/his orientation. It was a simple background question that would eventually come out if the applicant was hired– and it wasn’t going to be used to determine if you get the job; Crabby’s just curious about the people he may hire.
- You can refuse to answer the question, or explain that it’s an illegal question (see how far that gets you). If you choose not to answer, explain why, and be discreet and polite, saying that you aren’t quite sure why that question would be pertinent to the opportunity you’re interviewing for. Perhaps the hiring manager will see your point, or…
- Examiner the reasoning behind the question. If the question seems to have some relationship to the job (can you physically do the job, will you be available for overtime, or some other connection), then answer it the best way you can. If you are still uncomfortable, exercise your right not to answer, as tactfully and diplomatically as possible, and hope for the best.
Not all hiring managers will recognize an illegal question, or care. Good luck on your search for work.
And, since it’s the weekend, and this is serious stuff, here’s a video of the entire Mary Tyler Moore episode, you can watch for free on your computer. This is the first episode of the entire series. The interview dialog. from above, is about six minutes in. It’s old, and you may have seen it, but it’s funny and worth another look, if you have 25 minutes.. Take your mind off your job search for a few minutes. Click on Lou Grant’s picture:
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