Answering Inappropriate Questions

On Tuesday I outlined the major areas that are off limits to employers conducting a job  interview. Today, I’m going summarize the article I referenced Tuesday by Dennis Nishi, “Right Job, Wrong Question,” which provides suggestions for how to respond if you should face an inappropriate question in an interview.

• Plan ahead. Is there anything about you or your application that may cause the employer concern? If so, prepare your response. The example Nishi gives is of an older applicant, and the advice is to emphasize your experience, offer to mentor younger employees, and reassure them that you have no plans to retire early.
• Try to figure out why the interviewer has asked a specific, unallowable question and respond to the appropriate concern. The example given is where the interviewer asks about citizenship, and the response suggested is to say that you are authorized to work in the U.S. Another example could be is the interviewer is asking about your plans for a family or your marital status or if you have children. Perhaps the job is going to require travel or a lot of overtime, in which case you can respond by saying that  you have no restrictions regarding travel or overtime. (Unless, of course, you do have restrictions, in which case you may need to be upfront about your ability to meet the requirements of the job.)
• Don’t be confrontational or tell the interviewer that the question is illegal. Ask for clarification, explain that you don’t understand the relevance, or reply with a question of your own.
• Leave if it gets really inappropriate. If the interviewer is blatantly asking inappropriate questions that demonstrate a lack of respect, you need to stand up for yourself and get out of there. Later, you can choose whether or not to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
• Use the interview as an opportunity to learn more the organization and its values. If they are asking lots of inappropriate questions, is this really a place where you want to work?