There are certain questions that are off-limits during an interview. However, it’s not uncommon for an inexperienced interviewer to sneak in a question or two that are considered inappropriate or in some cases, against the law. As a job seeker, it’s important to not only prepare for the questions recruiters should ask you, but to also be ready to dodge questions that do not warrant an answer.
How old are you?
You don’t have to answer any questions about your age other than stating that you’re over the age of 18. You are also not required to submit a photo ID (which has your date of birth on it) during the interview process. If asked, you can simply tell the interviewer that you’re concerned about identity theft and would prefer not to hand it over until it’s determined whether you’ll be joining their team. Be conscious of how you answer the question “Are you at least 18 years of age?” If you make a joke about your age, you are drawing negative attention to it.
What’s your nationality?
You do not need to answer any questions about your nationality, citizenship status, or how long you’ve lived in the United States. If an interviewer starts in with this line of questioning, simply explain that you’re legally able to work in the United States. If some of your education or previous experience took place overseas, you have the option to state that you’re legally able to work in the U.S. on your resume.
Are you married? Do you have any children?
While interviewers can ask you whether you’ve used another name professionally or during your education, they can’t ask about your marital status, children, or if you plan to have a family in the future. Often the interviewer is innocently trying to break the ice by asking about your family. In these situations, redirect the question back to the interviewer. For instance, if they ask about your marital status you can reply by saying, “It sounds like family is important to you. Are you married?” This way, you’ve kept up the friendly banter without disclosing any information about your personal life.
Do you have any spiritual beliefs?
Questions about your religious beliefs are off-limits during an interview, including your religious affiliations and what religious holidays your observe. If an interviewer brings up this topic, try to figure out what they’re concerned with and then address those concerns. Perhaps they’re worried you won’t be able to work certain days of the week or certain times of day that are required for the role.
How long would your commute be to this office?
The interviewer shouldn’t ask you how far away you live from the office; however, he is allowed to find out if you’re able to start work at a certain hour or relocate for the position. If you’re targeting positions that require relocation, don’t be afraid to state in your professional summary on your resume and online profiles that you’re willing and able to relocate immediately. If you have family in the area or you’ve lived there in the past, there’s nothing wrong with stating that you have an established, local support system. This demonstrates that you’re not a costly flight risk, should they hire you.
The next time an interviewer touches on one of these topics, try to find out what she is actually concerned about and steer the conversation to address those particular concerns. Keep the conversation light and friendly – you don’t need to come off as angry or defensive. Remember, often the interviewer is unaware of the federal laws and is simply being friendly.
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Amanda Augustine is the Career Management Expert for TheLadders. She provides job search and career guidance for professionals looking to improve their careers. Have a question for Amanda? Submit your question here for a chance to have it answered in her weekly column, and be sure to follow her at @JobSearchAmanda on Twitter and “Like” her on Facebook for up-to-the-minute advice.