Inappropriate Interview Questions

During an interview, you expect and are prepared to answer questions related to your skills, qualifications and interests in a position. Consequently, it may be very uncomfortable to be asked a question about your personal life, marriage plans or family planning during an interview. Questions about personal matters may not be illegal per se, but employers risk violating Equal Employment Opportunity laws by broaching certain topics. Laws prohibit employers from discriminating in hiring on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, age or handicap. However the laws do not specifically indicate questions that cannot be asked.

How should you respond if you are asked an inappropriate question?
In an article in the National Business Employment Weekly, James M. Jenks suggests three alternatives on how to respond when you feel the interviewer has asked an improper question.
  1. You can refuse to answer - tell the employer you think the question is improper. Using this response may make you feel better, but chances are you will not get the job.
  2. You can answer the question asked - swallow your pride to stay in the running for the job.
  3. You can answer the legitimate concern of the employer - ignore the improper question itself, and respond instead to the concern underlying the question.

The third choice allows you to present yourself in a positive manner and control the way you answer the question. You might want to rephrase the question or simply ignore it and answer the issue behind the question. If you feel there are sensitive areas for you, be prepared to answer them before going for the interview.