1 in 5 Employers Unknowingly Ask Illegal Interview Questions, Here’s How to Dodge Them
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Approaching any job interview as a recruiter or job seeker can be a challenging situation, as both parties want the best result possible. Even though 1 in 3 potential employers are unsure about the legality of certain interview questions, they will still want a truthful answer.
Therefore it is important before an interview to be prepared on what classifies as an illegal interview question and how you should avoid answering them.
What Makes an Interview Question Illegal?
In Australia, both State and Federal discrimination laws prohibit questioning detailed information about an individual’s personal life. Labour and Employment attorney Lori Adelson expresses that if a job seeker is asked to reveal information on topics that have no job-related basis, it is in violation of these discrimination laws. However, when an employer states questions so that they directly relate to specific occupational qualifications, then the questions may be legitimate.
It is also important to note that the purpose of the question should be either declared or checked out.
Similarly, employment lawyer Trent Hancock states that under Section 107 of the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 “a person must not request or require another person to supply information that could be used by the first person to form the basis of discrimination against the other person”.
Topics that are Classified as Illegal
It is unlawful to treat someone unfavourably based on age; this personal information should not be revealed and become a determination of your candidacy for any job position.
The 2015 Age Prevalence Report found that age discrimination is most commonly experienced when older people are out of a job and looking for paid work; in this report, or 58% of those individuals who looked for paid work were rejected based on their age.
Of individuals were
rejected because of
However, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act only protects workers aged 40 years and over, leaving a younger employee to be prone to illegal age discrimination. Keeping age as an off limit topic helps reduce age related stereotypes and creates a more positive attitude towards both an older and younger person in the workforce.
Race and National Origin
Discrimination based on the country you were born, or your native language can be commonplace, but sometimes, it’s an unconscious decision made by hiring managers. The Australian Human Rights Commission found that in 2016/17 that 10% of the enquiries and complaints received were related to racial discrimination. During a job interview, it is illegal for a potential employer to question this information and further base their decision on it. They can ask if you’re allowed to work in certain countries, but they cannot legally inquire about your national origin.
Of complaints to the Human Rights Commission
were regarding racial discrimination
Family / Marital Status
Some interviewers and hiring managers may question your marital status and family situation to determine your future commitment to the company and gain an understanding of your work schedule. Yet it is illegal for them to inquire your marital status (which could possibly lead to sexual orientation discrimination) and your childcare arrangements. The 2015 Age Prevalence Report found that around 45% of people in a single parent family with children experienced more discrimination as opposed to 23% of those in a couple with no children.
Of single parents with children experienced discrimination
Other illegal job interview questions that are deemed off limits under state and federal law include categories such as sexual orientation, citizenship, religious practices and religious holidays, ethnicity, physical or mental disabilities, conviction and arrest record, military discharge status, gender, pregnancy status, credit history and previous salaries.
Approaching Illegal Questions During the Interview
A recruiter’s job is to find out as much information about you during the interview to determine if you are a good fit for the business and the company culture. Sometimes the recruiter may be an inexperienced interviewer or the question was a friendly mistake, generally they do not mean ill intent and are unaware their questions are classified as unlawful. Before you dodge them, consider why the hiring manager would ask these specific questions that overstep personal boundaries; they have may a legitimate concern they want to address or want to determine your future commitment to the company.
However when a question arises during the interview process that is illegal, discriminatory or makes you feel uncomfortable answering, there are many ways in which you can deflect the inappropriate aspect of the question. It is important to always remain confident in your responses, ensure that you qualify your answer with your beliefs, strategies and previous experiences.
A good answer to an off limits question is to direct the question back to industry associated topics and your job related skills, or turn the question back onto the interviewer. You can also decide to only answer a specific part of the query and not follow up the half that is considered unprofessional to ask. Sometimes you may feel the need to verbally express that you feel uncomfortable to share personal information during the interview process.
Some common examples of how to best approach illegal questions include:
Well I don't know the answer to that question yet, however I'm very interested in the career paths your company can offer me, do you mind telling me about them?
It sounds like family and children are an important topic to you, I believe I have handled my childcare arrangements appropriately throughout my career in the industry
My age has never been a restricting barrier in any task I have accomplished throughout my career; I don’t see how it would suddenly inhibit my job related skill set
That question does not impact my ability to perform the required tasks, would it be of value to you if I described my leadership skills in my previous roles instead?
I’m confident that despite my family status, I can manage the dedication and future commitment that this position requires
My religious practices are of great importance to me, however I find they rarely interfere with my dedication to any position I undertake
It is important when preparing for any interview during your job search to be prepared for questions you are expecting and for ones that you aren’t. Illegal interview questions generally come up as an icebreaker, and a friendly mistake with no ill intent meant; however it is important as a job seeker to know how to appropriately dodge them and how to seek legal advice if necessary.
Remember, not only is the hiring manager determining if you are a right fit for the company, you should also be questioning if this company is the best choice for your career path too.
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