Interviewers sometimes ask jobseekers questions which are beyond the pale.

Graduates and others looking for a new employer would do well to research what cannot be asked at a job interview.

An article dated April 29, 2015, revealed questions that British graduates have been asked, among them:

Can you flirt with customers to make them stay longer?

Do you get PMT?

Can you wear more makeup next time?

Are you planning on having children soon?

In the 1990s, it was still acceptable to ask about prospective children. I’m of two minds about it, because, whilst it is intrusive, I knew a woman who started a job only to become pregnant within a year, then return to work after maternity leave and, shortly thereafter, announce she was expecting another child. There was nothing the employer could do. After all, one cannot fire a woman for having children. Nevertheless, other employees began to write her out of the everyday work picture and resented her for ‘playing the system’.

As for the others — and there are more in the article — instead of getting angry, the applicant should discern that these types of questions reveal more about the employer than illegality or inappropriateness. Working in such companies is bound to be stressful and unpleasant.

The UK Government has a site which briefly explains what employers can and cannot ask when interviewing. However, women should be as honest as possible with regard to children and childminding arrangements. An employer generally will expect — at least silently — that a newly-wed woman of childbearing age would stay at least a year before becoming pregnant.

An American site, PayScale, has a helpful list of what is disallowed in interviews along with constructive ways for the applicant to respond. Citizenship is one example. Whilst it is illegal for employers to ask if an applicant has US citizenship:

If the intent is to find out if you are authorized to work here in the US, then that is the question you need to answer — that you do or do not have a work permit.

Their article states that questions with regard to arrests and/or convictions are legal in certain states. Those applying for a security-sensitive job should be aware of this and explain their own circumstances, if applicable.

In short — instead of getting defensive or testy — the applicant should evaluate why certain questions are being asked. Often, the employer has a reason. Be polite and, where possible, give a considered response:

as the interviewee, it is up to you to gauge the intent behind the questions and answer accordingly. You could also choose not to answer.

Anything offensive, such as the British questions, should be ignored or gently laughed off. One would be within one’s rights to terminate the interview politely. Tell them they’ve just lost an excellent prospective employee.

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