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VOL. 42 | NO. 48 | Friday, November 30, 2018

What do you do if asked an illegal interview query?

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I’ve been talking to a number of job seekers lately about illegal interview questions. They keep coming up, and I keep asking myself why.

When you’re a job seeker, you may not realize how common illegal questions are because you’re interviewing for only one or two jobs at a time. But, surprisingly, they’re popping up quite a bit.

Common illegal questions include:

• What is your marital status?

• How many children do you have?

• Are you planning to have more children?

• How old are you?

Honestly, it’s hard to understand why these questions are coming up. I have wondered how hiring managers don’t seem to know what not to ask. And, I’ve wondered why they’re even asking at all.

In some cases, the hiring manager might be simply trying to make small talk. They might be trying to get to know you. But, it’s really hard to say.

In other cases, the hiring manager is clearly asking the question for unethical reasons.

So, why does it keep happening? My best guess is hiring managers are rarely trained on what not to ask.

Human resources often assumes that in today’s day in age we all know what not to ask. Then, when the hiring manager does ask these questions, the candidate doesn’t react negatively. The reason is you want the job and you don’t get upset by a potentially off-putting question.

That’s a fast way to eliminate yourself from the candidate pool.

So, the hiring manager gets no feedback in the moment. After the hiring process, if you’re not selected, you have little to no interaction with the company. You are at times lucky to get an automated rejection email for your time.

What’s a company to do?

I say companies should install a system to solicit feedback from candidates. This would close the loop on hiring.

The company could ask the candidate for anonymous feedback about their interview. It could then be routed to human resources who could be alerted to potential issues in questions.

This would protect the company’s interests, educate the hiring manager and improve the experience for the job seeker. It’s a win-win-win.

One company that is implementing something similar to this process is Amazon. After a candidate interviews with Amazon, they receive an anonymous survey titled “rate our phone interviews.” The survey asks whether or not the interview experience was frustration free. It also asks for what they could do to improve, and it gives the job seeker a free form text box to provide feedback.

Implementing this sort of feedback treats the job seeker like a valued player in the process – similar to a customer.

And, this is a great foundation of mutual respect on which to build a future working relationship.

Angela Copeland, a career coach and founder of Copeland Coaching, can be reached at