Job candidates nowadays can expect not to be subject to improper or inappropriate questions, thanks to the ‘illegal’ status of some questions.
By law, interviewers are not allowed to ask questions that could be perceived as discriminatory. These include questions like “Are you married?”, “Are you planning to start a family soon?”, “What age are you?” etc.
The Employment Equality Acts 1998 and 2004, deal with discrimination within employment, related to any of the following 9 grounds: gender, marital status, family status, age, race, religion, disability, sexual orientation and membership of the Traveller community.
While it is extremely unlikely such an inappropriate question would arise, candidates should be prepared for how they would deal if put in such an uncomfortable position. Here are some options:
- Mention you feel the question is inappropriate and say that you do not wish to answer it. This could cost you the job, but it is your call on whether a company with such practices is one you want to work with.
- Answer the question without referring to its inappropriateness
- Don’t give a direct answer – turn to the focus lying behind the question and give an answer relating to that. E.g. If asked: “Do you have children”, you could say “If you’re asking whether I’m available to travel abroad and work late, the answer is…”
- Give a brief answer, moving swiftly on to another topic.
- Don’t answer the question at all and change the discussion to a different subject.
The dilemma is centred on whether answering or declining to answer the question will cost you the job. You will have to decide quickly whether the question is intentionally discriminatory or if you’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s a genuine slip-up. If you feel the question was a deliberate invasion of privacy it’s worthwhile considering if it’s the type of organisation you want to work with.