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10 Illegal Interview Questions You Don’t Have To Answer

10 Illegal Interview Questions You Don’t Have To Answer
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The typical job interview is a stressful and challenging experience, especially if you are prone to anxiety or lack an innate sense of self-confidence. It is also particularly difficult for anyone who finds it difficult to think clearly under pressure, as the questions posed in job interviews often require carefully considered and well-articulated answers.

It is also crucial that you understand your rights as an interviewee, as there are a number of questions that potential employers are prohibited from asking under existing employment law directives. By understanding these directives and the boundaries that should exist between you and an employer, you can hopefully enjoy a less-stressful and more productive interview.

So without further ado, here are 10 interview questions that are illegal under existing employments laws: –

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1. How old are you?

Perhaps the most common illegal interview question, employers are often keen to determine your age as a candidate. Although this information may have been included on your resume (depending on whether you use a traditional or modern template), the person conducting your interview does not have the right to directly or indirectly ask your age during the process. In the US, the Age Discrimination Act (ADEA) is designed to protect anyone who is over 40 from such questioning, while individual state laws also exist to protect younger applicants. The law is applied universally in the UK, where employers can only reference age if it is to guarantee that you are old enough to carry out the required role.

Whether this question is asked outright or indirectly (such as by querying the year that you graduated from college), the response that you give is entirely at your discretion. If you feel comfortable answering the question you are entitled to do so, but if not you can query whether or not your age is relevant to the job role or your application before tendering a response.

2. Are you married?

There is a term in employment law called pregnancy discrimination, which has been created to prevent employers from treating mothers or female applicants unfairly. This prohibits employers from attempting to solicit any information concerning a candidate’s family plans, including marriage, engagement and child planning. While this is a long-standing pillar of employment law, the issue with this question is that it can be posed in casual conversation, so you must keep in mind that you are not obliged to disclose any personal information surrounding your lifestyle or family status. If you are asked this question, you can simply respond by telling your hiring manager that you are not comfortable discussing your private life in a professional environment.

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3. What is your sexual orientation?

On a similar note, fundamental discrimination laws prohibit employers from asking any questions relating to sexual orientation. This has no relevance on your suitability for any position of employment, and any hiring manager who quizzes you about your sexuality is committing a clear offence. Unlike the previous two questions (which can be answered at the candidate’s discretion despite being technically illegal), this query should be met with a far sterner and resolute response. More specifically, you should take the opportunity to remind the employer of your rights as a candidate for work and reinforce that your sexual preferences are unsuitable topics of conversation in the workplace.

4. Have you ever been arrested?

This question represents a grey area in employment law, as employers do have the right to ask if you have ever been convicted of a crime. They are not entitled to enquire about your arrest record, however, as you are considered by law to be innocent in any instances where you have been detained by the police but not convicted. Employers can conduct independent research into your background online, however, so you may find it beneficial to be honest and open about your past if you have been arrested prolifically in your youth. If not, you can simply answer this question by reaffirming the fact that you have never been convicted of any crime in a court of law.

5. Can we have your social media login details?

Back in 2012, there were a number of employers who were reported for asking interviewees to hand over their private, social media login details. Many refused, although others parted with their details in a bid to secure employment. This is completely prohibited, as while employers can conduct independent searches of your public social media profiles they have no right to ask you to hand over your private details. Employers are not even allowed for links to your profile page, and if you are asked you should politely refuse. This applies to all online and mobile social media profiles, including fast growing applications such as Snapchat.

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6. What country are you from?

For anyone with mixed parentage, dual nationality or an exotic accent, this question may seem to betray little more than mild curiosity on behalf of the employer. Regardless of the intentions behind it, however, this question is illegal on the basis that it involves your national origin. You are not required to reveal any information in response to this question, as it is your qualifications and experience rather than your background that determine your viability as a candidate. It is important to listen closely to the wording use by a hiring manager, however, as employers are entitled to quiz you on your eligibility to work in a specific country. If you are asked this directly, you will need to reaffirm your status as being eligible for work.

7. Do you like to drink socially?

This is a bizarre question, and it is difficult to understand what relevance it has in a professional setting. There is a reason why it is strictly prohibited for employers to ask this, however, and this is to protect recovering alcoholics under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (or the Disability Equality Act of 2010 in the UK). Under the terms of these laws, recovering alcoholics are not compelled to reveal any information that may hint at their status and the same principle applies to anyone who has suffered with substance abuse in their lives. This is why many companies conduct random alcohol and drug tests in the workplace, as they cannot directly ask employees or interviewees whether or not they take such substances.

8. What is your religion?

Along with questions relating to sexual orientation, this is one of the worst questions that an employer can ask during an interview. Although there is a clear motivation for employers to gather this information (as the look to anticipate any scheduling or holiday issues that relate to your faith), there is a correct way for them to go about achieving this and it does not involve asking you to discuss your religious orientation. Instead, employers can ask if there are any days or periods during which you are unavailable for work, as this relates to a specific schedule and the operating hours of the company in question. So although you will need to answer this question honestly, you can refuse to disclose your religious beliefs or outlook.

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9. How did you get that scar or physical abnormality?

This may not apply to everyone, but it is a deeply personal and insensitive question that has no merit in an interview or professional situation. The fact that this question is illegal also offers an insight into the depth of the ADA and similar acts, as they not only prohibit discrimination against individuals with a physical disability but they also protect those who are ‘regarded as disabled’ due to a scar or physical abnormality. Any questions about such physical characteristics are prohibited, and you are under no obligation to even acknowledge them. If this question is posed, you can simply underline that it is not an issue that you wish to discuss as it makes you feel uncomfortable.

10. How do you feel about supervising a team of women (or men)?

Both the US and the UK deploy stringent gender equality acts, which serve a clear purpose in the typical workplace. As a result of this, it is illegal for employers to ask you any direct questions that relate to gender or make assumptions based on perceived differences between male and female candidates. In this instance, this means that hiring managers cannot ask candidates how they feel about managing or working with a gender specific team, as this forces them to make comments that are either presumptuous or potentially offensive to either men or women. If you are asked this question it would be prudent to either ask the interviewer to rephrase it or simply relay any experience that you have managing teams in general (which managers are perfectly entitled to quiz you on).

Featured photo credit: Flickr – PresseBox.de flickr via flickr.com

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Published on July 27, 2021

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow
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During the pandemic, video conferencing replaced in-person meetings and has now become the standard option for business meetings. Over the past 17 months, most workers have gotten past the video conferencing learning curve with Zoom or Microsoft Teams (or their platform of choice).

But just as with in-person meetings, attention can wax and wane. Some say we’re just not used to staring at ourselves so much on the screen. Instead of fixating on that, try employing smart video conferencing etiquette, or you may risk indiscretions that will flag you as a slacker.

Put the Pro in Professional

After more than a year of fine-tuning, here are the new rules of video conferencing etiquette.

1. Mute Your Mobile and Other Devices

The first video conference etiquette you need to know is muting your other devices. Just as in the pre-COVID days, someone’s obnoxious ring tone blaring Taylor Swift’s newest single in the middle of a meeting is also an annoyance if it happens during a Zoom meeting and so is the inevitable fumbling to turn off the sound. Even the apologies to the group get tiresome.

Also, when notifications are activated on the computer that you’re using for the meeting, the incoming message takes over the audio and you’ll miss out on snippets of the conversation. Be sure to eliminate this possible faux pas.

2. Dress the Part

While working from home, you may have fallen into the habit of slipping on your comfiest T-shirt each day. Hey, no judgments! But before you log on to your video conference, try to make an effort with your appearance.

Depending on your company culture and the importance of your meeting, consider dressing the part of the professional whom you wish to project. It will help you feel more self-assured, and others will likely take you more seriously.

For women, wear light make-up, put on earrings, and make sure your blouse is crisply pressed. For men, show up freshly shaved. Wearing a crisp collared shirt in a solid color will usually suffice.

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Pro Tip: Stay away from wearing white or black, unless those colors look great on you. Consider wearing light blue or brown instead.

3. Stage Your Workspace

Have you noticed the backdrops of experts interviewed on news shows? Bookshelves and photographs are carefully curated, and no busy-patterned furniture or artwork is in sight.

Take note of what appears behind you when you choose the location of your video conferences. Piles of junk mail on the table or stacks of folded laundry on the couch will convey more about your personal life than you care to share. Make sure you remove clutter from the camera’s eye, and present a tidy, orderly workspace to your colleagues, coworkers, and bosses.

4. Put Some Thought Into Lighting and Perspective

Be aware that in a video conference, your computer camera can actually make you look up to ten pounds heavier depending on where you sit. But you can easily drop those added pounds by moving back from the screen to diminish the wide-angle distortion.

Frame your head on the screen by tilting the screen up or down. Also, it’s best to not place yourself in front of a window or bright light, which makes you appear in shadow. Instead, face the light source, moving it (or yourself) until you have a flattering amount of illumination. You can also purchase some small spotlights that allow you to add light as needed.

Pro Tip: If your lights add too much redness to your skin, consider counter-balancing with a green filter.

Remember That Half of Life Is Showing Up

5. Arrive on Time

In the old days of in-person meetings, it was nearly impossible to slip in late into a meeting unnoticed. In today’s video conferences, logging in late still shows poor form. Instead, strive to arrive five minutes early and get yourself settled.

Once the meeting is underway, the host may be less attentive about late arrivals waiting to be let in. Diverting the host’s attention away from the meeting with a tardy entry request is the ultimate giveaway that you didn’t honor the schedule. If you don’t want a black mark against you, log in on time.

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6. Turn on Your Video

Few people like to see their face on the screen, but buck up and turn on your camera in video conferences. In most cases, it’s better to be a face on a screen than a name in a blank square. Your statements will be more memorable when other meeting attendees can see you.

If you need to turn off the video, either because of a poor connection, some commotion in the room, or a need for a quick break, give a short explanation via the chat feature. Then, go back on video as soon as you’re able.

Pro Tip: Keep your explanation for your departure pithy. “Sorry! Doorbell rang. Back in five” says it all. Be sure to honor what you say in chat and really do return in five minutes.

7. Plan Ahead Before Sharing Your Screen

Don’t be one of those people who makes everyone else wait as you click through folders in search of a document. That’s just poor video conferencing etiquette. If you know you’ll need to share a document or video on your screen, prepare by pulling it out of its folder and onto your desktop. Also, clean up the files and folders on your desktop to reduce clutter and facilitate easy access. Close other programs like chat, calendar notifications, and email. Disable pop-up notifications to ensure there’ll be no unforeseen distractions.

Be sure to remind the host before the meeting that you’ll need them to activate the screen-sharing function. Show courtesy once you’re finished by hitting “stop share” to return to the screen with participants.

Attend to the Pesky Details

8. Make Sure That Meetings Remain Right-Sized

With the easy accessibility of video conferencing, it can be tempting to extend the meeting invitation beyond the core group and include everyone peripherally involved in a project. But just as with in-person meetings, the more people involved, the more unwieldy the meeting becomes.

Use good judgment when asking others to sit through a video conference so that you don’t needlessly take up others’ time and so that participants can be fully engaged.

9. Remember to “Unmute” Before You Speak

Most of us are likely able to count on one hand the number of video conferences when someone didn’t have to be reminded, “You’re on mute!” Forgetting to unmute before speaking has become one of the most common missteps in video conferencing.[1]

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Show everyone your impeccable video-conferencing poise by managing your mute feature with flawless control.

10. Stay on Point to Keep the Meeting Length in Check

As with in-person meetings, an agenda with assigned time limits for discussions remains necessary to keep a meeting focused. Data shows, however, that video conferencing can actually reduce meeting time.[2] Reasons include the elimination of commuting time and the ability to screen share and annotate to keep everyone on task.

Additionally, side conversations are virtually impossible with video conferencing now that you can no longer have back-and-forth exchanges with the person beside you.

Pro Tip: If you’re running the meeting, let attendees know in advance the protocol for the chat feature. Is it okay for them to “chat among themselves” or not? (See point 11, as well.)

Talking Has a Time and a Place

11. Chat Appropriately

Just like side conversations or texting in an in-person meeting, the use of the chat feature during a video conference can be disrespectful unless it’s directed to all participants. Hence, it’s good video conferencing etiquette to mind your use of the chat.

At the start of the meeting, you may want to ask the host if it’s alright for participants to use the chat feature. This allows them to disable it if they choose. Used appropriately, it can be a helpful tool to clarify or amplify an earlier point once the conversation has moved on or to let the group know that you need to sign off early (and why).

12. Use the “Raise Hand” Feature to Avoid Interruptions

The slight lag in many video conferences can result in speaking over another person if you attempt to jump into a conversation. To avoid this awkward interruption, indicate when you have something to add to the discussion with the raise-your-hand feature that signals the host you would like to speak. This effective meeting management device makes video conferencing run more smoothly, especially with a large group, but it must be activated and monitored by the host.

Pro Tip: For meetings of six to ten people, sometimes the old-fashioned raising of your physical hand may be the best option. But it’s up to the meeting host. Ask them what they would prefer, and follow that.

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13. Don’t Record the Session or Take Photos Without Prior Permission

In this case, not sharing is caring. The “sharing culture” made popular through social media has little place in video conferencing. Before recording a meeting or capturing a screenshot of the participants, always ask for consent in advance from the full roster of attendees. Knowing that a video conference will be photographed or recorded could have a bearing on what others are willing to discuss.

Manage Yourself

14. Minimize Distractions

While de-activating audio and video features can keep distractions from affecting the other participants, you will need to manage noise and disruptions on your end to give your full attention to the meeting.

Move out of high-traffic zones in your home, keep your door closed, and ask family members to be considerate.

15. Save Snacking for Later

Save snacking for later—or earlier. Eating while on video conference is a no-no. Munching in front of the group while close to the camera—as you are when video conferencing—subjects the participants to an up-close and (too) personal view of your food consumption process.

However, it’s perfectly fine to sip quietly from a glass of water or cup of coffee or tea. If the meeting threatens to last for more than two hours, you may want to ask the host in advance to schedule a five-minute break at the halfway point.

Final Thoughts

Even though bosses are now beginning to ask workers to spend some of their workdays on-site, up to 80 percent will permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time, which means more video conferencing in your future.[3] Mastering these video conferencing etiquette tips will help you dial in—as well as dial back—your participation and demonstrate your unwavering level of engagement to the team.

Featured photo credit: Chris Montgomery via unsplash.com

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