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7 Illegal Questions You Might Be Asked During an Interview

7 Illegal Questions You Might Be Asked During an Interview

During a job interview, you might feel as if your prospective employer is in the driver’s seat, and you must go wherever he or she leads you. However, this is simply not true. There are many laws in place to protect applicants from facing undue discrimination and to ensure each candidate for a job is viewed as objectively as possible. If you find yourself in a situation in which you feel you’ll be unfairly judged, there are many ways in which you can “flip the script” and drive the interview in a direction you’re more comfortable with.

1. How old are you?

This might seem fairly innocuous to job seekers in their 30s, but there are many hidden agendas behind a question of an applicant’s age. Employers can ask if an applicant is over 18 if it is company policy to not hire minors, but that’s about all they can ask as far as age is concerned. According to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, it’s illegal to inquire about an applicant’s age, since those over 40 are specifically protected by the law. Such a question is clearly attempts to discern how long a person may stay with a company, and whether or not he or she will be able to perform the job’s duties 10 or 20 years down the line. There is no need to answer this question; instead, refocus your answer on your years of experience.

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2. Are you married?

Again, this question might just seem like small talk, but the answer can give away more information than you think. If, for example, you just got married in the past year, the interviewer might decide you won’t be dedicated enough to the job, as you will just be starting a family, might have to take maternity/paternity leave, etc. Also, your answer might reveal your sexuality, which is, of course, protected by the US Department of Labor. It’s best to avoid going into your personal life, about which you do not have to volunteer any information. However, any info you choose to give might be used to disqualify you from employment.

3. What country are you from?

While it might seem like a good time to discuss your worldliness, discussing your national origin may lead to a subjective judgement by your interviewer. Of course, you must be lawfully able to work in the United States, and must possess documentation expressing this. However, you are under no obligation to divulge what part of the world you were born in. Along with this, you cannot be made to discuss other languages spoken at home, unless it is to your advantage. If you are comfortable discussing these aspects of your personal life, repurpose your answer to show that your bilingualism is an advantage to the workplace.

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4. What religion do you follow?

This goes along with the aforementioned Civil Rights act. Though obviously there is a chance that the interviewer might be biased toward a certain religion, there are other implications to how you answer this question as well. Employers might be fishing for information regarding your availability to work on weekends or holidays. Of course, they can just ask about your availability, but many interviewers don’t wish to be so candid. Again, repurpose your answer to express your availability, and inform them that the company will know far in advance if you will be taking a holiday.

5. Do you drink socially?

This question might come up in interviews for jobs regarding public safety, but you are under no obligation to answer. In fact, the ADA protects alcoholics as long as the disability does not interfere with their duties. And, as alcohol is a legal entity in the US, prospective employers have no right to know what you do on your time off. If this question comes up, simply answer no. As a word of advice, I wouldn’t drink at job-related events or parties in the future, regardless of how you answered the question.

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6. Do you or have you used drugs?

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, am I right? Just kidding, of course. This question might seem cut and dry, but it’s actually up to interpretation. Do you drink coffee or soda? Caffeine’s a drug. How about Motrin? What about if you’re a medical marijuana patient? There are many facets to this question, so in order for interviewers to be in the right, they must ask: “Are you currently using any illegal drugs?” Asking in such a manner specifies that it is not a past habit, and that an affirmative answer is confirmation that you partake in illegal activities. Employers also have a right to drug test prospective employees, as well as ask about past convictions regarding drug possession. And while we’re on the subject…

7. Have you ever been arrested?

Interviewers can’t ask this question, because an answer of “yes, but I wasn’t convicted” won’t exactly put you in a positive light. Some states do allow this question, but employers cannot discriminate based on the answer given. However, they can ask “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” and ask for details, and they can run background checks on applicants. If you have been convicted of a crime, and you know a background check is imminent but may not disqualify you from employment, the best thing to do is be upfront about it. Express regret about the circumstances, and demonstrate that you’ve learned from your mistake and have grown as a responsible adult.

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For more information regarding the legal issues surrounding employment, visit the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website.

Featured photo credit: Flickr via flickr.com

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Last Updated on September 18, 2019

11 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities

11 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities

Are you looking to move up the career ladder? Or maybe you’re tired of having a “job” and want to start looking for a more permanent career?

Whatever your motivation, you are going to have to learn some new and different hard skills to broaden your opportunities. After all, there’s a very famous quote that says:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

While the insanity part doesn’t really fit here, the overall message is a good one. If you are looking for a different result (career advancement, more money or even a career instead of a job), it’s up to you to make it happen. This is both the good news and bad news!

The good news is that because it’s up to you, you have complete control over it happening. The bad news is that change is hard. Humans are creatures of habit, that’s why we develop routines, and anything that disrupts that routine causes us anxiety. And we will do almost anything to get rid of that anxiety. The overweight person will calm their anxiety by eating that doughnut, the smoker will light up a cigarette to avoid anxiety.

What we want to do with this article is to give you the hard skills you’ll need to reduce that anxiety so you can move up that corporate ladder, make more money or have career instead of just a “job.”

The following hard skills are essential to learn if you want to advance your career. They may not be easy to take up, but definitely worth your effort of learning:

1. Cloud Computing

“Simply put, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, intelligence and more—over the Internet “the cloud” to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale. You typically pay only for cloud services you use, helping lower your operating costs, run your infrastructure more efficiently, and scale as your business needs change.” Microsoft[1]

There are many different jobs available in the cloud computing world today. They range from architects and developers to data scientists, security pros. Each job is its own specialty and requires a high level of specification for advancement.

This is definitely a hard skill that requires education. But if the tech world and computers are your thing you can make cloud computing a lucrative career.

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2. Data Mining and Statistical Analysis

Again, these are highly specialized fields. Data mining is defined as using large sets of data to look for anomalies and other patterns that can be used to predict future behavior.

Amazon is probably the best known company to use data mining. Have you ever noticed that when you buy something at Amazon, you’ll see a little ad at the bottom that says “customers who bought this also bought…”and it lists 2-3 other items? All of that information comes from data mining, by examining the millions of sales amazon makes they can predict that if you buy item #1 there is a high likelihood that you will buy one of the other items too. T

his not only increases sales for Amazon, but it also serves as a reminder for you that you may need these additional items for your project. This is very valuable information and has a wide range of uses. Although it has a bad reputation and evil sounding name, it is a very useful tool for maximizing productivity and sales.

3. Data Management

All companies today deal with a ton of data! Being able to manage that data in an efficient manor is not only highly prized, but a necessity.

We all have these things on our desks called computers. Unless there is a need for a paper copy, almost all of our data is computerized. Meaning that, in theory it is all at our fingertips. Being able to organize that data so that it’s easily and quickly retrievable is why computers are replacing filing cabinets!

However, just like the old fashion filing cabinet, data management on a computer is only good if it’s well organized. You want to make sure that you are keeping your data well organized so that it’s easy to find when needed. This is a skill that comes easily to some people (are you a person that makes lists? Good!) but with others it will be a skill that needs to be practices. Make sure that this is a discipline you master.

4. Scheduling

Being able to make and keep to a schedule is a very useful tool in both business and life. Effective scheduling means that you can prioritize projects, understand the tools needed to get the job done on time and that you are organized enough to lead people.

An important point here is to write things down! Whether it’s in an old fashion daily or weekly organizer or in a PDA. Have a copy of your schedule available at your fingertips at all times.

5. Financial Skills

These are especially important when looking for that promotion. The higher up the ladder you go, the more you’ll have to deal with things like accounting, budgeting, financial planning and cash flow management.

While you may not need to be an expert at all of these, you should have a good grasp of all of them. This is where taking a few night classes at your local community college is a good idea. You don’t need to become an expert, but brushing up on these skills will help you tremendously.

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6. Research Skills

These are important in all aspects of life, but especially in your work-life.

Are you looking for that first job out of school? Nothing impresses a boss or hiring manager more than someone who has researched the company. Trust me, they deal with people walking in off the street everyday looking for a job, but managers and owners need to see the value in hiring (or promoting) you.

So do your research and have some company specific questions ready to ask. Show that you are interested in working for that company or that position and not just “a” job or the “promotion” because you have seniority or need the money.

If it’s a promotion that you are after, never bad mouth the previous occupant. Instead pick out an example that he/she was good at and explain how you would like to use or expand that policy and how it would enhance the policy changes you’d like to make.

If it’s a new job you’re going for, then make sure to have some company specific questions ready to show that you have done your homework for the new position.

7. Marketing Skills

While marketing a companies products or services has always been a highly sought after skill. In today’s world, it can take on several different forms.

Some of the marketing skills that are highly sought after today include, SEO, Search Engine Optimization, SEM, Search Engine Marketing and marketing campaign management. Familiarity with Google Analytics as well as Word Press are also valuable.

While traditional marketing and branding were focused on advertising and selling. Almost all marketing efforts now a days are focused on the internet.

8. Network Security Specialist

Again, this is a highly skilled position that requires specialized training. But the amount of data that all companies store is significant, and if that data is leaked or stolen, it can costs them millions of dollars in both lost revenue and lawsuits.

So, if you have an interest in network security you will find the field both lucrative and stable.

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9. Communication Skills

At first glance, communication skills may not look like it fits into the category of “Hard Skills” that can help you succeed. But in this ever shrinking world where companies can do business from almost anywhere, communication is more and more important.

Are you bilingual? It really doesn’t matter what language you speak, there’s a company out there looking for someone who speaks that language.

10. Computer Programming

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that computers are going to be around for a while! As both the hardware and software get more advanced, the need for computer programming is only going to increase.

11. Graphic Design

As of 2018, there were 4.37 million new websites launched.[2] A good number of them will fail because they just aren’t interesting enough visually. The use of templates and replicated websites is only making the problem worse.

Part of the way Google ranks sites is through originality, this almost ensures that replicated sites will never get ranked through Google. So the more original your site is, the more likely people will visit and actually spend time there.

That is what a good graphic designer does. Takes your basic idea and turns it into a website that people actually want to visit.

Embrace the Anxiety That Comes with Change

You know it’s going to be there, you know that you’ll want to give up as you’re learning these new skills but, you’ll also know that the end result is worth the journey.

Here’s a little trick when you’re feeling overwhelmed:

Have you ever met an ex-smoker who was sorry they quit? An ex-drinker or drug user that said life was much better before they quit? These people have gone through some of the most difficult challenges humans can go through including weeks, if not, months of intense physical withdrawal symptoms. They did it because they knew that the pain and anxiety they would experience would ultimately get them to a much better life.

Now what was that complaint you had about attending night-school?

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This is the part everyone hates, everyone thinks night-school, adult education and just generally giving up family and/or spare time. While those are certainly possible ways to develop the necessary skills, they aren’t the only way.

You’ll want to check with your human resources department because depending on the company, a certain degree maybe required in order to even be considered for a position. In those cases, night-school, on-line or some other form of adult education maybe your best route.

But as long as a degree isn’t required, then your options are wide open.

Let’s just say that you’re a sales person interested in becoming the sales manager but, the territory you’ve been given will never produce the sales figures that would make you stand out as a good candidate for sales manager. So how about you start your own side business (don’t compete with your company), but let’s say you enjoy golf.

In this day and age, there are plenty of places that will teach you how to sell products on-line and even set you up with your own website. So you start a site selling golf equipment and accessories (don’t worry, you won’t even have to carry inventory or worry about shipping).

Now, when that sales manager spot opens up, you can explain that even though other salespeople had better numbers than you, it had nothing to do with your sales ability, it was more of a consequence of the territory your were given.

And to prove it, you brought in some information about a side business, you started showing that you’re on target for a sales growth rate of 30% this year. And because you had to do all of the marketing for the business, you came up with some marketing strategies that you can bring to the new job (built-in experience).

The Bottom Line

We’ve put together these 11 hard skills as a way to give yourself a “leg up” on the competition. We’ve tried to make this a mixture of both skills that require a great deal of training, and also ones that you can work on and develop by yourself.

We know that not everyone is cut out to be a cloud computing expert, but we also know that working on and having good scheduling skills will make you a much more desirable candidate for the position!

We also don’t want you to discount the idea of a “side hustle“. Especially for people new to the workforce, having a business that you have started and run successfully shows potential employers that you have initiative, scheduling skills and ambition which can put you well ahead of your competition!

As usual, we hope you found this article both enjoyable and informative. If you did, may we ask that you share it with your family and friends through social media. It really does help us and is greatly appreciated!

More Skill to Help Advance Your Career

Featured photo credit: Kyle Sterk via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Microsoft Azure: Cloud Computing
[2] Netcraft: December 2018 Web Server Survey

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