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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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Published on September 18, 2018

17 Proven Tactics for Motivating Employees and Building a Stronger Team

17 Proven Tactics for Motivating Employees and Building a Stronger Team

Have there been instances when you noted a drop in your team’s productivity or observed a behavioral change in someone who used to be an excellent performer?

Before you blame the team for not being motivated enough or worse still, choose to ignore these warning signs, look inwards and ask yourself if YOU are doing enough to keep your team motivated in the first place.

Motivating employees is extremely crucial. As the leader of the pack, it is your responsibility to ensure each and every member of your team feels valued, driven and motivated.

After all, you cannot expect a bunch of disengaged and demotivated people to deliver results and grow your business, can you?

Here are 17 surefire tactics for motivating your employees and building a productive team:

1. Show your appreciation

In the whole race to achieve external business goals, leaders often forget to value their most important assets — their employees.

The least you can do to boost performance and morale is to appreciate your employees, recognize their efforts and give them credit when it is due.

Whether it’s sending a personalized note, recognizing achievements publicly during team huddles or even rewarding top performers at the end of every month, you will be surprised to see how these small acts of appreciation can go a long way.

2. Communicate effectively

Effective communication can do wonders in motivating employees. Who is a strong communicator? Someone who knows what they are talking about and are able to convey their message accurately.

Communication is a lot more than just language and talking. Factors such as eye contact, active listening, hand gestures and postures also say a lot about a person’s communication skills.

3. Be open to dialogue

Gone are the days when leading through fear and putting on the tough, distant leader act would work.

New age leadership is all about instilling trust by being accessible and encouraging discussions. Your team needs to feel comfortable speaking to you and you need to set the tone for such a camaraderie.

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In spite of having a busy schedule, you can still show you care through simple, effective acts.

For instance, having an open door policy, showing genuine interest while interacting with your employees or even greeting your team members helps breaking barriers and projects you as an accessible leader.

4. Provide constructive criticism

Giving negative feedback is always tricky — you don’t want to hurt feelings nor do you want the feedback to be taken lightly.

So, what do you do? The idea is to offer criticism such that it inspires change and delivers results.

Firstly, take criticism behind closed doors because nothing breaks self esteem the way calling out employees in public does.

Have a one-on-one discussion with the concerned person and make your feedback very specific. Be clear about your expectations and offer guidance on how they can improve.

Most importantly, give them the chance to explain their side of the story too instead of jumping to conclusions.

5. Conduct one-on-ones

Yes, you conduct weekly meetings with the team but how well do you know them on a personal level?

While you may think this isn’t an important practice to follow, it is one of the best ways to engage with your employees and identify what drives them.

Conduct a one-one-one session every month and use it to understand how your employees are doing and if they are facing any roadblocks.

More than reviewing performances, consider this as a relationship building tool to ensure you are aligned with your team and are working towards a shared, common goal.

6. Build training programs

In this ever-changing business landscape, it is important to ensure your employees are updated with the latest, relevant skills that can help boost productivity and performance.

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From imparting technical and soft skills to offering mentoring programs – investing in training and development significantly helps in motivating employees and keeps the learning going.

While conducting training programs, remember to keep them engaging and interactive. They need to ultimately drive value and reinforce learnings.

7. Offer growth opportunities

Every employee envisions a different career path for themselves and demotivation strikes the day they feel they have reached stagnation. As a leader, you need to first be aligned with their goals and offer ample growth opportunities that constantly keeps them engaged and motivated.

Growth opportunities go beyond just financial growth. While money is a huge driving factor, what makes most people tick is making progress in the company and going up the career ladder.

Being faced with new challenges and responsibilities lets them push the envelope and broaden their knowledge and skills.

8. Reward them

Go beyond verbal recognition and reward employees for their notable work. You can start an incentive program and reward top performers. This ensures increased productivity and brings out the best in them.

If you don’t have enough budgets for that, you can also reward top performers with movie tickets, a paid vacation or something as simple as giving them the option to work from home.

Rewarding employees promotes healthy competition and motivates them while meeting business goals.

9. Encourage team outings

Employee motivation also stems from how connected the team is. Invest time in team building because a team that works collaboratively is likely to deliver better results.

From bowling nights to hosting team dinners – team outings are a great way to get to know each other and bond. Assign someone from your team to be in charge of organizing these monthly outings and make sure you join them too!

10. Involve them

Involve your employees in decision making because when they are involved, they feel more valued and part of a larger cause.

Seek your team’s opinion and encourage healthy debates within the team. This boosts employee morale and challenges them to work harder as they know they are in a position to make an impact and will be taken seriously.

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11. Set meaningful goals

In the beginning of the financial year, make sure you sit down with each employee to set meaningful and realistic goals. The goal-setting conversation is an extremely crucial one and needs to be a two-way street.

Whether your employee feels burdened or doesn’t feel inspired enough by the assigned goals – this is the time to come to a consensus and assign goals derived from business objectives that foster individual development while keeping in mind their strengths and weaknesses.

12. Empower them

You cannot expect employees to be motivated for long if you micro manage the team and do all the talking.

Trust your employees and empower them to take decisions. Mistakes will happen but that is the only way they will learn.

Be open to discussions, delegate effectively, set your expectations and give your team the freedom to do it their way.

13. Deal with conflict

A conducive work environment is one wherein there is open communication and trust, but every once in a while, you do encounter people in the team who indulge in office politics and spread negativity.

How much ever fulfilled an employee feels with their work, gossiping co-workers are bound to ruin it for them. Workplace gossip if not tackled hampers productivity and soils working relations.

As a responsible leader, you need to maintain a conducive work environment and act as a mediator in such cases. Don’t be the leader who is locked up in his/her cabin and is unaware of what is brewing within the team.

14. Implement a flexible work culture

Flexible work cultures are a growing trend and are here to stay.

Whether it is offering flexible working hours or allowing employees to work from home once in a month – a flexible work culture promotes work-life balance and aids in employee satisfaction.

It shows that the management is sensitive to employees’ schedules and is thereby highly appreciated.

15. Host engaging activities

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and we cannot agree more! So, why not devote one day of the week to employee engagement activities?

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From hosting baking competitions to introducing wellness programs in the office – let your team have some fun beyond work. This keeps the environment engaging, light-hearted and interesting, giving them all the more reason to look forward to coming to work.

16. Maintain a positive work space

Your employees spend more than half their day at work and in order to keep them energized and motivated, it is important to maintain a positive and inspiring work space.

Have a recreation center where employees can unwind after a hard day’s work, offer free snacks and beverages and invest in an open office design that promotes socializing and conversations.

These are simple yet effective ways to create a space your employees will love coming to.

17. Avoid discrimination

Any kind of discrimination, be it due to age, gender, religion or race hugely impacts employee motivation and performance.

In order to avoid such cases, you must lay down rules against discrimination and take strict action against accused employees. Lead by example and make sure no one in the team is a victim of bias and discrimination.

The bottom line

Don’t underestimate the power of motivating employees. Understand that the more engaged and motivated they are, the better their performance will be.

It is also a good idea to send out a survey and get feedback from your employees on the company culture, work environment and their motivation levels.

This will help you be more aligned with their expectations and further improve your efforts in building a stronger, engaged team.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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