Sneaky but Illegal Interview Questions and How to Respond

Interviews have become more than a meeting between a hopeful employee and prospective employer to establish how suitably skilled the candidate is for the job. With the emphasis on it being an ‘employers market’, standard interview questions have become less popular, and more creative and somewhat illegal questions have been adopted as a form of pre-screening candidates. The traditional interview has now turned into a form of subtle interrogation!

According to Esther Lynch, Legislation and Legal Affairs Officer for Irish Congress Trade Unions, the increasingly adopted invasive pre-screening techniques used by employers are unjust and 'constitute an invasion of job seekers’ privacy’, and should be prohibited.

With trade unions and employment service organisations trying to stamp out illegal interview questions, recruiters are taking to new, sneakier methods, of getting answers to their inappropriate and irrelevant  questions!

Here are some of the most common questions asked to candidates to allow recruiters to find out the information they need – even if it is to hire based on discrimination.

#1 Is your surname (e.g) Greek?

This is an inadvertent way of finding out your nationality, your birthplace and in some cases, your religious views. If you are from a certain region where one particular religion is dominant, then the interviewer is likely to second-guess that you are also practicing this religion.

#2 Is that your maiden name?

This question will only be applicable if you are female, however it is nonetheless a question that is asked by many recruiters in an effort to find out if the candidate is married or not. Married women may in some cases prioritise their home life over their career and so some employers actively seek to find this information out before hiring someone.

#3 That’s a lovely accent you have, where is it from?

Another route taken by recruiters to establish where you are originally from is asking about the origin of your accent. Although your birthplace, residence, or ancestry may be irrelevant to whether you can perform the job properly, a recruiter may place great importance on where you are from.

#4 Will you require time off work for any religious holidays?

This is an indirect way of asking what your religion is and whether it will affect your work at the company. Many companies commit to being non-discriminative in their hiring processes, but asking a question like this is considered to be unacceptable by industry standards.

#5 Are you planning on having children?

Every woman has the right to start a family and to receive the appropriate maternity allowance from a company. However, from the company’s perspective, they would rather hire someone who has no plans, or no immediate plans of getting pregnant. Asking what your intentions are with regards to starting a family will help them to find out whether you are career orientated or family focused.

How to answer sneak by illegal interview questions...

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As it is a competitive marketplace, you may find that many of your competitors are willing to answer these types of questions during the interview in a bid to secure the job. In this instance, if you are happy to provide responses to the abovementioned questions, you should be honest and be clear that your responses in no way affect your ability to perform your job to the best of your ability.

If you are uncomfortable with any of the questions and would prefer not to answer them, then you can simply state in a polite and diplomatic manner that you do not feel that the question is relevant to your capabilities as a prospective employee and would rather not answer the question.





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