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Covid-19 Has Employers Asking Illegal Interview Questions. Here Is What To Say

Illegal Interview Questions

Covid-19 Has Employers Asking Illegal Interview Questions. Here Is What To Say

In response to the COVID pandemic, employers have had to change their hiring practices. First, they moved interviews online. Next, many added to the number of interviews you need to go through to get a job offer. Lately, I have been hearing from job hunters that something else is happening too.

Employers are not concerned with breaking the law because some are now asking illegal questions. It could be that those employers may be ignorant and do not realize that a few of their inquiries aren’t legal. Yet in today’s world, I have to say that most employers do know that it is against the law to discriminate against an individual because of age(40 or older), religion, race, nationality, gender, disability, or skin color.

Covid-19 Has Employers Asking Illegal Interview Questions. Here Is What To Say

Employers are being rather specific when they break the law. They are asking two very distinct types of questions: one about age, the other about children.

The legal field should know better. Debbie, 43, is an attorney who said hiring law partners inquired about her age and how many children she had. She wrote to say, “Potential bosses are grilling me because I’m a working mother and partners will not hire you if you do not answer these questions. Can you help me know what to say that won’t take me out of the running for the job?”

Covid-19 Has Employers Asking Illegal Interview Questions. Here Is What To Say

Men are being asked questions about children too. Ken, a 55-year-old Sales Manager, has been interviewing for a new role. He said, “Employers are very concerned to know if I’m married, if my wife works, how many kids I have, and who is handling the teaching since COVID has them learning remotely at home. I was caught off guard by these questions. The exec asking me gave me the distinct impression that whether I’d be considered for the job was based on my answers.”

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I have been helping a lot of New College grads who are struggling to land their first professional job. Several have said that they have been asked their age.

So how do you answer those tough, illegal questions? Before you answer, think about this critical consideration—do you want this job? The response you make is based on whether you want the position. You may make a principled stand and say, “That’s an illegal question, and I choose not to answer it,” but in most cases, you’d never be hired. You don’t want to offend or confront the interviewer.

Why are they asking you these questions in the first place? Hiring a wrong person is very expensive, and because of COVID, employers are trying to watch costs. They admit that they are frustrated because there is some personal stuff that they want to know about you. This pandemic had thrown them a curveball, and so they think they’d better find out.  My advice is if you are asked something illegal, and you want the job, answer it. Here is my recommendation for handling these tricky situations.

Covid-19 Has Employers Asking Illegal Interview Questions. Here Is What To Say

“How many kids do you have, and what are their ages?”

Today any working parent should expect it. Employers want reassurance that your top priority at work is work. They have had parents who did not deal very well with the school kids being sent home to learn remotely. Briefly state how you intend to be reliable and get the job done. Expect that the employer will grill your references and even try to reach your current boss to verify this claim. If you have a perfect solution like this mother, keep it short: “I have three boys, ages eleven, nine, and seven.

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We have hired a nanny to help with childcare and oversee the home classroom.” Another option is, “My parents live near us, and they come to my home each day to watch the children so I can work. Since COVID started, I’ve been working remotely fulltime.” Another option, “My spouse doesn’t work at this time, and she/he is handling the childcare and schooling.” By now, you have had to come up with a livable solution, so keep the answer honest and brief.

Covid-19 Has Employers Asking Illegal Interview Questions. Here Is What To Say

“Are you financially responsible for any dependents?”

This approach is looking to learn about whether you have children, are a single parent, or have an elderly parent you are caring for. The employer is concerned about your reliability, if you would ever return to the office before a vaccine is found, and the ability to stay focused on the job. Provide a concise answer if you do have children or parents you care for.

You do not want them to ask any follow-up questions, so be brief but do answer the question to reassure them.  You might say, “Yes, it was a bit hairy in the beginning. I think everyone got caught off guard. Within a month, I moved things around at home and now have my own workspace that I use as my office. I also put some solid daycare in place that allowed me to be able to focus on my job completely.” Do not lie. Expect this fact to be checked out with your references.

Covid-19 Has Employers Asking Illegal Interview Questions. Here Is What To Say

“Who’s going to care for your kids while you’re at work?”

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Employers have all seen kids running through Zoom calls, screaming in the background, and distracting the parent. They usually worry because another employee caused problems due to family demands. Most employers want reassurance that you will be dependable, attentive, and productive. Remove any reservations he may have by answering: “My sister-in-law lives a block away. I hired her to watch the children and help them with school. They go to her house in the morning, and I pick them up after work. So, my home is quiet, and I can work overtime if needed.”

Covid-19 Has Employers Asking Illegal Interview Questions. Here Is What To Say

“How old are you?”

The employer is worried that you are too young, thus inexperienced, not reliable, and will require too much training, or too old, wondering if you have lost the drive and are only looking for a paycheck. One client in his early fifties said almost every interviewer asked him if he still had the “fire in his belly,” as they were put off by his white, thinning hair. I advised him to answer but leave off his age, and begin by mentioning his strong track record, his ability to motivate his team members, and how well he handled clients. Also, he said he had recently implemented a new process once COVID hit that saved the company a significant amount of money.

In other words, he showed that he’s innovative, has creative ideas, and still has some drive left. Another client, age twenty-four, said, “I’m in my mid-twenties. I have solid planning and organizational skills, and I am a swift learner and willing to do whatever is needed. My computer experience in Word and Excel is at the expert level, which allows me to be highly productive and complete complex reports quickly. I have no obligations at home, so I can work late if you need me to. I have had some remote work excellent at my last job, and I was highly productive, which my employer will verify.”

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