Preparation is Key.

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Two days ago, I attended an interview with an agency for an executive role. The interview would have gone well if it wasn’t for the interviewer’s persistent intrusion into my private life. The interviewer did not just ask about my experience, previous, and current work employment; the person even claimed it was to the “best interests” of the company that the candidate should divulge some personal information as well! Honestly, it made me feel uncomfortable.

Yes, potential employers are wary about hiring the wrong person, but there is a boundary that should not be breached either. As a job seeker, it is vital to not only prepare for the questions that recruiters would ask you, but you should also be ready to dodge questions that do not warrant an answer.

I love the way the police officers do it, though, when they arrest a suspect: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say may be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning now or in the future.” In this case, you have the right to refuse to answer the question, as anything you say may be used against you during your term of employment.

Here are the six (6) job interview questions that a candidate should not have to answer:

Questions about Your Age

The person, whom I had the interview with, brought up the issue about candidates who are above 25 years rarely want to include their age in their resumes, compared to fresh graduates who would not hesitate putting their age in theirs. Now look here, you actually don’t have to answer any questions about your age other than the fact that you are over the age of 18, and are, therefore, allowed to apply for a job without your parents’ consent. You are also not required to submit a photo ID or disclose your date of birth during the interview process. Having said that, you should be conscious of how you respond as you would not want to draw unnecessary attention to yourself.

Questions about Your Gender

Whether you are a girl masquerading as a boy, or vice versa, employers are not allowed to ask gender-related questions. This will imply that employers will make a decision based on the candidate’s answers. If employers want to make sure that you will be committed to the job, then the type of questions that they can ask should be along the lines of whether you have any responsibilities that may prevent you from adhering to the work schedule or how many times were you late or absent in your previous employment, and what were the circumstances. These questions are legal and should be able to ease the employer’s concerns about the candidate’s attendance and commitment to the job.

Questions about Your Marital Status

I never knew that information about my marital status and whether I plan to have children or not were off-limits to employers. As in, I actually had the rights to refuse to answer the questions! It is understandable if the interviewer is only trying to be friendly and break the ice but in these situations, you are allowed to redirect the question back to the interviewer, and avoid turning the entire session into a nightmare. It is also understandable if the interviewer is concerned whether your unforeseeable pregnancy would bring commitment concerns to your job. But these questions would only imply that the employer is hesitant to hire a pregnant or would-be pregnant woman, and this is discriminatory. Questions about your marital status and plans to have children are not job-related.

Questions about Your Religious Beliefs

Topics on religion and spirituality are often a no-go zone as it can turn into a prickly situation and cause a ruckus. Be careful about answering them as well, if you were asked these questions. Which religious parties you are affiliated with and what religious holidays you observe are also off-limits during an interview. So, if the interviewer brings it up, try to figure out what they are conerned with and address those concerns. Chances are, they are worried that you won’t be able to commit to work during those religious periods.

Questions about Your Disability Status

It is unlawful to ask any questions that refer to a candidate’s disability or health status during an interview. Yes, of course the employer will want to know if you are fit for the job but even so, questions such as “Are you disabled?” or “Have you ever suffered from a disability?” are illegal and deemed offensive to candidates. This scenario may apply more to U.S. citizens as they have the Act (Americans With Disabilities Act) that protects them and prohibits discrimination against candidates or employees with a disability. Malaysia is still a young and developing country, but I hope that one day, employers will accept all manners of employees with open arms. If an employer must ask such a question, let’s hope that it will be a more general concern than a sniper’s aim in the balls.

Questions about Your Transport to Work

How you get to work should never be an employer’s concern. It is the concern and the responsibility of the employee. The employee should be thinking of ways to be on time. Or if you have family living within the area of your new workplace, there is nothing wrong with stating that you have an established, local support system. However, the employer can bring up the question of the job’s possible requirement of relocation or local/international travel. If so, then you can voice out your opinion on whether you can fulfill that requirement or not. Be honest and tactful, but not rude and direct. Mince your words a little. We want the employer to hire us, not fire us before we even got hired.


Blogger’s Advice

Arm yourselves with knowledge. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Employees of the Gen-Y age have been unfairly labelled as ‘soft‘, ‘emotional‘, and ‘easily bruised‘. While these may be what we are, it doesn’t mean that we cannot or are not allowed to have equal employment opportunities.

While some questions may not apply to Malaysians where employers can ask anything they want, we should still be aware of  our rights as an employee. We should not let the employers bully us, and nitpick or question our work ethics. I am of the Gen-Y age too, and I believe we can do what the previous generations have done. Of course, this doesn’t mean we start being rude to them. We just need to know how to handle these situations so that you don’t end the interview in prison.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Pamela says:

    This is really good advice. I cant imagine how many unsuspecting newcomers to Canada provide this information without even questioning it. Even young and eager born and raised Canadians might fall for some of these questions. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sheu Quen says:

      Why, thank you, Pamela! You guys are lucky to have rules in place to protect your employees. This doesn’t really apply to Asian employers though, specifically in Malaysia (I’m not sure about other Asian countries), where employers will ask anything and we are required to answer them. But after doing some research on my own, I still feel as though these questions really are too personal to be asked in a job interview.


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