Interviewer: I see that you have moved here from North Carolina, what brought you to Savannah?
Candidate: My spouse is in the Army and we received PCS orders.
Suggested Response: I had the opportunity to move with my family due to my spouses’ career as an engineer. We really enjoy Savannah so far and are hoping to plant some roots.
Is this question illegal? No, but it can add pressure during an interview, especially for military spouses. The issue with this candidates’ response is that she is telling them that she may not be a long-term employee and that she may be leaving within the next few years. So, what should you say? Keep it simple, accurate, and closed-ended.
The candidates’ statement offers extra information that the interviewer didn’t ask for, but is now thinking about, whereas the suggested response simplifies the answer, leaving less room for additional questions on the topic. While this statement does not address military affiliation or the possibility of relocations in the future, it also does not lie about anything, it simply deflects. By the time my husband and I married he had only been at 2 duty stations while I, as a civilian, had moved to 5 different states. Relocation is not solely a military thing; civilians do it all the time, they just don’t accentuate it.
Interviewer: I see that you have your master’s degree. This position is for an entry-level assistant. What made you apply for this position?.
Candidate: I have been looking for a job for a while and this one seemed to fit my interests.
Suggested Response: While I do have my master’s degree, I want to change career fields. I understand that with doing that I am going to have to start with an entry-level position and prove myself. OR I have been out of the industry for an extended period of time and am ready to get back into it. I understand that due to industry changes I will have to begin as entry-level to regain the experience necessary to make an impact.
This is not an illegal question, it is an uncomfortable question. The interviewer may or may not come right out and say that you look overqualified. The biggest thing when answering this question is that you do not make them think that you believe you are settling, just so you can work. A “this job is beneath me” attitude will get you nowhere, and no job. The issue with this candidates’ response is that she is insinuating that she has been out of work for a while and could be settling or even desperate for a job. Even if you are in dire need of a job, you want the interviewer to see you as confident and interested in the position itself, not just the paycheck.
Interviewer: Are you a US Citizen?
Suggested Response: I am legally authorized to work in the US.
This is an illegal question. An employer or potential employer can ask If you are authorized to work in the US, but they cannot ask if you are a citizen. They are also able to ask you if you are able to speak, read, and write English and about any other languages spoke IF it pertains to the job. The issue with this candidates’ response is that she doesn’t clarify that she can legally work in the US. Employers can get into big trouble if they employ individuals who are not authorized to work in the US. Many applications will ask if you are legally authorized to work in the US and if you can prove that upon hire. This is legal and acceptable.
Interviewer: Do you own your home?
Candidate: I currently live with my in-laws.
Suggested Response: I’m not sure how this relates to the position, can you clarify?
Interviewer: Do you have any children or plan to have children?
Candidate: We haven’t decided if we want to have children yet.
Suggested Response: I am very confident that my work performance would not be affected whether or not I decide to have children.
These two questions are illegal. An employer has no right to ask you about your credit in any way or about your family status. The issue with the candidates’ response is that she leaves room for the interviewer to make an assumption on her financial status or family status. The suggested response to the second question can be molded to fit most illegal questions if asked. I am very confident that my work performance would not be affected by my age/spouses’ career etc.
Handling Yourself like a Pro
There is a fine line between making small talk, asking about who you are and what you have done in the past, and asking inappropriate questions. The hardest part can be knowing how to handle the question when you really want the job. Answer incorrectly or not at all and you may not get the job. Depending on the question, if asked, you may not want to work for someone who places value in where someone was born or if they are male/female, black/white etc… It is important to note that not every interview, or even the majority of interviews will ask these types of questions, but in case you are faced with these types of questions remember the following.
- Do your Research- Know the company and the mission they are on. Many company websites give a brief description of what they stand for and who they are as a company. Some companies even have policies on their website.
- Be Confident in Who You Are- Know who you are, what you have accomplished and the goals you have set for yourself. A confident person, despite uncomfortable questions, can make a lasting impression on an interviewer.
- Answer with Poise- If you are faced with an uncomfortable question, or even a borderline illegal question, make sure that your response is both graceful and professional. Don’t allow a question to put you in a bad light by reacting poorly to it.
- Take a Breath- If you don’t know how to answer a question take a breath and ask them to repeat the question or to clarify.
Written by: Phylicia Vallier, Training Specialist