Saturday, January 12, 2013

How to React When Interview Questions Become Too Personal: Working Smarter

By guest writer Zak Kardachi

Some questions in interviews can strike at aspects of our lives that we may not be willing to reveal for any number of reasons. However, when in an interview the aim is to impress and appear cooperative and so people often feel as if they have to answer such questions, regardless of how inappropriate they may seem at the time. What we’re looking at today is how to react if an interview becomes too personal and the best ways of dealing with these kinds of questions.

A common question women face relates to their plans for pregnancy in the future. This can be a tricky one, as some employers will be upfront and direct in asking it while others will ask in a subtle way. It is important to first determine the employer’s aim for each question; are they asking because they are concerned that you will take time off, or are they simply making small talk? If they are direct in their questioning then this should be obvious. The idea is not to overreact to a question that was intended as an innocent way of getting to know you rather than anything overly personal.

While it’s important to note that questions relating to age, marriage, pregnancy, race or religion are banned under anti-discrimination laws, most employers will not cite answers to these questions as reasons behind an unsuccessful job application. Most likely, more generic reasons will be given such as not being the ‘right fit’. That being the case, you’re still under no obligation to answer such questions and should not feel pressured into doing so.

The relationship you would like to keep with the potential employer dictates which direction you should take when answering the question. You may think that if the employer is asking such questions then perhaps they are not someone who you would like to work for, and thus don’t mind giving an answer that would jeopardise your chances of getting the job. However, there are some tactful ways to answer personal questions regarding pregnancy, age or life commitments without burning bridges.

We mentioned earlier that some questions are simply innocent ways of making small talk, and shouldn’t cause offense or be met with hostility. Some questions, however, are asked to determine highly personal things that you are not obliged to divulge. Before you answer any questions of this nature, take a moment to consider what they person is actually asking. Try engaging the interviewer and their question and respond by asking a question in return. For example, if the interviewer asks a question about pregnancy, you could respond by asking ‘Are you enquiring about my commitment to this role?’ or something similar, giving you an opportunity to give a positive answer and pushing the question away from something inappropriately personal. If the interviewer still pursues the personal line of questioning then a more direct answer may be required. It is still important to remain assertive as you never know when you might have contact with this employer in the future.

While you may feel that the job you are interviewing for is ideal or your dream job, if these sorts of questions are being asked in an interview then it’s probably not a good sign and you may be better off looking elsewhere. Use your best judgment, but remember your rights and obligations at all times while remaining polite and personable.

About the author: Zak Kardachi lives, works and has studied in Melbourne and has a great knowledge of the professional and academic climate around this great city. For more articles from Zak please visit the blog on

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