Offensive interview questions

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A new survey by Development Dimensions International (DDI) and Monster.com asked job seekers and hiring managers to share the most inappropriate questions they’ve been asked during a job interview. DDI divided them into three categories, as below:

Crossing the Line … Illegal and Inappropriate

• “Would you join a church to get a job?”

• “Are you single? Why not?”

• “Why are you not yet married?”

Offensive and Outrageous

• “Would you be available from time to time to watch my children?”

• “Are you willing to further this interview over dinner and do you mind me bringing my daughter along?”

• “Would you be willing to stay overnight with a client if they request it?”

Being Thorough vs. Getting Too Personal: How Much is Too Much?

• “Do you intend to have children?”

• “Are you happy in your relationship?”

• “Is that your natural hair color?”

I gauged my reactions to each of these, and I can’t say I agree with the categorizations. It’s all about context, isn’t it? If I was being interviewed by another working mom and we really hit it off, and it was late in the day and she had to get her kid but was so interested in me she wanted to keep talking, how is that offensive and outrageous? As for “staying overnight with a client,” well, if I’m a home health aide, then that’s not out of line. As for the question about my intentions to have children, as far as I know that’s illegal. And if I wore my hair pink, I’d find it funny if an interviewer asked me if the color was natural.

So come on. Give me real oinkers, people. Surely you’ve been asked something truly crazy during an interview. Give us the context, too. I’ll start. When I interviewed at a magazine, an editor peered at me and inquired, “What are you?” Now, context: I’m mixed race, so it’s not insane that someone would wonder. But still. In a job interview? Again, illegal?

In any case, the real question is how the interviewee handles idiot queries. All the smart-ass ways I could respond flashed through my brain, but in the end I gave the guy a big smile and told him about my various ethnicities. That led to a friendly chat about Japan, where it turned out he’d visited several times. I got the job.

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