Interviewing for a new job can be nerve-wracking, no matter how experienced you are. Anyone who says they don’t suffer from at least a few butterflies is either incredibly confident or a liar.
No matter how hard you prepare, there will probably be some questions that are difficult to answer, and that’s okay. However, sometimes we are asked questions in an interview that we are not comfortable with, and you’re completely right to feel this way.
You should remember that although you’re the one being asked the questions, it’s just as important for you to get a good impression of the interviewer. There are actually a few things you don’t actually have to answer, and anyone performing an interview should know this, but some employers are craftier than others.
If you’re unsure, any personal information is usually off limits, unless it is specifically relevant to the job you are applying for. If you feel uncomfortable answering something, don’t be afraid to say so. Any employer that isn’t okay with this probably isn’t worth working for anyway.
For clarification, here’s a list of red flag questions interviewers really shouldn’t be asking you, and why.
1. Are you married?
According to the government’s website, employers cannot discriminate against anyone because of their “protected characteristics.” This includes whether you are are married, single or in a civil partnership. You have no reason to disclose this information. The interviewer might be asking innocently, but others may be trying to discriminate because they are trying to determine your sexual orientation. These personal details have no bearing on your ability to do the job, so recruitment company Reed’s website recommends you answer with: “I like to keep my personal and professional life separate.”
What they can ask: “Are there any current commitments you can think of which could affect your ability to do this job?”
2. How old are you?
It is also illegal to discriminate against someone because of their age. Of course, you need to be over 18 years old to sell certain products like alcohol and tobacco, so you might have to state that you’re old enough. However, any prodding further on the issue could be seen as discrimination. Be careful if the hiring manager asks for your date of birth for their records, because they could be subtly trying to find out your age. Craftier employers might ask how long you want to work before retirement, but this also isn’t allowed.
What they can ask: “Are you over 18?”
4. Do you have / do you want children?
It is illegal to discriminate against someone if they have children, are pregnant, or are planning to start a family. Some employers might ask you how old you are to try and work out whether you’re likely to start having children. Pretty much all questions about your personal life aren’t relevant to the role, and you don’t have to answer them.