There are a number of situations that come up during job interviews that require a bit of finesse to navigate. Especially given the power dynamics of job interviews. You may feel awkward trying to address these situations with the interviewer, however, not addressing your concern can lead to making misinformed decisions. I recently published a couple of Awkward Interview Situations. Here are a couple more of those situations and how to address them.
You’ve had multiple interviews with a company with no end to the process in sight.
It’s increasingly common for employers to ask candidates to interview multiple times before they make a hiring decision. From the employer side of things, I’ll say that I think it’s a good trend, because hiring someone after a single one-hour conversation can be risky, especially with more senior jobs. But that should generally mean two or three meetings — not ten.
If you find yourself in a long interview process with no indication of when it will end, it’s entirely reasonable to say something like this:
“Can you tell me more about what steps remain in your process and what your likely timeline will be for making a decision?”
“I’m very interested in this position, but it’s becoming harder for me to take time off work for additional meetings. Would it be possible for us to consolidate some of the remaining steps?”
Your interviewer asks about your religion, ethnicity, plans for children, or other inappropriate topics.
Contrary to widespread belief, there’s no federal law that makes it illegal for an interviewer to ask you about your religion, ethnicity, marital status, number of children, or plans for kids. However, it’s illegal for an employer to make a hiring decision based on your answers to these questions, and so therefore smart employers don’t ask them. And understandably, encountering these questions makes job seekers very nervous — since it raises the specter that the interviewer might discriminate against you in some illegal way.
But that message hasn’t reached everyone, and you may encounter an interviewer who asks one of these questions anyway. Sometimes even interviewers who know better do it as part of making small talk (not thinking about how in the context of an interview it might bother you).
So, what do you do if you encounter a question like this in an interview?
I recommend a First, Second and Third approach.
First inappropriate question – If it truly seems like the question is being asked as part of making small talk — that your interviewer is just trying to be friendly and build rapport — you’ll usually get a better outcome by answering in that spirit.
Second inappropriate question – But if you get the sense that the interviewer is, say, asking whether you’re married out of concern that you’ll want time off soon to have babies, or is asking which church you go to because she doesn’t want to hire any church-avoiding heathens, that’s a different situation. In that case, here are some options:
Speak to what you think the interviewer’s concern really is. For example, if you think an interviewer is concerned that having kids means that you won’t be at work reliably, say this: “There’s nothing in my personal life that would interfere with my ability to work the hours needed and make the job a top priority.”
Third inappropriate question – At this point the interviewer has crossed the line, this should be a red flag. You might say this: “I’m not sure how this question relates to the job, can you help me understand why you asked?”
Unfortunately, we can’t legislate away boorishness and all forms of prejudice. But there are effective ways to respond to it when it occurs. By responding intelligently, you maintain your own dignity and maximize the possibility of getting the job of your dreams.
Rick Christensen: Director, Career Transition Practice
Rick has been a career consultant for over 25 years, serving a very broad-based and diverse clientele. His specialties include effective group facilitation, one-on-one coaching and consultation at all levels including senior executives.
Rick’s passion is coaching individuals through career transitions, developing career management strategies and in identifying and sharpening competencies to open doors to new opportunities. His efforts have assisted thousands of individuals achieve their full potential.