Woman with a very confused expresion on her face

When you walk into an interview, you know what to expect questions wise. Most of the questions are pretty standard, and are meant to provide your interviewer with all the information they need to place you in your next job. However, occasionally you will find yourself in a situation where you are asked questions that are out of bounds or can make you very uncomfortable.

There are some things you should never be asked in an interview. Ideally, we recommend switching topics and avoiding any sort of confrontation; after all, we know you want this person could be your future employer.

But in extreme situations, when forced to give an answer, knowing how to handle these questions in advance will help you be prepared if they ever come up.

What is your current salary?

If you are comfortable giving that information, please go ahead, but it really is no one’s business. Outline what salary range you are looking for in your next role. This is valid information for a prospective employer to have. Beyond that, what you are earning now has no bearing on the salary you are looking for in your next move – regardless of you looking at an increase or decrease.

How to answer

Should you be pushed to give an answer to this question, we always recommend gently reminding your interviewer that they wouldn’t tell you what they are paying current employees as payroll information is private – and your salary details are private too.

Have you ever been dismissed from a job?

Besides this question being a defamation landmine, if you have been dismissed from a role before it is once again no one’s business. The only time we can see this coming up is if a company has insider information on what happened in your previous role. Should they have that insider information, they will no doubt have most, to all, of the details.

How to answer

Explain to the interviewer that each position you have had has provided you with an opportunity to learn and grow in your field. Express your reasons for looking for a new position, and what you are looking for in your next role, to ensure the interviewer is focussing on what will be the best fit for you in the future.

How’s your financial situation?

Well that got personal quickly. Your interviewer is not your Mortgage Broker. Your financial situation is of no one’s concern. This information has no bearing on whether you will be able to do the job well or not. It is a sneaky way of gauging your job desperation so that they can low ball your salary.

How to answer

Try asking the interviewer “How does my financial situation have a bearing on my ability to do this job” in a non-confrontational quizzical tone of voice. This redirects the uncomfortableness of their question right back at them. There is no good way for them to answer your question without making it very clear their real intentions behind the question.

What kind of pay increases have you received in your current role?

It always seems that this type of question is helping a company search for employees that will be happy working for years without ever getting an increase in their salary. There is a general “standard” of increase in most countries that everyone knows about. To ask for such specific details seems unnecessary.

How to answer

Be deliberately general. Let them know that in your last role, reviews were done annually (or however they were done) and that pay increases happened accordingly. You do not need to go into any of the details. If pushed, let the interview know that you are not sure how your pay increase details have relevance to the role you are interviewing for.

How badly do you need a job?

Unless you are independently wealthy, everyone needs a job to pay their bills and feed their families. Last time we checked, banks weren’t randomly distributing cash.  The irrelevance of this question is incredibly apparent. No matter how desperate you really are, don’t fall into the trap they have set with this question.

How to answer

Keep it clear and simple with no room for interpretations. Let your interviewer know that “Like yourself, I also need a job to pay my bills. But I am also making sure that I am only interviewing for jobs I am truly interested in, as I am looking to be somewhere long term.”

How old are you? or How soon are you planning to retire?

Asking either of these questions is a huge Human Rights blunder. There is really no excuse for either being asked. Unless the interviewer has been living in a cave since the 1920’s, they should know better. Should you have your full work history or graduation date on your resume, it is pretty easy to work out someone’s age. Bear in mind that in most countries people work until 65yrs old, on average, and often they choose to stay employed even longer than that. Your age has no relevance on your ability to do a job.

How to answer

If anyone asks you this question, they are looking for your employment “shelf-life” with them. What they don’t consider is that as you get further in your career, you generally start looking for stability and longevity in your roles. Remind them of exactly that.

Are you married? or Are you planning to have kids?

As with the above, there is so many things wrong with these questions that it is hard to know where to start. Your personal life is separate to your professional life, and an interview should be treated as such.

How to answer

Simply ask your interviewer “How does my personal situation have a bearing on my ability to do this job” and leave it for them to try and explain. We bet they can’t.

 

No matter what out of bounds questions get thrown your way during an interview, feel confident in your abilities to know when someone has crossed the line. Most of these questions get asked in cases of incredibly out-of-date hiring practises, rather than malicious intent. Take a deep breathe if you feel your frustration grow and revert to the gold standard of “I am not sure what my (insert question here) has to do with my ability to do this job”.

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