3 Things Your Potential Employer Wants to Know during the Interview—but Probably Will not Ask
Like with most job interviews, the questions asked are designed to find out more about the candidate for the position and to ultimately evaluate if they will be the right fit for the company. These typically include inquiries regarding education, experience, salary requirements, and so on… However, many of the questions employers really want to know the answers to, they cannot, or rather, probably will not, ask—not necessarily because it would be impolite or uncomfortable, but because in some cases it could place the company in legal jeopardy.
Questions most often avoided include those concerning race, religion, nationality, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital/family status etc.… basically, anything that could potentially violate state/federal discrimination laws. Of course, just because it may be legally risky for them to ask, that does not mean it is illegal for you to tell. In fact, there are many times when divulging this sensitive information could positively impact your chances of getting hired (though technically, this could also qualify as discriminatory behavior). Regardless, here are some of the top questions employers really want answered but probably will not ask.
1. How old are you?
It stands to reason that an employer would have an interest in knowing the age of a potential employee. After all, they are making an investment with each new hire. Could you be with the company long enough to retire with your gold watch, or will you be leaving the workforce in just a few short years? Well, unless it is a legal requirement for a particular position, many employers will refrain from asking about your age because it could be used against them in the event of litigation for discrimination. While The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) only applies to workers over the age of 40, most employers will still steer clear of asking your age outright, no matter how young/old you might appear.
That said, some will attempt to suss out this info by asking seemingly innocuous questions designed to reveal your approximate age. “What year did you graduate high school/college?” or, “How long have you been working?” Most, however, will typically stick to questions that are not considered discriminatory—” Are you over the age of 18?” or “How many years of experience do you have in this particular field?”
2. What is your marital/family status?
Are you married? Do you have kids? Do you plan to have children? Do you plan to continue to work after having children? These questions might seem harmless or even like friendly get-to-know-you type inquiries, but because of their discriminatory nature, potential employers, even though they want to know, probably will not be asking at your interview. Employers might be tempted to ask these types of questions in order to determine how focused you are on your career and how committed you will be to your job. They may also wish to discern your sexual orientation or even gender identity with these queries but making an adverse hiring decision based on your responses would be illegal.
3. Do you have a disability/medical condition?
This line of questioning is unique in that it is actually illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to even inquire about a job candidate’s potential disability or to require a medical exam unless a conditional job offer has already been extended. However, in some cases, during the pre-employment phase, where there is an obvious disability or when information has been volunteered, an employer may inquire about any accommodations which may be needed in the workplace or in order to perform job-specific tasks.
Employers often want to know this information, not only to make sure you are able to perform the duties the position requires, but also to know if you will be likely to miss work for extended periods of time for medical reasons. Plus, they want to assess if any accommodations needed would place an undue burden on the company.
At the end of the day, the choice to divulge the answers to these questions is entirely up to you. Offering up this info unsolicited could even give you an edge over another candidate for the job. However, it is never ok for an employer to discriminate against you based on any of these factors. While we are not attorneys or providing legal advice, if you believe you have been the victim of discrimination, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) can help you file claim or provide other resources to help remedy the situation.