We analysed hundreds of thousands of interview reviews left on Glassdoor to reveal 9 questions that interviewers shouldn’t ask, but do. These questions may be asked innocently by the interviewer, but can still leave some interviewees feeling awkward, embarrassed or confused.
It’s tough to outright correct an interviewer or to refuse to answer — and that’s where tact comes in. Tactfully answering any interview question is your best weapon in remaining composed, calm and focused on what’s most important: evaluating if a company is really for you. The type of questions that are asked in an interview can be revealing of the company culture. Pay close attention to what is asked, what is discussed and how the interviewer conducts him or herself. Again, an interview is not only about a candidate being considered for a position, but it is also about a company being the right fit for you.
Knowing how to respond if you’re put on the spot can protect you and move the conversation forward. If you are asked any of these questions in an interview, follow our tips on how to respond.
Hint: the key is to pivot!
- Are you married?
- What does your husband do?
- Where does your wife work?
- Do you have any children?
- Are you planning to have children?
Your interviewer may well be making friendly conversation with these questions, however in the context of an interview setting any question should be treated as a formal part of the interview. Topics such as marriage and children are not appropriate for interviewers to bring up as it may bring in unconscious bias as to your ability to perform the necessary duties of the role.
If faced with one of these questions, you have a few options:
- Use visual cues in the interview room to help you pivot. If there is a photo of the interviewer and their spouse / child on display, turn the question back to the interviewer and ask about their situation.
- Use the topic of the question to pivot. Rather than answering the question, instead say that you would like to learn more about benefits the company offers in terms of flexible working for those employees with family-oriented commitments, for example.
- Controlling your voice so as not to appear defensive, politely explain that you’d rather not answer the question.
These are all very personal questions and, unless there are any specific workplace health and safety implications at play (for example, the requirement to operate heavy machinery might be impacted if you drink heavily in your personal time), you do not need to answer them.
If you are directly asked a personal preference question in your interview, politely acknowledge that you’re happy to answer the question but aren’t sure how it relates to the job. This puts the question back to the interviewer and gives them a chance to either explain the relevance or rethink their line of questioning.
Asking about uniform size is a very relevant question when you have been offered the job – and only if a uniform is required! It is not relevant during the interview process and there is no requirement for you to answer this direct question. You may be able to use this question to your advantage and fast-track to the interviewer’s intention to offer you the job. “I’d be happy to provide this information upon a formal job offer, however I wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing this before then. Could we discuss now whether I’m likely to be offered the job?”
If you think these questions are tricky, how about these 20 Toughest Interview Questions?!
Interview reviews were left by Glassdoor users between 27/11/2017 – 26/11/2019. Interview questions were selected at random and placed in no order of importance or difficulty.