In the job application and interview process, there are questions employers aren't allowed to ask job seekers.
But a successful interview may mean knowing how to turn those moments around.
Lisa Hunt, human resources director at Ruttger's Bay Lake Lodge, said it's easy for interviewers to stray into forbidden territory. Hunt has worked in human resources consulting for businesses in the area.
Federal and state laws focus on areas of potential discrimination. Federal laws prohibit discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, disability. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at www.eeoc.gov enforces federal laws prohibiting job discrimination.
In job applications and interviews, Hunt said prospective employers should avoid personal questions on family history, including a person's marital status or if they have children. Employers may ask if an applicant is older than 18, as there are laws specifically protecting minors. Employers may go over the job descriptions and ask an applicant if they can meet the physical job requirements.
"You can't ask someone to submit a photo or require people to give a description of themselves in the job application stage," Hunt said.
Employers may ask about criminal convictions. Hunt said she notes on the job application that answering yes to a conviction will not necessarily mean elimination, but it will be something they'll explore.
"It's interesting in my experience how often people will volunteer information," Hunt said. For interviewers, she suggests steering the applicant back to the job specifics so no one can say later the personal information was used against the applicant.
If a job applicant is asked a forbidden question, it can lead to an uncomfortable moment.
"I know how awkward it is because you want the job," Hunt said.
Hunt said it's best to deal with those questions in a light tone and with a sense of humor. Hunt, who said she's been asked illegal questions when interviewing herself, advises throwing a question back to the interviewer.
If the prospective employer asks about dependent children and child care arrangements, the real motive may be finding out if the person is going to show up on time every day.
Hunt advises the job applicant to ask the interviewer if the reason behind the question is reliability and then offering to talk about work history and attendance, turning the outcome into a positive moment.
"Try to understand what is the meaning in the question and answer it that way," Hunt said, noting the result is likely to make the interviewer nod in appreciation.
Some companies may ask about an applicant's credit history. Hunt said companies involved in banking, financial investment or those handling cash or credit cards may ask for that background as part of a screening process.
"It's a likely question in certain fields," Hunt said.
While employers should avoid personal questions, Hunt said there are questions designed to explore interpersonal skills. A job seeker may be asked to give an example of how a disagreement with a co-worker was resolved. Hunt said applicants should have examples and she suggests practicing with friends and family.
If an illegal question is asked, Hunt said job applicants are best served by staying tactful, not getting angry and asking the interviewer to clarify what they are asking.
"If someone is able to take initiative in an interview and ask the question back, then I know I'm dealing with someone who is thoughtful, isn't going to overreact and is seeking clarification and those are all good things in an employee," Hunt said.
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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