One employer explains the dilemma of illegal job interview questions and how to respond when it happens to you.
This is a guest post by Paula R. Stern. If you'd also like to guest post here on JobMob, follow these guest post guidelines.
A Digital Eve Israel member asked:
Is it legal in Israel for prospective employers or recruiters to ask, during the interview process:
- What is your birth date?
- Where were you born?
- Are you married?
- Do you have any children?
The only question that might not be illegal of your list would be “where were you born?”
That doesn't change anything.
One of our students, a lovely, young, religious woman was asked, “Do you have a problem working with men?” As an older, more seasoned veteran of Israel, I would probably have turned around and said something sarcastic, she simply answered in the negative.
My first job was given to me by an amazing woman who understood the tremendous value of hiring working mothers. Yes, you get less hours per day from them but what glorious hours those are!
I have to admit, as an employer, that questions have crossed my mind and I've avoided asking them on a number of occasions – on one, I couldn't stop myself.
A young mother who had 4 children under the age of four applied for a job as office manager, and I honestly hesitated. She seemed qualified but I really wanted to know if, in our small business, I was going to be spending 3 months a year without a vital position being filled.
I knew it was wrong, but I asked… and she told me she was most definitely on a break (from having kids).
I hired her.
The unfortunate reality
It's wrong – it's done all the time. So, the best thing is to anticipate it (the question) and handle it easily.
You have several options – you can say anything like:
- “I do/don't plan”
- “I'm such and such an age”
- “I knew you'd ask that and while I have nothing to hide, I honestly don't see how that information impacts on this job.”
The one answer I really think you should avoid is the one that says, “you know, in America…”
My personal feeling is that whatever answer you give, there's an argument that makes you the best (or the worst) person for the job.
That young woman wasn't hired by that company – they thought her too young and not someone who would make a serious commitment (of course, the funny part was that this was only for a temporary position anyway, so really, who cares) but we placed her at another company a month later. She's been there closing on two years, I believe – and the company feels honored to have her. She's taken over from the documentation manager who left; she's made her place and yes, she had a baby and negotiated to work 2 days a week at home.
About the author
Paula R. Stern is CEO of WritePoint Ltd., a leading technical writing company in Israel. Her website is: www.writepoint.com and you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She maintains a professional blog at www.writepoint.com/blog and a personal one at www.israelisoldiersmother.blogspot.com.
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