When you are applying for a job, you might unexpectedly find yourself in a vulnerable position. Not all interviewers have the same ethical standards, unfortunately, and getting hit on during a job interview can happen.
What should you do? How should you handle the situation? You are entitled to legal protection from inappropriate behavior, even in a job interview. The same protections that cover employees apply to applicants for employment.
Interview Questions Employers Should Not Ask
Not only are there certain questions that should not be asked during a job interview, but it is not appropriate for an interviewer to violate your personal space, or to imply that your job prospects will be impacted by your response to a request for intimacy.
How to Handle Inappropriate Questions
The best response to inappropriate questions depends on the nature and severity of the interviewer's transgressions. In the case where you are asked questions about your personal life, relationship status or sexual preferences, you have several options:
- You can politely ask about the relevance of the question to your suitability for the job and mention your preference for sticking to relevant topics. You might say, "I don't see how this relates to my qualifications for the position. I would be more comfortable if we discussed aspects of my candidacy that are directly relevant to the job."
- In order to steer the conversation in another direction, you can follow up with a question about a certain part of the job. For example, you could add, "I saw that you are looking for a candidate with experience in business-to-business marketing. Could you tell me more about what B2B partnerships are already in place here?"
- If the question seems innocuous to you, you can answer the question briefly and then change the subject. For example, if asked, "Do you have a partner who would be moving with you?" you can answer with a simple yes or no, and then steer the conversation to other topics.
- If the interviewer persists in asking inappropriate questions, then you might need to state your view firmly that the question is off base and refuse to answer.
- As a last resort, you might report your experience to the Director of Human Resources or a division manager in a superior position to the interviewer. At that point, you can also request the opportunity to interview with another individual if you are still interested in the job.
How to Handle Inappropriate Behavior
Instances where an interviewer makes physical contact, other than a handshake, asks you to spend time alone outside of the interview setting, or shares a personal phone number or address with an invitation to connect can be far more disturbing. In this type of situation, you have several methods of deflection:
- First, you should make an attempt to deflect any physical contact by moving or indicating your disapproval via your body language.
- You can also politely decline any invitations, and state that you would like to keep the dialogue on a professional level.
- Finally, if the interviewer persists, you should simply state your discomfort, leave the interview, and immediately report the incident to a person in authority at the employer. You can request an interview with another representative if you wish to continue with the employer. If the organization takes no action, then you will know for sure that the employer is not for you.
When the Job is On the Line
The most serious violation by an interviewer involves a statement or strong implication that your status as a job applicant will be influenced by whether you comply with a request for intimacy. In this case, you should immediately leave the interview, and inform the employer of the transgression.
If the interviewer is your prospective boss, you should think twice about proceeding. If the interviewer is a Human Resources Representative, his or her behavior may or may not be indicative of an institutional problem.
Finally, if you are not given a fair chance to secure a position with that employer, then you might want to consult a labor attorney regarding your options for redress on the basis of sexual harassment.
The information contained in this article is not legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own state’s laws or the most recent changes to the law.