Don’t go along with this intrusive line of questioning.
Job interviews are formal meetings conducted to check a candidates suitability for a job. Conversely, they can also be used to check a company’s suitability for a candidates career path. Something that is overlooked most of the time.
Many candidates forget that its a two way street, and end up treating the interview as an interrogation on themselves. They’ve already mentally bestowed the ‘holier than thou’ status on the company and think that questioning the company on its work culture right off the bat equals crossing a line or thinking too much of themselves. Well, I’m here to tell you that that’s not the case. Being curious about a company’s culture or business practices isn’t “crossing the line” or thinking yourself as superior. It’s being smart and using that information to make informed decisions.
As a prospective employee, you too must be provided all the information regarding a company’s past, their present situation, as well as their plans for the future. Just like how they’re trying to gauge your suitability for a role in their organization for the long term, so should you.
Because who’s to say they’re running under losses, the company goes bust tomorrow and all of a sudden, you find yourself out of a job? Who’s to say that they aren’t involved in a scandal or are busy fighting some kind of civil lawsuit in the courts? Companies aren’t the angels they’re made out to be. All the hype and positive sounding narrative surrounding the company is usually due to good PR and Staffing agencies’ glorification of them, as they too have some skin in the game.
In fact, if organizations really are as professional and admirable as they think they are, they might have a better sense of respect and admiration for you once you ask them about performance or operations related questions.
Intrusive line of questioning
While interviews may be formal discussions, in no way must they be used to profile someone or get too personal with them.
However, many interviewers nowadays feel the need to go overboard and annoy the candidate with personal questions and ones that have got absolutely nothing to do with work. Sometimes, they don’t even make an effort to conceal the fact that they’re asking the candidate these questions or to even phrase them in an indirect way.
I’ve been asked me some of the most bizarre questions that I’ve s never been able to wrap my head around. Some of these include questions on schooling and upbringing, some on my current livelihood and financial status, some relationship based questions, questions about the countries I’ve lived in, what I did there, and what not!
Your life trajectory is not up for discussion at an interview as long as it doesn’t have anything to do with work. There’s a very fine line between asking you questions out of personal curiosity and asking them because they’re work related. And hiring managers must be cognizant of that.
Here are some really weird questions that I’ve received over the years during the course of all the interviews I’ve attended and companies I’ve changed:
How will you be commuting to work?
This one is at the very top of my list as it happens to be the most annoying and irritating questions that I’ve gotten from all the interviews I’ve attended. I don’t know if it’s purely an Indian thing or one that happens across the board. It’s generally one that’s asked once you’re selected for the role or already have one foot inside the door.
But here’s the thing right! What’s the point of even asking it?
It’s not like I’m going to be shown some kind of mercy or leniency with timings if I use the more inconvenient public transport as opposed to a personal vehicle. We’re all still treated equally, and have to be on time to work regardless of the mode of transport. So why exactly is this question asked all the time, especially during the very end of an interview? It’s really annoying and leaves me scratching my head with what to say.
What does it matter to the company whether I commute to their office using the metro trains, a public bus service, my personal car, or even a helicopter for that matter? It’s none of their business and quite frankly, speaks volumes about how they judge and treat their employees.
Should I be truthful? Should I lie? Should I send them a memo when I change my mode of transport in between? Like what exactly is the scene here?
You know what I think? I think they do this to show they’re concerned when they really aren’t. If they really cared, they’d just offer you company transport to make your life as smooth and comfortable as possible, instead of beating around the bush with all this fake concern about commuting problems.
Trust me. They don’t give a rat’s ass how you get to work. You could run to work for all they care, and it wouldn’t matter to them one bit. It’s a big red flag in my opinion, and you shouldn’t join such a company unless you love micromanagement.
What’s your marital status?
This one’s either posed directly to you at the interview or inconspicuously hidden somewhere in an application form.
I have no idea what my job has got to do with my marital status, forget why they’re even indulging in such an intrusive line of questioning in the first place. It’s not like I’ll be handed different targets or be treated different if I have family and kids. Oh wait!
Family life is incentivized at certain workplaces, and employees with children are given a range benefits not afforded to childfree or childless employees. Which shouldn’t be the case. This could include things like the option to work from home when your child is sick, Flexi-Time Off (FTO) if you need to take him/her to the doctors, making changes to your work schedule to attend school activities like sports day, annual day, PTA day, and every other day that one could possibly think of.
Somehow, management always “understands” when a parent wants to leave home early to watch their sons Karate competition, but cannot accommodate changes to the schedule of an employee who is single and unmarried, just because they’re “young and energetic”. Because what other work could a non-family person possibly have? After all, the only thing we have to do after getting home from work is to throw our worn out bodies on a sofa, eat out of a plastic box in front of an idiot box, and hit the sack right?
Another reason I think this question should never be asked is because the world is just too huge for people to be categorized as either ‘married’ or ‘single’. We are a diverse, distinct set of people all coming from varied backgrounds with different culture norms and familial expectations. Some of us have been single all along, some of us have gotten married and divorced, some of us still have kids from a past marriage that we have to babysit from time to time, some of us are married but separated. Some of us are single parents. It’s a big world out there. And there’s all kinds of permutations and combinations of life situations people could possibly be in.
When corporate tries to paint all of us as black and white, i.e. either ‘married’ or ‘single’, that’s where we see right through their facade of fake sympathy and concern and know for a fact that we won’t be treated fairly at the organization. It’s very awkward for candidates to discuss these aspects with employers, as they feel such information might be used against them later on. So they decline to divulge such personal details, thereby preemptively avoiding situations where they could possibly incriminate themselves.
How old are you?
Ummm, excuse me? What on earth does my age have to do with anything? I mean, what you see is what you get. Asking for anything more than that is just downright rude and condescending. Previously it was rude to only ask a woman her age. But now since we’re living the age of gender equality, non-binary genders, gender fluidity and what not, more men are standing up for their rights and have decided to join women in declining to answer age related questions. It’s not only ageist to ask candidates such questions, but also shows that you’re an organization that profiles their employees on certain parameters and hands them benefits accordingly.
Barring a few jobs where a lot physical work is involved (along with their accompanying extenuating circumstances), there’s no other scenario where this question could be professionally put or passed off as a formality.
Don’t answer it.
Will you be going for higher studies? Will you be quitting on us later on to pursue higher education?
Will you be diversifying your business in the near future?
Will you be moving out of your current office to another one 10 miles away six months down the line?
Will you be shutting down for good?
Is your company getting acquired?
Will there be a change in leadership after I join?
Will I be transferred to another location?
How much did you guys make last year?
Hey, I can ask stability based questions too you know!
So many variables, so much uncertainty. Right?
Sadly, some interviewers don’t understand that this goes both ways. The future is uncertain for them as it is for us and no one really knows how the tides will turn even a few months down the line, forget years.
A company I interviewed for a few years ago selected me and I was eager to join them. However, just a day before I was to go and collect my offer letter, they called to tell me they’re shifting to another location not too far from the current one, and to ask me whether I would be okay commuting there. They played a very smart move, a crafty psychological trick where they would talk about the shifting of the office only to candidates that have been selected.
You see what’s happening here?
The candidate has already mentally placed this organization as their current employer, and the dopamine rush of being selected is still very high in their heads. It is quite unlikely that they’d say no to this new surprise that has been sprang upon them at the last moment, which would only work to the benefit of the company no matter how inconvenient for the candidate. Moreover, the company was a sister concern of a very big MNC from the U.S.
Who in their right mind would want to give up a chance to work with such an esteemed legacy business?
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
None of your business. That’s what!
This question is often posed to freshers who are too gullible to decline answering or are too afraid of failing the interview. No one has the right to question you about your hobbies and passions, even if that happens to be a prospective employer. Your business with them rounds off at the end of the week and that’s it! What you do with your own personal time after that is none of their business and is definitely not up for discussion. However, this is a question that many candidates see through and also the reason why so many of them cleverly give vague or generic answers to it.
Let me guess. You too answered “reading, watching movies, listening to music and doing the house work” didn’t you?
What do your parents do? Who is the breadwinner of the house? What is your fathers designation? How many siblings do you have?
Indian companies are notorious for asking entry level job applicants such intrusive questions. These questions are usually asked towards the very end of an interview to make them sound as casual and friendly as possible, no matter how offensive they might be.
Don’t fall for it. Remember, your employer is not your friend. And neither are your co-workers. So don’t feel pressured to answer any questions even if they’re posed to you in the most informal friendly manner during lunch time. Besides, you shouldn’t even be having lunch with your manager and his buddies in the first place. But that is another topic for another day.
I’ve time and again been asked about my family, whether I have siblings, what do they do, what my parents do, and so on and so forth. Pray tell me, what does this have anything to do with my role at the company and the functions that I’ll be going to perform?
Why is my fathers or mothers job or designation any of your business? Why do you take so much interest in my family affairs? Why are you so eager to know if I have siblings? Are you going to hire them too? I seriously just cannot wrap my head around the fact that hiring managers are permitted to discuss such personal and sensitive topics with candidates.
Such questions should never be asked no matter where you’re from or what your background is. Never make the mistake of assuming the company will sympathize with your situation and help you if you divulge personal details. Because remember, if they can help you today, they can use you tomorrow. You’ll always be like an open book to them; to add whatever pages to your life they like and tear off the ones they don’t.
You’ll forever be indebted to them. They’ll ask you to be a scapegoat for their bad deeds or even look the other way as they’re committing them. Do you really want help from an organization that indulges in such shady unscrupulous business tactics?
Reputed companies with a high level of integrity and respect will never indulge in such abhorrent practices. They’ll help those who are financially strained but they’ll do it through a standard procedure that is available to everyone in the organization. They won’t be scrambling for your personal information and refuse to help you if you don’t provide them. They’ll help you regardless.
Look out for such companies because those are the ones you’ll want to stick in for the long haul.
More often than not, the companies that ask you intrusive questions are the very same ones who indulge in micromanagement, exploitation of employees, withholding their salaries, hiring employees on third party payroll, failing to provide them with their yearly salary increments and bonuses, and generally failing to personally look out for employees and their well being.
They’ll dump an ungodly amount of work on you and then fire you for not hitting your targets. Because, how else can they fire someone without having an artificially manufactured reason to do so?
In the interest of your long term health and well being, stay away from such companies.