Curly interview questions

So you finally landed that sought-after job interview. Good for you. But you need to be aware of potential pitfalls.

Some interviewers, usually untrained, are asking "fun" questions and others are requiring information that is questionable or illegal. You may feel caught between a rock and a hard place. If you refuse to answer, will you be eliminated automatically? If you do answer, do you put yourself in jeopardy of discrimination?

Here are some tips on dealing with difficult questions:

Salary-requirement questions
What do you say if asked about your current salary or your salary history? Will you sell yourself short if your salary is lower than the range for the new job? If you refuse to answer, will you raise red flags in the interviewer's mind?

Many experts say it's best to give a salary range you would expect. Then, if you are offered the position, you can negotiate your salary depending on what the company offers, your experience, credentials and skills.

"Fun" questions
Some interviewers like to throw in non-job-related questions to find out more about your personality, imagination and ability to think on your feet. Examples include: "If you could be a colour, which colour would you be?" or "Which former prime minister would you like to invite to dinner, and why?" Think about your answer. A good answer wouldn't give too much personal information. It would be creative, entertaining and directly related to the job.

 Illegal questions
There's a fine line between what's legal and what's illegal. Well-trained interviewers know how to gain the information without crossing that line. You can protect yourself by crafting answers that focus on the core concern behind the question.

Here are some examples of general questions that are illegally worded:

"Do you have children?" Typically asked of women, it's really probing whether you have responsibilities that may cause you to be late for or miss work.

A legal way to ask this question is: "Is there any reason you would not be able to perform the duties this job requires?" A good answer would be: "I can certainly meet the requirements of this position."

"Have you ever been arrested?" The reason for this question is obvious. But the legal way to ask this question is: "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?"

Some states limit this question further and say interviewers can only ask about convictions for felonies. The interviewer should make you aware of the company's requirement to do a background check. If you have been convicted, you should answer "yes"; if there are extenuating circumstances, take the opportunity to explain.

"Are you an Australian citizen?" An example of legal wording is, "Do you have legal authorisation to work in Australia?"


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