The Telegraph
Tuesday , June 29 , 2010
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hit a six off the bouncer

Forty-three per cent of jobseekers surveyed by a job site said that they were annoyed at being asked questions unrelated to job skills. Thirty-eight per cent said they did not like being asked personal questions.

Sample these questions:

“Who is your favorite Beatle?”

“Why aren’t you married yet?”

“If you could be a dog, which dog would you be?”

“Would you join a church to get a job?”

“Are you happy in your relationship?”

“What is your perception of the painting in our lobby?”

Queer query

The survey findings are a wake-up call for organisations that this is happening behind closed doors when the applicant is face to face with their potential boss. Questions pertaining to family status or religion can easily venture into illegal territory under antidiscrimination laws. That means potentially exposing the company to litigation — and hindering the firm’s efforts to find talented workers. But even questions that are simply inappropriate, though legal, can pose problems. “If you could be a dog, what kind of dog would you be?” and “What would you do if I gave you an elephant?” are two examples of the bizarre questions asked, according to survey respondents.

Andrea Coombes, a reporter for MarketWatch, spoke to Scott Erker, senior vice-president of DDI’s Selection Solutions, a human-resource consulting company in Pittsburgh. “Candidates perceive these questions as not related to the job,” Erker said. “You’ve got candidates scratching their heads thinking, ‘What do I say?’ ” .

Job jolt

Two-thirds of job seekers said the interviewer influences their decision to accept or reject the job.

The survey did not assess how prevalent the practice of asking inappropriate interview questions is, but the survey yielded hundreds of examples of bad questions. Erker said, “I think it’s more prevalent than we think.” Sometimes, awkward questions result when a hiring manager tries to be friendly, not realising she’s overstepped her bounds — “Is that your natural hair colour?” is one example.

Hold back

If faced with a perplexing question, don’t answer immediately, Erker said. “Take a moment and think about why this person might be asking this question. What is it about this job that this person might be looking for you to respond to?” It’s OK to ask for clarification. Often, Erker said, “Asking such questions will help you understand the motivation of the person and why he is asking it. “For instance, if asked “if you were a dog, what kind of dog would you be?” you could say, “That’s an interesting question. There are many types of dogs out there. What exactly is the answer that you are looking for?” Erker said.

Veer off

Another option: deflect the question. “You can say, ‘You’re probably asking that because you want to know X. What’s important to know about me in that regard is ...’ ” Erker said, “Answer the question that you want to answer.” Don’t forget you can refuse to answer a question, though doing so won’t help your job prospects. “You can say, ‘I prefer not to answer that’ or ‘I don’t see the relevance of that question. Is there another question you can ask me?’ ” Erker said. “That’s likely not going to get you the job, but it gets you out of that situation.”

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