Defining an Invasive Interview Question


When I know that I have a big interview coming up, I do what most relatively inexperienced young adults of our generation do: scour the Internet for tips.

Employers have the right to ask you tough questions, but a job offer shouldn’t pressure you to overexpose yourself. (Photo Illustration by Ray Bubel/Miami Herald/MCT)

Normally I come across the standard sites that promote the basic advice of “revamp your resume” and “dress to impress,” but one particular time I came across a striking essay. The writer admitted that she was asked in a job interview about her complicated relationship with her mother and personal questions about a brief enrollment at reform school.

Was this wrong? In a country that prides itself on its freedom of speech, it can be hard to determine what should or should not be defined as “inappropriate.” In my opinion, an interview question is inappropriate when it involves both discrimination and irrelevancy.

Awkward questions can sometimes be justified; while it might be tough to talk about why you got fired from your last job, the employer has a good reason to know why you were let go. As long as it does not have discriminatory or irrelevant undertones, if the question pertains to the position at hand then the employer has a right to ask.

I immediately brushed her story off as a rare occurrence—until I found a link to an additional article about controversial interviews in the NFL. The article revealed that NFL scouts had been asking potential draft prospects multiple questions about their sexual orientations. Questions ranged from the sly “do you have a girlfriend?” and “are you married?” to the more blunt “do you like girls?”

This classifies as discrimination on many levels like race, religion, sexual orientation and gender. The questions in the NFL interviews were highly inappropriate because they prompted potential discrimination based on sexual orientation. If the scouts’ opinions weren’t going to be swayed based on something as extraneous as whether or not the player had a girlfriend, why even ask that question in the first place?

Second, the questions were completely irrelevant. A player’s performance on the field has nothing to do with the gender of the person that he comes home to at night. If the question has absolutely nothing to do with the job, then the interviewer shouldn’t be asking it.

At the end of the day, you’re the person applying for the position. If you don’t like the types of question that they’re asking, then that should raise some red flags about the person or company that you’ll potentially be working for. If you feel like you’re being discriminated against, walk out the door and consider making a report-even when the paycheck they’re offering you looks like a pretty penny. There’s not point in working with people  who already make you feel that uncomfortable.