Yes. No. Maybe?
You can tell when the economy’s improved because there’s an uptick of interviews. More experienced managers revisit what they’ve done before that’s worked well when hiring and novice supervisors surface this season’s new crop of oddball, silly questions.
“Can I be asked if I’m a gamer?” will likely be one of the tamer examples.
Candidates invariably want to know what can be asked.
Here’s the simple answer. Hiring managers can ask you anything.
And they will.
Areas that will be asked that are illegal to inquire include broad areas related to things such as race, ethnicity, country of origin, some questions around age, and a few others. Search the Web and you’ll find a number of sources that will helpfully identify areas that are illegal to inquire.
When a question is illegal it doesn’t mean it can’t get asked. It might. What it does mean is that the asker incurs some potential liability – as in being sued – for asking the question.
As a candidate it means you should think about whether to answer the question directly, artfully answer in a way that perhaps ducks the issue and lets the interview move on, or take a pass, decline to answer, and recognize it may cost you a job. You might also decide that you don’t want to work for somebody who is asking things they shouldn’t be asking.
Most anything outside of the protected areas is fair game. It might be stupid, but it’s probably safe to ask someone if they are a baseball fan.
The key issue to hiring managers is that interviewing is one of those things that has to get done so folks can get on to their “real” job (as if hiring, supervising, coaching, developing wasn’t). Interview well and efficiently by having clarity about the key selection criteria, how those experiences, competencies and attributes best get surface, and you’ve spent less time on interviewing. You’ll also likely hire candidates that are a better match for what you’re seeking, who will perform better, and perhaps stay in their roles longer.
Waste your time on silly questions – or questions unrelated to anything pertinent – and you’ve squandered time you could be spending elsewhere. You’ve also surfaced information that is of absolutely zero value to job performance.
Most job interview questions IMHO are best in the “tell me about” vein as a broad opener – as in, for example, about somebody who will have juggling priorities a constant part of their job; “tell me about a specific time when you had conflicting deadlines on multiple projects. What was going on, how did you handle the conflict and what was the outcome?” After those tell me questions? Did you? to narrow down to a yes or a no.
Good luck. As the economy slow recovers it will be a long seasons – with lots of interesting questions.
Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.