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Handling Illegal Questions

Various federal, state, and local laws regulate the questions a prospective employer can ask you, the job candidate. An employer’s questions—whether on the job application, in the interview, or during the testing process—must be related to the job you’re seeking. For the employer, the focus must be: “What do I need to know to decide whether this person can perform the functions of this job?” If asked an illegal question, you have three options:
  • You can answer the question—you’re free to do so, if you wish. However, if you choose to answer an illegal question, remember that you are giving information that isn’t related to the job; in fact, you might be giving the “wrong” answer, which could harm your chances of getting the job.
  • You can refuse to answer the question, which is well within your rights. Unfortunately, depending on how you phrase your refusal, you run the risk of appearing uncooperative or confrontational—hardly words an employer would use to describe the “ideal” candidate.
  • You can examine the question for its intent and respond with an answer as it might apply to the job. For example, the interviewer asks, “Are you a from a village?” or “What village are you from?” You’ve been asked an illegal question. You could respond, however, with “I am familiar to work in a big city.” Similarly, let’s say the interviewer asks, “Who is going to take care of your children when you have to travel for the job?” You might answer, “I can meet the travel and work schedule that this job requires.”

Interview Questions and Answers

Why do you want this position?

Here's where your research about the company will help you stand out among the other candidates. Explain how you've always wanted the opportunity to work with a company that... provides a vital public service, leads the industry in innovative products, whatever... find something specific about that company that you can tie in with your answer. Explain how your qualifications and goals complement the company's mission, vision and values (use specific examples). If you are applying for a position in a company for which you already work, explain how you'll be able to apply and expand on the knowledge and experience you've gained from your current position, and will be able to increase your contributions and value to the company through your new responsibilities.

Why are you the best person for this job?

As with all other questions, be confident and enthusiastic when you answer this. Don't try to say you are the best qualified person, because you don't know the qualifications of the other applicants. Instead, emphasize several reasons why you should be hired. For example: "I've got extensive experience in [name the appropriate field] and have the specific skills you are looking for. I'm a fast learner who adapts quickly to change and will hit the ground running. I'm dedicated and enthusiastic about helping your company meet its goals, and will provide top-quality results with minimal over site. I'm an outstanding performer who takes pride in my work. You won't have any regrets when you hire me."

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