I had a decent job, but it was going nowhere. An opportunity presented itself that sounded perfect — an office manager at a consulting firm close to my house. It would mean more money, more responsibility, and less travel time. I bought a new suit for my search, and I looked like a woman ready to take charge.
I walked into the office, announced myself and was handed a questionnaire. I sat down and began reading. Name, address, telephone number, yes. Previous work experience, of course. Wait a minute. What is that question again? Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?!
First, it was 2004, not 1954, so I didn’t see the relevancy. Second, were they serious? Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m passionate about freedom — which is why I refused to answer this question. I was just about to get up and walk out when my appointment was called. What the heck, let’s go for it, I thought. We did our introductions, I followed my interviewer into the inner office, and we sat down. A little polite joking, a little polite conversation about the weather, let’s get started.
After looking over my resume, he began. “Your experience fits what we’re looking for, so let’s go a bit above what’s on paper.” Considering the questionnaire, I braced myself. He continued, “What kind of health problems do you have?” Excuse me? He added, “I’ll need your complete health history before I can hire you.”
Is this guy kidding? I thought. First, he expects me to answer personal questions about my political views, and now he expects me to hand over my complete medical history?! Oh, it’s on. “That’s fine,” I answered. “And I would like to get your health records as well.” I saw shock in his eyes.
After a very awkward pause (that did not shake me), he answered, “That’s none of your business!”
At this point, I had no intention of ever taking this position for any amount of money. I decided, Let’s have some fun. “Well,” I replied, “quid pro quo, if you expect to know my complete medical history, I expect to know yours. After all, I don’t want to take a job from someone who could be dead in a year.” After we exchanged some choice words (that I cannot mention in this venue), with as much professionalism as I could muster after having been caught off guard by this interrogation, I stood up and walked out.
Later that day, I spoke with two of my agencies. First came the call from the agency that got me this ridiculous interview. “They can ask you anything they want!” she yelled into the phone. Then I called another agency that had been job hunting for me. “They’re not even allowed to ask if you own a car,” she told me.
To this day, I still cannot find definitive information on the questions employers are permitted and not permitted to ask. Some say they must steer clear from what is protected under law; others say the restrictions go much further. So how far into our personal lives should employers delve in an interview? I have since decided to make that determination for myself. Ask me anything you want. If I find your question too personal, I will politely decline to answer it. If you don’t like that, then we probably wouldn’t be a good fit anyway.