I love tattoos. I have 11 (eleven) of them. I’m not trying to hide them, neither expose them on purpose. Some are big, others are small. Some are visible just because of their location. They don’t define what I can do or how I work, but I’m glad some interviewers ask me about them. It’s easier to choose where I don’t want to work.
There are many inappropriate questions asked during interviews and I’ve seen recruiters that have no idea how to extract relevant information out of them.
Let’s expose some of these questions to the future candidates and what they mean:
Are you married? Asking this is forbidden in many countries and companies. It can lead to discrimination or even harassment. Why do people ask it? Because employees tend to change jobs when they are about to get married. In some recruiters’ opinion, if you are not married you have no obligations, so therefore you must be willing to travel or work overtime, because what the heck, your whole personal life revolves around marriage. If you are married, you’re more likely to stay with the employer for a longer period.
Do you have children? Are they young? Unless the recruiter wants to buy them presents, it is just as inappropriate to ask, as the former question. Why are you being asked this? Well, you’re not going to like it… If you have infants, you typically can’t travel. If you have children, you will be very dependent on the job and less likely to take the risk of switching jobs. You are also less likely to protest if overworked and probably more obedient. Now you know.
Where do you see yourself in x years? Yes, the old and annoying question, still in use. This is an indirect way of trying to pull out answers for the previous two questions and more. If you’re a woman and say you’ll want to start a familly, that will spell ‘maternity leave’ soon, therefore low prio on the training budget and other opportunities. Or maybe you see yourself as an entrepreneur – so you’re not reliable, you might take away intellectual property, maybe even customers, it’s quite risky investing in you, don’t you think? Honestly, before asking questions about the next 5 years, as a recruiter, you should consider the average time spent by an employee on the job, in your country, for that level of career. 90% of junior employees will anyway change job in 1 or 2 years, so yeah, go ahead and ask them about the next 5.
What do your tattoos mean? Another question that could be a case for discrimination, if the candidate would want to take action. Why stop there and not ask also about genital piercings? They might influence his capacity to run a marketing campaign or her ability to code. There are two types of people with tattoos: people who get one tattoo and people who get their first tattoo. The former category usually does it because it’s trendy. The latter category does it for a wide range for reasons which you’re not going to find out by asking this silly question. Generally, it’s because they love them and they will be really cool grandparents. Trying to extract a psychological profile out of this question it’s just mind boggling.
Do you get sick often? The only person who has the right to ask this, while exercising his/her profession is a Doctor of Medicine while taking notes on your anamnesis. Asking it in an interview can easily qualify for a lawsuit. Nobody wants to get sick and a medical condition (be it psychological or physical) does not mean inability to work! Sooner or later, in our lifetime, everyone is going to face a more serious medical situation, just because we’re human. What we should do, is step in and help people going through tough times. As a candidate, you can go ahead and answer that you are super immune and never had a flu.
What happened to your hand / leg /skin / other body part? People managers are generally trained to avoid enquiring about these things, for the simple fact that it could be trauma related. Maybe it was the result of an aggression or a very unfortunate accident. If there is obvious discomfort and you want to show empathy ask the other person if he/she is feeling ok, don’t start digging.
Would you have a problem working for a woman / female boss? I was actually asked this question many years ago during a second interview and it’s usually a question addressed to men. I guess we can all tell at what end the problem lies. Joke aside, this signals an authority issue and some accumulated frustration which personally I don’t intend to deal with.
A job interview is a two-way street: it’s not only the candidate who has to prove his worth.
Really people, get your act together, because by the end of this year, I will have to update this article. I will have 12 tattoos.