Written by Shea Ki
You are dressed in your best professional outfit and you have arrived fifteen minutes early to interview at a company you would love to be interning at this summer. You've done everything you can think of to prepare and now it's about to happen. This company has been rated highly in Fortune 500 and voted as one of the top places to work for according to other publications. This internship could really kick off your career in the right direction.
The interview starts and you hear your heartbeat in your ears as you are so nervous. You allow yourself some deep breaths and keep the talk in your head positive. You pick up momentum with each new question. By the end, it seems you have really impressed the employer.
But then the interviewer asks just one more question, "So do you have plans this Friday night? I think it would be a good idea for us to get to know each other in a more relaxed place, maybe over dinner?"
No wage, salary, or benefit package is ever worth reducing your dignity and well-being.
Your skin starts to crawl. UGH. What is this? You dreamed of working here for months and now this interviewer just said what?!? Your head is spinning with different ideas of what you should do next. Your heart is sinking as you realize this is likely no longer the place for you to be.
We all often hear about job candidates saying the wrong thing or advice about “what not to say” to an employer. But what if it is the employer not being professional? They may start talking about their own personal problems ("My daughter is about your age and boy isn't she a handful right now! I hope you are more responsible...") or their strong opinions about politics, religion, or other topics ("This is my fifth interview today. I just want to be on a beach right now with a strong margarita...") that are not suitable for an interview. This type of situation happens more often than companies often admit and it's important to be aware of how to handle it.
Here are some options to help smooth out the “did that just happen?!?!” moments.
1. Bring up your recent accomplishments or a goal for the future to help refocus the conversation. Usually this will get the interview nose-dive that just happened turned back around.
2. Ask a question about the company’s culture or mission to bring the interview back to where it needs to be. Often this helps the interviewer realize they need to get their professional hat back on.
3. Maybe they said something that was absolutely horrendous and you are wondering if you need to get out of the danger zone. Trust your gut. Decide for yourself if this interview is worth continuing. Has the line that has been crossed worth ignoring and moving on? Even if they have apologized, if you were hired by the company, who is to say that the line would not be crossed again?
You have the right to work in an environment that respects you, is safe to be in, and that you can trust.
Other questions that employers (some with the best of intentions but who unfortunately may have skipped interview training) ask but are actually illegal include:
Heads up! There are some “legal alternatives” or ways that the employer can get this information and likely not be in deep hot water with the law if you filed a complaint. It’s best to watch out for questions that may be digging too much and be careful as to just how much information you provide. At the same time do not get defensive with your tone of voice or body language as that can turn off the employer who may honestly not be aware that they have crossed the line.
(Source for illegal questions: http://www.hrworld.com/features/30-interview-questions-111507/)
Share your thoughts by leaving a comment. Harassment or other abuses of authority can also happen while on the job. Maybe you are a lifeguard at the summer pool and the summer is about to wrap up. It's the last week of work and a co-worker who has been trying to get you to go out all summer is suddenly in charge of the shift schedule. You notice he has arranged it so you are always working at the same time.
What would you do?
Most of all, believe in you.