Before going on the job market I was told that there are certain questions which are deemed inappropriate and even illegal to ask. Questions about your marital status, children, and racial/ethnic background. Yet every time I have a phone interview or in-person interview I have been asked about all of those questions. Being a multicultural minority female I'm getting annoyed at these questions and am interested to know how other people deal with them. I've been polite in given a short concise answer to these questions but some people have been rude enough to ask very personal details. Truthfully I want to say "none of your business" but I have enough sense to know this can't go well during an interview. Sadly, consistent with the social psych stigma work, these questions make me feel as if they are only interested in me because of my multicultural bg, real damper on your confidence during an interview.
Date: 07 Feb 2012 20:55
Number of posts: 4
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Sorry to hear you've been asked illegal questions. If asked obnoxious and irrelevant questions about your family or personal life, I've heard that you can respond with something like this "If you're asking about my ability to balance work and personal life, I certainly can… as revealed by x, y, z." This mostly applies to questions about having children. This was advice I heard in a seminar for women in academia.
It is really, really tough to field those questions in a way that is polite and professional while still conveying that you're not comfortable providing an answer. I don't know if there is a right way to answer - it probably depends on the intentions of the person asking them (i.e., pure curiosity and ignorance that the question is illegal or if they would use that irrelevant information to evaluate you).
Hopefully, others will weigh in as well.
I got some of these questions as well (family/marital status) and I could tell that in my case they were with good intentions. Basically they wanted to say something like, "if you have kids we have a good on-campus daycare" or "if you want to have kids, we have a good parental leave policy" or "if you are married, there are lots of job opportunities in this city for your spouse." But I also did not like being asked those questions…even though yeah, I would like the answers to those questions. I guess I just wanted to ask about daycare, parental leave, etc after I had an offer in hand.
Tokenminority, I like to give people the benefit of the doubt so I bet that in your case the questions were with good intentions. Still, I'd be really upset if I were you. I think questions about race (esp in social psych) are a lot worse than questions about family…because as you said it makes you feel like they are valuing you for your social identity instead of for your actual worth as a researcher. I hope that you can get past the (completely valid) feelings you have about where they are coming from and just do your best on the campus interviews. Faculty have little to no training on how to communicate with people, especially people from "diverse backgrounds," i.e. social identities other than their own. They constantly say things that make people feel uncomfortable even when they might be trying to reach out…it's sad but true.