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College of Arts and Sciences

Interviewing Red Flags

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Unfortunately, not every interview is a perfect experience.  Interviewers are often pressed for time, can be tired, or can seem like they’re not interested in having a conversation with you.   It’s important to remain courteous during these interactions and stay positive until the interview ends.  If you’re concerned with how something went, let us know.  

Other times, bias or prejudice can leak into a conversation.  Below are some examples of questions that are inappropriate or illegal to ask during an interview.  Review this list carefully, and contact if you are asked any of the following.  

Inappropriate Interview Questions:

  • How long have you been disabled? Can you get out of your wheel chair?
  • What did your father do for a living?
  • Do your parents own your own home?
  • Are you the first in your family to attend college or to get a degree?
  • Do you have or plan to have children?  Will you have adequate childcare for your children?  Will your parenting responsibilities interfere with your professional responsibilities?
  • Are you married/single/engaged/divorced or dating?
  • Would you move if your spouse’s employment required a move?
  • How old are you? How would someone your age fit in with other people?
  • What do you mean you have a partner?
  • Where were your relatives born?
  • What is your religious preference? Which holidays do you observe?
  • Is English your native language?

Sometimes the questions or statements from employers do not overtly state bias, but it is clear that there are uncomfortable attitudes lurking below the surface.  Be on the lookout for any of the following discriminatory attitudes and assumptions:

  • Suggesting that a candidate, because of a personal characteristic such as race or religious affiliation, may not feel “comfortable” due to the lack of others like them in the workplace.
  • Commenting on a candidate’s dress or appearance.
  • Assuming that you, the candidate, is heterosexual; joking about sex or sexual preference or gender issues.
  • Discouraging women from specialties considered “aggressive;” encouraging women to work in areas that are deemed “more suitable.”
  • Assuming or suggesting that a candidate attends Cornell due to some extraordinary admissions criteria.
  • Inquiring as to whether a candidate has ever been to an office before, or suggesting that a candidate may never before have been in a professional environment.
  • Maintaining that disabled people who succeed are remarkable or extraordinary. 

As always, contact us if you run into any of the above so that we may flag the employer in question and work with you on your continuing search.

Next: Offers, Negotiating Salary and Benefits