NEW YORK – Once it was considered a faux pas for recruiters to ask about your family life or political affiliation. But today, as many more jobs are filled through social networking — friends setting up other friends — it's more common to be asked about those or other personal topics during a job interview.
It is illegal to discriminate based on gender, race, national origin, marital status, sexual preference, religion, age or disability. Interviewers usually avoid asking questions on those subjects and other topics that are not directly work-related because it opens up the chance that an applicant turned down on qualifications can claim he or she was discriminated against.
But personal topics do arise, especially if they may affect your ability to do your job. A recruiter might ask about your family, for example, if the job in question requires extensive travel or long hours. He or she may ask about your physical health if the job requires heavy lifting.
Be careful what information you volunteer. Remember that any personal details you give become fair game for questions. Before the interview, think about what information you would mind sharing versus what you would not.
If the interview veers into the realm of your personal life, steer it back to a job discussion. Try to turn any personal information you've given into assets that would help your being hired.
If you've mentioned living in a foreign country, for example, and have picked up a second language, explain how this increases your efficiency at work. But if you are asked something personal, ask some questions of your own such as, "Is this something that's important to your hiring decision?"
Be polite, and don't get aggressive. Keep in mind that the recruiter may have a valid reason for asking a question. No matter why you're being asked, a nasty response will only serve as a mark against you.
Evaluate the interview as you would a first date. If you are treated poorly or made to feel uncomfortable during an interview, it's a reasonable indication of what you could expect on the job.