Ahhh…laws…so helpful…so not helpful.
Inarguably, employers and employees alike would agree the workplace has benefited greatly from stronger safety laws and better defined tenets as to what constitutes professional respect. Nonetheless, there is a drawback. Or two. Take, political correctness, for example.
I’ve long felt the political correctness pendulum has swung too far when it prevents us from letting a co-worker know they look nice, are wearing a fabulous garment, or we’ve noticed their eczema outbreak has cleared up.
Haven’t we all had one of those weeks, nay years, when the only thing keeping us from throwing down a daily liquid lunch is a colleague’s kind remark about our appearance?
Be that as it may, there is an even steeper climb than the ascent that is maintaining a bias-free work environment. Hiring. Specifically? Interviewing. Even more specifically? What you can and cannot say in an interview.
Navigating the rocky path up Mount “To Vet” means remaining cognizant of what you can and cannot reference when you’re trying to determine a) Does this candidate have the necessary skills?; and 2) Does this candidate seem sane?
From these thoughts are spawned amusing, perhaps even cathartic, lists. If laughter is the best medicine, then lists that make you laugh are… oh, never mind. Let’s just get to this tongue-in-cheek wish list organized around (some) actual human resource interview categories.
Inappropriate Questions and Comments Human Resource Professionals Might Utter Were There to be No Laws, Proprieties, or Witnesses
Interview Questions That Might Have Been Asked in 1976:
(Note: Substitute “Hippie” for “Goth” and “unwashed hair” for “triple nose ring.”)
- Appearance Profiling: I’m sorry about my startle reflex just then. You have such an unusual style of make-up application. What would you call that? Goth? Is that a term they still use nowadays? By the way, the triple nose ring is quite the statement.
- Experience: I notice you’ve had several jobs that, interestingly enough, ended in the same month. Would you please elaborate upon how such a freakish and questionable coincidence might have occurred?
- Criminal History: When I called your references, which included your third grade teacher, the responses were all strikingly similar, to wit, “Has it already been five years?” “No comment,” and “It just goes to show you, you can never give up on a person.” Might you explain this?
- Personal Life: Do you participate in any 12 Step programs and, if so, what step are you on, and why?
- Marital Status: I see here you’ve indicated “Ms.” on your job application; however, I see a ring on your left hand. Why not just cut to the chase and choose “Mrs.?” Does this mean yours is not a happy union?
- Political Party Affiliation: You’re wearing red, white, and blue today with a festive flag pin on your lapel. Are you appearing in a parade today, or running for political office?
- Religious Preferences: Would you have an objection to working on Yom Kippur? And a follow-up question, if I may. Do you think it’s best to say “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Holidays,” or none of the above, and why?
- Photographs: Do you mind if I take a picture of you? I’ve got so many applicants I don’t have a prayer of keeping any of them straight. We’re hiring from within the organization anyway, but my boss wants me to go through the motions. Ready? “Say, unemployed!”
- Physical Data: Our organization prides itself on first impressions. Would you be willing to adopt a sensible diet, join a gym, and meet weekly with our on-site image consultant?
- Ancestry/Birthplace/National Origin: *I notice you’re from Stockton, California. Wow. I’m sorry.
*You guessed it. I am from Stockton, California and many people have made this comment to me over the years, which sometimes leaves me with my funny bone out of joint and, subsequently, a bone to pick.
Having participated in more than her fair share of interviews on both sides of the hiring table, Diane Dean-Epps is NOT an HR professional, nor does she aspire to be one. (I know. You are relieved and who can blame you?) What she does lay claim to is her status as a humorist with a specialty in finding the funny in situations that at first blush are not so much humorous as disastrous. Interviewing qualifies. Hands down.