It’s that scary time of year again, so we are going to talk about prohibited interview questions, also known as forbidden, outlawed, and maybe even taboo! If you are interviewing for an administrative position, and the interviewer asks you for your caldron recipe, never give it! Your secret recipe ought to stay secret. This is a prohibited interview question that has nothing to do with the job! Some other more common prohibited interview questions include questions about gender orientation, age, religion, race, marital status, nationality, and pregnancy or child-bearing plans. Like your caldron recipe, the aforementioned pieces of information ought not to be shared since they have nothing to do with the job.

Most people become a little frightened when they are asked a prohibited question. Panic sometimes sets in because people become uncomfortable and do not know how to handle the situation. Sometimes people even become defensive and display explosive behaviour. Don’t overreact! We are here to help. Whether you are the defensive type, the deer-in-the-headlights type, or the acquiescing type we have a couple of tactics that will help to calm your nerves and keep you level-headed.

One way to answer a prohibited interview question is to be politely vague and brief. For example, if asked about your heritage, you could respond with, “I’m not really sure of my heritage, but I know I am a proud Canadian.” Or if the interviewer asks about your religion, you could respond with something like, “Always believe in yourself. That’s what I follow.” Remember that most interviewers ask these questions out of ignorance, sheer interest in you as a person, or because they actually wanted to know if you could work on Sundays–not because they are being blatantly discriminatory. If the question is deliberately discriminatory, and you feel your blood begin to boil, take a breath and respond with something like, “That’s an interesting question. I’d be happy to answer if you could tell me how it relates to this position.” Thus, what you are doing is being polite and redirecting the attention back to the requirements of the job. Additionally, you are demonstrating that you are savvy about prohibited questions, and hopefully the interviewer will not ask you anymore. And who knows, perhaps the interviewer had a good reason to ask you the question in the first place. Or, if the interviewer was simply ignorant or genuinely interested in you, at least you have been polite and not burned any bridges, or shot yourself in the foot. Ouch!