Coping with Difficult and Inappropriate Questions
There are some questions you expect an interviewer to ask and even look forward to answering. After all, if you aren't asked those questions, how will you ever be able to let a potential employer know why you are the best person for the job? There are other questions that you hope never to be asked, some because they are so difficult you can't answer them and others because the interviewer's intention when asking those questions is never good.
One of the biggest fears candidates harbor about job interviews is the unknown question for which they have no answer. To make matters worse, some recruiters may ask a question knowing full well you can't answer it. They don't usually ask such questions because they enjoy seeing you squirm — they want to judge how you might respond to pressure or tension on the job. If you're asked a tough question you can't answer, think about it for a few seconds. Then, with a confident smile and without apology, simply say “I don't know” or “I can't answer that question.”
Illegal or Inappropriate Questions
Some interviewers go beyond asking difficult questions. They ask questions that are considered “illegal.” While asking the question isn't truly illegal, using your response to determine whether to hire you is illegal. For example, an interviewer asking someone what their nationality is, isn't illegal (although it is inappropriate). If you are asked that question on an interview and then aren't offered the job, you might assume it is because of your answer. That might be discrimination on the part of the interviewer, and that is illegal. When you are asked a question you feel is inappropriate, you can speak up and say so. Rather than being confrontational, you can say that you would rather not answer the question. You will be taking the risk that the interviewer won't like that answer and may choose not to offer you a job because of it. Given the tone of the question and what it says about the interviewer, though, would that really be a bad thing?