At a job interview, some topics, e.g., family, religion and age, simply aren't fair game. Ellen Vance, senior consultant and advisory services practice leader for Titan Group, a Richmond, Va.-based human resources consulting firm, offers insight on how to address such questions tactfully.
Peel the onion. Try to decode the intent of the question, which could be benign. For instance, broaching topics such as marital status or children might indicate a concern about travel availability. In that case, respond by assuring the interviewer that you are able to travel.
Don't be defensive. A potentially discriminatory situation can be off-putting, especially when you're eager to impress. But calling out the gaffe might be perceived as belligerent. "Coming off as terse will cause them to move on to other applicants," says Vance. It's better to politely deflect the conversation if possible.
Decline to respond. If the interviewer presses on, you can either answer the offending question or refrain from doing so. If you'd rather refrain, Vance suggests stating: "Since I am not certain how your question relates to my qualifications for the position, I would prefer not to answer it."