Modern laws and enlightened HR practices now actively discourage offensive statements at job interviews.

Questions relating to race, religion, sexual orientation or gender-based discrimination should all be an absolute “no-no”.  While there are no doubt some transgressions still, it’s hopefully unlikely that you will encounter such problems in the typical interview with a serious employer.

What might be more common though are questions on statements that appear to be designed to somehow “put you down”.

Here’s why.

Identify the person making statements

In cases where the person conducting the interview is the future boss, they may be asking probing questions of the “surely you must know this” type for the following reasons:

  • they’re deliberately provoking you to see how you respond;
  • they want to see if you will stand up to them and fight your corner metaphorically speaking. Many employers don’t want overly shy and withdrawn people who are reluctant to speak up for themselves.

Another possibility is that one of the interviewers would be one of your colleagues or someone in another section.  Their motivations may be entirely different:

  • they may resent your background or qualifications;
  • they may feel that the position being recruited for or perhaps you as an individual, threaten their ongoing position and promotion prospects;
  • in some cases, there may feel that the position should be going to a man/woman or someone local;
  • perhaps they have already applied for the position and been turned down due to a lack of experience etc.

 How to respond

The first thing to recognise is that what people say at interviews when making statements and what they really mean or believe, are often two different things.

Some interviewers have had little or no formal interview training and therefore may feel extremely awkward and/or be inept.

Whatever the rationale behind the questions or negative statements might be, you should:

  • control your emotions and avoid reacting with aggressive accusations, refutations or counter-insults;
  • keep your responses calm, factual and if you do believe the question/statement was unjustified, provocative and belittling, say so and ask for an explanation as to why it was said;
  • be confident in yourself and your background. As we have said in other guides, somebody thought your CV was good enough to invite you for an interview – so you’re there on merit;
  • if the questions or statements continue to be bordering on the derisory and negative about you and your candidacy, be prepared to stand up, calmly state your intention of going no further and leave.

This is all about having confidence and martial arts training can help you with that.

As a final comment, remember if you are on the receiving end of questions or statements that are clearly in contravention of either the law or best practice, you should not hesitate to seek legal advice. You should also write immediately to the chief executive of the company concerned, stating your intention to make a formal complaint.

Read some Interview Tips Here