Things A Job Interviewer Should Never Ask You (Even If She’s Amy Poehler)

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Who said the only way to learn about money was to read articles on top of articles? Financial education is all around us—provided you look closely enough. Increase your awareness with the SALT™ Blog video of the week, picked fresh from YouTube.

Guys, exciting news: Amy Poehler is back for another video of the week!

Loyal reader(s) of this blog know the Parks and Rec star is one of our favorites, and this clip marks her record-breaking third financial lesson (your move, DMX).

Amy previously showed us the value of shopping around and not spending money you don’t have; now, she’s on to career advice. But, unlike those past clips (or the pants in this ad), her example ain’t pretty.


The clip above features alternate takes from this commercial, which you’ve likely seen if you own a TV.

In it, Poehler grills a job applicant about her clothes and little else. These outtakes show even more horrible boss behavior. (Though, to be fair, she also makes a mean lighthouse joke. I always pictured her in one of those! Or at least her ex living there …)

Of course, you’re not supposed to take this commercial seriously; the “Attorney-At-Laugh” title (ugh) probably gave that away. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean you won’t face similarly inappropriate questions during a job interview. If you do, here’s how to deal with them.

Almost Always Inappropriate

Due to anti-discrimination laws, employers know to tread very lightly around the following topics:

  • Race
  • Gender
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Marital/family status

Asking about these items is usually out of bounds. However, an employer can somewhat get around this if a trait is a “bona fide occupational qualification”—like asking when you were born to see if you’re too old for a job with a mandatory retirement age. If you’ve done your research, you’ll likely be ready for these questions heading in and know they’re OK to ask.

Handling Surprise Questions

If a question surprises you, you probably won’t say “that’s illegal!” and walk out if you want the job. However, that doesn’t mean your only options are to suck it up and answer or dance around the subject (though not literally, like the woman in the video).

Instead, tell the interviewer you’re not comfortable with that topic and nicely ask how it relates to the position. It’s possible you misunderstood the question or he or she stated it poorly. By digging deeper, you’ll see whether it truly was inappropriate—and, if it was, you probably don’t want to work for them anyway. Here’s a nice summary of what employers can and can’t ask about sensitive topics.

If an interview leaves you feeling like a company has discriminated against you, you can file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Here’s more information about that process.

Other Topics Taboo Too?

You’re probably not surprised that Items like race and religion shouldn’t come up in most job interviews. But what about other potentially prickly topics, like your appearance?

As we know from this Old Navy ad, the clothes you choose make an impression, especially the colors you wear. Ideally, you’ll dress to match the job’s environment, i.e., if you can help it, maybe avoid a T-shirt at a fancy law office. Other visible aspects (like tattoos and piercings) may be detrimental to you landing a job as well—even if the hiring manager avoids mentioning them.

So, what to do if you feel like you’re getting funny looks? One option is to address them head-on. That will show the employer you’re aware of their concerns and make them more comfortable with you. And if you don’t have a great story for them about your tattoos or whatever, make a joke about it.

Amy Poehler would totally hire you if you did that.

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