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Hiring Job Interviews Equal Employment Bullies Screening Applicants

I was interviewing an applicant and she volunteered information about her personal life that I had not requested. Once she had opened the door, I asked a few follow-up questions. When I mentioned this to our Human Resources manager, she practically bit my head off and told me that even if the applicant brings up personal information, an interviewer has to ignore it. Is she right?

Your human resources manager is both right and wrong. Technically, she is absolutely right, since you should not be probing applicants about any personal information, such as age, marital status, child-care arrangements, religion, and national origin, even if the applicant is the one who brings up the topic in the first place. All of your pre-employment inquiries should be job-related and based on actual business necessity.

At the same time, your human resources manager is absolutely wrong to be using an approach in which she practically bites off your head. Her job is to be a resource, and there is no way that she can fulfill that role if she goes into the attack mode when employees come to her with technical questions. Rather, in such situations, she should go into a coaching mode. All that her present style will do is prevent employees from coming to her at all, and that will ultimately lead to far greater problems.

As a side note, if an applicant does bring up personal information, you should refrain from taking notes. Once it is in writing, it could be claimed that you were asking personal questions. Hopefully your human resources manager mentioned this point as part of her biting comments.

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