Dealing with Personality Interview QuestionsWritten by Scott Brown
QUESTION FROM A SUBSCRIBER:
I recently had an interview where man asked me What 3 people living or dead would I have dinner with. Honestly I answered question. From that he stated, "Oh, you're a democrat". Then he asked me what books I was reading, one I pointed out was a self help book, he asked "What kind of self help book?" Are these questions legal? - D.A.
I'm not a lawyer so I can't give legal advice. But my understanding is that those interview questions would not in themselves be illegal. It is not legal to discriminate against someone when making a hiring decision on basis of their membership in a protected class (such as race, sex, sexual orientation, age, etc.).
It is often difficult to prove such things, especially if it is an isolated incident and just your word against theirs. If you do feel you were discriminated against in an illegal way, you should consult an attorney and/or EEOC (www.eeoc.gov). The EEOC will usually, at minimum, let you file a complaint against company. This way if they start to see an unusually high number of complaints against a particular firm, that may be considered evidence of unfair hiring practices.
All that being said, filing complaints against companies or suing them is not best way to get offered a job. An interview is a selling situation. When going into an interview situation, it might be helpful for you to think of yourself as an agent for yourself. Remember HBO show "Arliss"? Or Tom Cruise's character in "Jerry Maguire"? Jerry Maguire had to endure all sorts of off-color remarks and behavior in his efforts to sell his services. But he just rolled with punches and kept focused on his goal of closing sale, always.
The best answer to a personality-oriented question is answer interviewer would give themselves. Another option is to challenge or dismiss question in a funny and/or witty way. This second option works best if you've already shown yourself to be a valuable person (such as through your knowledge of work or industry). Showing interviewer that you're in control of situation and not overwhelmed by their question is often better than answering question directly. In an interview or personal selling situation, you need to demonstrate two things: personality and value. For many technical positions, employers are willing to sacrifice personality for value. But in positions that require working with other people, demonstrating personality may be equally if not more important.
Dealing with Gaps in EmploymentWritten by Scott Brown
This week's job searching tip deals with gaps in employment on your resume. If, by looking at your resume, an interviewer can see an obvious gap between recent jobs, their perception of what that gap means could hurt your chances of being considered for a job. This week's tip discusses strategies for dealing with these gaps.
QUESTION FROM A SUBSCRIBER: What is best way to handle being away from job market for an extended period of time (over 2 years) both on resume and in interviews? My absence was due to medical/psychological difficulties and I want to be honest, but discrete. Any information you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
Dear K.M., If an employment gap is short or occurred several years ago, most employers and recruiters won't notice and you probably don't need to bring it up unless they do. However in your case, it sounds like gap is noticeable. There are several ways you can deal with situation.
USING A FUNCTIONAL RESUME
A solution many resume writers would recommend is to use a functional resume instead of a chronological one. This can work if you have a complex job where you have achieved many things in various areas. For example, a programmer who has worked with several technologies could legitimately use a functional resume, dividing up resume by technologies worked with instead of time periods. This can also work with other technical professions like engineers, attorneys, etc. If work you do is rather straightforward and you work with a fairly limited range of skills, using a functional resume could make it seem like you're trying to hide your dates of employment.
If you do use a functional resume, many people looking at it will still want to know what kinds of companies you've worked for and what most recent employer's line of business was. You can deal with this by including a note above your list of experiences indicating most recent employer's name, location and line of business. In this same section you can list other employer names and lines of business you have worked in.
INCLUDING AN EXPLANATION OF THE GAP
Another approach is to include an explanation of gap on resume itself. This makes sense to do if using a functional resume instead of a chronological one would seem odd because your profession doesn't lend itself to such a resume format. It's also important to note that most people reading resumes prefer chronological format. If you have a legitimate story as to why you have a gap in your employment dates that most people could sympathize with and understand easily, just being forthright and listing it on your resume is fine.