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.