Know your rights: A female’s guide to interview discrimination

Tis the season of suits, business cards and firm handshakes, as more Penn State students buckle down on summer internships, and post graduation jobs.

For a female applicant though, there may be more to it than at first glance. It’s no small secret that women are unfairly discriminated against in the work place, making 77 cents to every dollar a male earns according to

What may be little known to young female students, is the myriad of ways interviews can be used to discriminatorily screen females, whom employers sometimes view as potentially lost investments, since many women leave the work force to have children – a prehistoric view.

Paul Whitehead, Professor of Labor Studies and Employment Relations law, and former United Steelworker’s lawyer, detailed some of these questions to avoid.

“While some companies are really great, there are others who are quite bad, and in those cases, women  in this age bracket of 20-somethings, whether the employer asks questions or not, can be discriminated against,” Whitehead said.

Example Whitehead gave of questions that are unadvisable to answer, not to mention potentially illegal, include asking about weekend and evening availability, family situations or future plans.

Sarah Hurley, President of the Society of Labor and Employment Relations and Human Resources Employment Relations graduate student, also elaborates about these questions to avoid.

“Many employers will ask “Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?’” Hurley says. “As a mock interviewer, I actually had people tell me they hoped to have a family and live in a certain city. Both of those give away information your interviewer could use to decide not to hire you. The question, however, is perfectly legal, since they did not force you to give this answer.”

The advice given about how to handle these questions mainly consisted of avoiding answering about children or family.

“My best recommendation would be to avoid anything about kids, marriage, families, or certain cities you are limiting yourself to, unless the company is a small local business,” Hurley says. “Companies are not allowed to ask if you are married, about your drug and alcohol use, social clubs, weight, or citizenship.”

So to all female applicants entering interview season, beware these interview traps, and take this knowledge to navigate above the glass-ceiling and to the career of your dreams.

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