"What's your natural hair color?" and other inappropriate interview questions

Development Dimensions International, a global human resources consulting firm, and Monster.com just released the results of their third study since 1999 of hiring and recruiting practices. While much of their study (read the executive summary by clicking here and the news release by clicking here) talked about ways employers can hire and retain the best talent, the study also focused on job seekers' interview experiences. Two-thirds of job seekers surveyed reported that the interviewer influences their decision to accept a position.

Among the findings I found most interesting (at least for the purposes of this blog) is that interviewers annoy job seekers by:

  1. Treating the interview as unimportant (acting like there’s no time for it, showing up late, appearing unprepared).

  2. Taking an insensitive approach (grilling the candidate, holding back job information).

  3. Asking inappropriate questions (unrelated to the job, personal questions).

Among those "inappropriate questions" were:

  • “What is the cost of the ring you are wearing?”

  • “If you were a dog, what kind would you be?”

  • “What is your natural hair color?”

While the study validated what many a job seeker has experienced, the survey also confirmed what I consider an empowering development, and one of the only ways job seekers can fight back when treated badly. "Interviewers are risking not only the loss of potentially valuable employees, but also their organization’s reputation," the study concluded. Said one job seeker, “'If I had a very poor interviewing experience, I would want no association with that company at all as a customer. I might even become an advocate against them.'” This mirrors my own experience (and the impetus for this blog) as well as the 2002 findings of Chicago headhunter Wendy Tarzian, which I mentioned in a post last year.