Discrimination in a hiring process is illegal, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Unfortunately, preconceived notions and prejudices that the hiring manager personally holds may prevent you from getting a job that you’re qualified for.
But how can you tell if you’re being discriminated against, or if you’re just not right for the job?
NOTE: If you’re worried about age discrimination in particular, we just published a newer, more up-to-date article HERE.
Job search discrimination isn’t targeted at only one sex, race, sexual orientation or demographic. In fact, depending on the hiring manager on the job, any group could face discrimination during the job interview process.
Discrimination appears when the hiring manager or company lets their own prejudices or opinions stand in the way of giving all job candidates a fair interview and chance at the job. If an employer will not hire you because of your gender, your sexual orientation or your ethnicity, that’s considered discrimination.
Job discrimination can also appear after you’ve been hired. If you are consistently passed over for promotions or fired because of personal characteristics that do not interfere with your ability to do your job, you may continue to face discrimination in the workforce.
When you’re sitting in a job interview, you may be faced with certain questions that make you wonder whether or not they can really be asked. If a hiring manager or other individual at the company you’re interviewing with asks about having children, whether or not you’re married or about your ethnicity or religion, you may feel a bit uncomfortable.
However, these questions are not considered discrimination and they are not illegal to ask. The line into discrimination and illegal behavior is crossed if the information you provide is then used as a reason not to hire you. If the hiring manager asks these questions and does not hire you for other reasons related to your ability to do the job, this would not be considered discrimination.
It can be difficult to tell if the interviewer is merely looking to get more information about you, or if they’re looking for reasons why you wouldn’t make a good fit in the office. Questions about your desire to have children or your background can seem like small talk, but they can also be considered extremely inappropriate.
When you’re faced with questions like these, do your best to try and understand where the interviewer is coming from. Understand the interviewer’s intentions and try to answer according to what they are looking for.
Knowing whether or not you’ve truly been discriminated against can be difficult. While everyone likes to believe that their skills and abilities are enough to land the job, sometimes they just aren’t what the company is looking for. Not getting hired for a position that you’re qualified for doesn’t automatically mean you’ve been discriminated against.
Employers have the right to hire whoever they believe is the best fit for the open position. This includes hiring someone with less experience or ability, if they believe that individual would make a better fit in the office or could be trained more easily to do the job.
The reasons for not hiring you may have nothing to do with your religion, race, age, sexual orientation or gender.
When there’s only one position to fill, employers can argue that the individual they hired was just a better fit — even if discrimination did play a part in why you weren’t hired. They may simply argue that you made a mistake in an interview, that you did not have the same connection or you’re missing some skill the other individual had.
However, if you have sufficient evidence that you’ve been discriminated against, one answer may be to file a discrimination claim. If you decide to go down this path, you need to be prepared to argue and support your case.
If you’re worried about discrimination in your job search, you can be proactive to avoid it or efficiently handle it when it does appear. Be aware of the kind of questions that may lead to discrimination and answer them in a way that the hiring manager cannot use the information against you.
If you are particularly worried about age discrimination, this article on how to avoid age discrimination on your resume will help you a lot.
Knowing why you may be discriminated against is also important if you want to avoid it during an interview. If you believe your religion, sexual orientation or desire to have children could prevent you from getting hired, avoid having personal conversations that may prompt you to reveal this information.
Finally, pay attention to the behaviors and attitudes of your hiring manager after revealing potentially sensitive information. If you tell the interviewer that you hope to have children someday soon and they immediately close up or end the interview, you’ll know you’re being discriminated against.
NOTE: If you’re worried about age discrimination in particular, we just published a newer article HERE.
About this guest author:
Sarah Landrum is a leading millennial career expert and the founder of Punched Clocks, a career and happiness blog for young professionals. Follow Sarah on social media @SarahLandrum for more advice on creating a career you love!