Some questions are just questions, not discrimination - Albuquerque Journal

Some questions are just questions, not discrimination

Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site Dale Dauten is founder of The Innovators’ Lab and author of a novel about H.R., “The Weary Optimist.”

Dear J.T. & Dale: Is there a place or reference that would give us common things HR or companies do/ask that are illegal? For example, “Tell me about yourself” is often used to find out your religion and other personal information that often makes certain people biased. “Where are you from?” is often used to discover someone’s ethnic background and possible political and religious beliefs. “Let’s talk about this in person” is something used by HR after you’ve been hired, and they don’t want a paper trail to be used in a lawsuit. (I heard this one from a labor attorney.) — Robert

J.T.: I am worried that you might be overthinking this. It almost feels like you are going into every job interview waiting for the moment to “catch” the person interviewing you in something illegal. Please know that, oftentimes, the questions they ask are truly well-intended and innocent. Not everyone is out to discriminate, and I would encourage you to give people the benefit of the doubt. In my 20-plus years’ experience doing this, I can tell you that the people who truly discriminate, you will know by the repeated illegal things they do.

DALE: You might think that I, an Old White Guy, over all my years in and around management, would have overheard many conversations involving discrimination, probably even discussions around “how do we get away with it?” Nope, not even one. Rather, I have been part of innumerable discussions of how to increase diversity in hiring. Sure, there are those who’d say I am blind to unconscious discrimination, and that could be true. Meanwhile, I’m sure of this: A lot of companies are run by jerks and creeps. So, while you need to be totally upbeat while assuming the best in interviews, be sure to also do your research — online and via networking — to find out the true story of how the company treats employees.

J.T.: My advice for the interviews themselves: Focus on your answers. Get clear on what you are willing to share. If someone is going to discriminate against you, you can’t control that. The only thing you can control is what you say in the meeting. Lastly, focus on choosing employers whose values and beliefs really resonate with you. Finding a company that speaks to your core will help you land in the right environment.

Dear J.T. & Dale: A recruiter reached out to me for a position, and I’m currently in the interviewing process. I need to send the recruiter a follow-up note. Is it appropriate to also express interest in continuing to work with her for other opportunities that she may be filling, if this job isn’t a fit? Or, should my follow-up note be specific to the current position? — Camilla

J.T.: Right now, you are mid-process with this role, so there is no need to mention other positions. In the event that you don’t get selected, that’s when you say something to the effect of, “While I’m disappointed that I didn’t get the job, I’m so glad you found the right candidate. That said, I loved this hiring process, and this company is on my bucket list of dream employers to work for. Would you be able to tell me the best way I can be proactive and stay on your radar screen for future opportunities?” This will let the recruiter know you are 1. interested and 2. want to make the effort to stay in touch.

DALE: Here, again, we have a case of “questions are the answer.” As the best sales professionals know, you ask permission to follow up, and you also ask the best way to do so. There is no downside to asking; plus, you’re maximizing your chances of future connection. Even so, you should know that most recruiters do not want relationships with job searchers — they take each assignment as it comes and will only want to talk again if there’s a job where you’re a great fit. So, a relationship is a long shot, but by asking you’re getting your shot.

Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site Dale Dauten is founder of The Innovators’ Lab and author of a novel about H.R., “The Weary Optimist.” Please visit them at, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. (c) 2022 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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