How to Handle Rude Questions in a Job Interview

How to Handle Rude Questions in a Job Interview

How to handle rude questions in a job interview

You may need to adjust your definition of “rude” during your job search.

By Dominique Rodgers
Monster Contributing Writer
 
“Have you thought about losing weight?”
 
Wow! That’s a rude question, but that hasn’t stopped someone from asking it in a job interview, says Barry Maher, a career consultant and motivational speaker. In the situation he observed, it came from an inexperienced member of a panel of interviewers and was targeted at “a heavy-set, but certainly not obese, female applicant.”
 
What would you do if you were that candidate? How you handle those impolite inquiries can determine whether you get the job or not, so consider practicing some of these strategies.

Keep a sense of humor
  
The quick-thinking candidate who was asked about her weight fired back the perfect response with a big smile on her face: “Only every time I look in the mirror -- which is why I try to avoid looking in mirrors.” By showing a sense of humor, she turned the awkward situation around -- and landed the job. (The interviewer got some coaching on better interviewing techniques, says Maher.)

Respond with a compliment
  
You can frame the answer to some rude questions as a compliment to your prospective employer. Chris Delaney, an interview coach and the author of The 73 Rules for Influencing the Interview using Psychology, NLP and Hypnotic Persuasion Techniques once had an interviewer try to trip him up by slamming his current employer: “Isn’t everyone who works at that company lazy?”
 
If you’re presented with something like this, Delaney suggests you reframe the interviewer’s opinion to create intrigue and likeability by saying something like "I agree, everyone who works there is lazy, which is why I am leaving to work for a company like yours with good work ethics." Bonus points if you can find a way to do this without expressing agreement with the negative assessment of your current or former employer.
 
Turn the question to your advantage

When presented with a rude or odd question, you can always change it up and use it to showcase some of your good qualities. John Paul Engel calls this answering like a politician. For example, if asked about a scar, the founder of boutique management consulting group Knowledge Capital Consulting suggests, "Funny you should ask. I got that scar working on a family farm. Growing up I learned the importance of putting in an honest day's work for an honest day's pay."
 
Engel has a few go-to stories ready that showcase good traits -- such as work ethic, creativity and executive presence -- and can adapt almost any question to fit with one of them.

Refuse politely
 
Whether your interviewer is testing you, inexperienced and nervous, or truly socially clueless, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to answer anything you don’t want to. If you’re presented with a question that you do not want to answer under any circumstances, then don’t. Just keep in mind that the way in which you refuse may salvage the interview.
 
The key is to be prepared beforehand and know how to refuse rude questions, says Donna Flagg, author of Surviving Dreaded Conversations. “It is perfectly acceptable to make light of something and just brush it off as personal. Or if it is something more intimate in nature, you can just say something like, ‘Oh gosh, I never talk about that -- especially in a job interview,’” she says.

Problems happen when people are caught off guard by these questions. They feel pressure to answer, so they do and then resent it. Or they don’t get out of answering very tactfully because they simply weren’t expecting the question, she added. If you anticipate odd questions, they won’t be a big deal.