Difficult questions and legal rights

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Don’t feel that the interviewers are out to bite you!

An interviewee is always in the difficult position between not disclosing personal information, yet providing pertinent information for the interviewer, and ultimately the company. This is why is it important to know, and have answers for, the kinds of questions that can be asked, and to know what questions are not to be asked, and also to have a tactful and non-confrontational answer to protect yourself, without jeopardising your job prospects.

Age/Date of birth
• Employers should not ask your age
• But you can be asked to submit proof of age after being employed
Marital/Family status
• Employers should not ask about your marital status in order to allude to your sexual orientation, whether you are single, or if you are living in a de facto relationship
• They may want to know if your family situation will cause any absences or tardiness, such as associated with child care but this cannot be a reason for discrimination
• They can ask about your willingness and ability to travel, if you expect any absences, and if you would have any other commitments that might interfere with the job (such as religious ceremonies)
• They can ask if you can work on Saturdays and Sundays (see Religions below)
• Employers should not ask about your specific body characteristics
• But they can ask if you can lift a certain amount of weight, or perform certain physical functions
• Employers must not ask about specific disabilities, or about any hospitalization or illnesses
• They can ask if you are capable of performing certain skills or activities, and what kind of accommodation might be required
• Employers can request a physical exam once a bona fide job offer is made
• Do not lie about a disability
• If a disability needs to be disclosed, suggest ways you can work around it, or ways that the employer can accommodate your situation
National origin or citizenship
• For non-New Zealand job applicants, employers must request verification of the right-to-work status in New Zealand
Arrest record
• An employer should not ask if you have ever been arrested
• But they can ask if you have ever been convicted of a crime, especially one that might be related to the job – such as if you were convicted of embezzling money for a bank job or other job that required handling money
• Again, be honest with your answers – dishonest answers, or falsifying information on job applications can lead to immediate dismissal
• Employers should not ask to which social or cultural clubs you belong, nor to which church
• They can ask if you belong to trade or professional groups that would enhance or hinder you job performance
• Employers should not discriminate against someone’s race, colour or religion
• But they can ask if there are any days you cannot work, such as for religious holidays
• If you cannot work on certain days, suggest other days you can to be accommodating to the employer – such as if you cannot work on Saturday, you would be able to work on Sunday

Typical questions which are legal to ask:
• Describe your education.
• What experience qualifies you for this job?
• Do you have licenses/certifications for this job?
• Are you willing to travel?
• What name(s) are your work records under?
• Are you available for overtime?
• Do you have the legal right to work in New Zealand?
Possible illegal or discriminatory questions:
• What is or was your spouse's name or line of work?
• Have you ever filed an ACC claim or been injured on the job?
• Have you ever been arrested?
• Have you ever been hospitalized? If so, for what condition?
• Have you ever been treated by a psychiatrist or psychologist? If so, for what condition?
• How many days were you absent from work because of illness last year?
• Are you taking any prescribed drugs?
• Have you ever been treated for drug addiction or alcoholism?
Once an employer offers you the job they may request:
• Birth certificate
• Ethnicity statistics
• Marital status
• Proof of citizenship/immigration status
• Photographs
• Physical exam and drug testing