How to Deal

Crossing the Line During an Interview

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By Lily Garcia
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, September 27, 2007; 12:00 AM

During a recent interview, I was asked the following and found it inappropriate:

"Would you have any problem working with Monica?" She is the team leader and is younger than me by several years.

I responded by asking "Why?" And then followed with "Because of the age difference?"

Monica was also present during this meeting.

But when you're interviewing, should age ever be mentioned? Doesn't this fall into an EEOC category or was it simply misguided?

That question was very inappropriate. If you're over 40, and if the employer's hiring decision is based on whether they think you'd have a productive working relationship with Monica, it may constitute illegal discrimination under federal law.

If the organization is concerned with Monica's ability to effectively supervise older workers, then they have a performance problem. And should handle it internally. The company may need to develop Monica's confidence as a professional, so that she isn't intimidated by subordinates with more experience. They might also want to provide her with the tools necessary to handle situations where she may but heads with those individuals who resent having to report to a younger manager.

Ultimately, it sounds as if this employer wants to ensure that you wouldn't turn down their offer because you'd be reporting to a younger manager. The hiring decision, however, should be based solely on your qualifications (taking into account the job's professional requirements and not stereotypical assumptions about age).

Join Lily Garcia on Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 11 a.m. ET for How to Deal Live.

Lily Garcia has offered employment law and human resources advice to companies of all sizes for 10 years. To submit a question, e-mail lilymgarcia@gmail.com. We reserve the right to edit submitted questions for length and clarity and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered


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