MONEY Ask the Expert

What to Say When a Job Interviewer Asks You an Illegal Question

Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.

Q: I was recently being interviewed for a job, and it seemed to be going well. But then the interviewer asked if I was planning to have children. Is she allowed to do that?

A: If the question made you uncomfortable, there’s a good reason. It’s illegal to ask—and the person interviewing you may not even know it.

One in five hiring managers say they have asked a question in a job interview only to find out later that it was a violation of federal labor laws to ask it, according to a CareerBuilder survey.

In the same survey, one third of employers who were given a list of banned questions also said they didn’t know the queries were illegal.

Things that are out of bounds for companies to ask about include your age, race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, disability, plans for children, debt, and whether you are pregnant, drink, or smoke.

While it’s unlikely that an interviewer will bluntly ask your age or religion (though that does happen), a lot of interviewers veer into dangerous territory just by making small talk, says Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder. “Casual conversation is part of the interview process. When you’re chit-chatting, sometimes the conversation turns more personal.” In other cases, hiring managers want to make sure people are a good cultural fit, so they try to tap into other parts of a candidate’s life, Haefner says.

Sometimes it’s just how the question is framed that makes it illegal. For example, you can ask if a job candidate has been convicted of a crime, but not if he or she has an arrest record. You can’t ask a person’s citizenship or national origin, but it’s OK to ask if the person is legally eligible to work in the U.S.

Some hiring managers may be in the dark because they’ve never gotten formal training or don’t interview people often. But not everyone is just clueless. Anti-discrimination labor laws exist for a reason, says Haefner. “You shouldn’t be asked about information that’s not directly relevant to whether you can perform a job,” she says.

Understanding what’s allowed and what’s not is in a company’s best interest too. A job candidate who isn’t offered a position may say certain questions were used to discriminate against her and file a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission or hire a lawyer. Though discrimination may be hard to prove, the company could face legal action and financial penalties.

If you’re the person doing the interviewing, check in with your HR department about training, and prepare your questions in advance so you are less likely to stray into illegal territory.

When you’re on the other side of the interview table, it’s a little trickier.

Whether you should answer a personal question is your choice, but if the question seems inappropriate, Haefner suggests responding with a question of your own. “Say, as diplomatically as possible, ‘I just want to clarify how that is relevant to the job.’”

If the questioner doesn’t take the hint, then it may not be a company you want to work for anyway.

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MONEY wage gap

The 25 Careers in Which Women Are Most Underpaid

equal pay day wage gap women
Michael Hanson—Aurora Photos Female farmers, on average, earn just 60% of what their male counterparts do.

Females in financial services suffer some of the biggest pay gaps—but farmers don't have it great either.

On this Equal Pay Day, let’s take a moment to acknowledge where the greatest strides have yet to be made.

While gals make 78¢ to the dollar that guys do on average, the differential in some professions is much greater. Female securities and financial services sales agents, for example, are the most underpaid professionals compared with their male peers, getting a mere 55¢ per $1 of their counterparts’ compensation.

The Census bureau tracks earnings by gender for more than 500 occupational categories; the table below shows 25 fields where, based on 2013 data, the difference in what she makes and what he makes is the biggest.

(You can discover what each of these fields entails by typing in the category listed at O*Net Online, and find your own field’s pay differential via this Census table.)

Nearly half the jobs on this list are in financial fields. It’s also worth noting that 17 out of 25 are majority male in makeup, compared with half of the fields where the pay gap for women is the smallest.

Need a pick-me-up after this list? Check out The 25 Careers with the Smallest Wage Gaps for Women. And read up on how to reduce the pay gap for yourself, no matter where your own field falls.

Occupational Category % Women in Field Median Earnings, Men Median Earnings, Women % Women’s Earnings to Men’s % Margin of Error
1. Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents 30% $93,795 $51,284 54.7 5.7
2. Financial specialists, all other 55% $81,859 $48,869 59.7 7.5
3. Morticians, undertakers, and funeral dirs. 20% $51,129 $31,023 60.7 10.5
4. Farmers, ranchers,agricultural mgrs. 11% $41,691 $25,310 60.7 5.0
5. Personal financial advisors 31% $98,126 $60,359 61.5 5.5
6. Financial clerks, all other 61% $67,732 $42,122 62.2 5.8
7. Financial analysts 32% $100,081 $63,424 63.4 7.9
8. Financial managers 54% $90,278 $57,406 63.6 2.0
9. Supervisors housekeeping/janitorial 33% $41,180 $26,860 65.2 2.4
10. Production, planning, and expediting clerks 57% $56,437 $37,246 66.0 1.6
11. Credit counselors and loan officers 54% $69,726 $46,394 66.5 4.2
12. Insurance sales agents 45% $61,639 $41,250 66.9 1.4
13. Photographic process and processing machine workers 45% $31,888 $21,348 66.9 14.0
14. Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers 30% $36,494 $24,657 67.6 17.5
15. Driver/sales workers and truck drivers 4% $40,865 $27,657 67.7 3.8
16. Dentists 24% $151,071 $102,460 67.8 9.3
17. Tax preparers 52% $70,641 $47,997 67.9 7.1
18. Artists and related workers 36% $54,669 $37,261 68.2 9.0
19. Photographers 40% $44,513 $30,455 68.4 7.0
20. Welders, solderers, and brazers 5% $39,281 $26,893 68.5 3.6
21. Tax examiners, collectors, and agents 65% $66,754 $45,704 68.5 9.5
22. Economists 29% $120,076 $82,427 68.6 10.1
23. Credit authorizers, checkers, and clerks 73% $50,853 $35,037 68.9 10.9
24. Physicians and surgeons 33% $202,533 $140,036 69.1 4.0
25. Cutting workers 20% $31,113 $21,516 69.2 3.5

More from Money.com on equal pay:

The 25 Careers with the Smallest Wage Gaps for Women

5 Ways Women Can Close the Pay Gap for Themselves

The Single Best Thing Women Can Do to Help Themselves in Salary Negotiations

MONEY wage gap

The 25 Careers With the Smallest Wage Gaps for Women

wage gap careers equal pay day
Robert J. Ross—Getty Images On average, female media producers and directors outearn men.

Plus, 9 fields where women actually earn more

Tuesday is Equal Pay Day, intended to raise awareness of the fact that women still earn less than their male counterparts. That’s 22¢ to the dollar less on average, in case you haven’t been paying attention.

This date was not chosen randomly: Equal Pay Day is purposely held in April to illustrate the fact that it takes four months into the year for the average woman to catch up to the average man’s earnings from the last year. And it’s on a Tuesday to show how long into the week it takes to match a man’s previous-week earnings.

Of course, in some fields, getting up to par is quicker than others.

The Census bureau tracks earnings by gender for more than 500 occupational categories; the table below shows 25 fields where, based on 2013 data, the difference in what she makes and what he makes is the smallest. (You can find out what each of these fields entails by typing in the category listed at O*Net Online, and find your own field’s pay differential via this Census table.)

As you’ll see, there are nine fields where the average woman actually outearns her male counterpart, though the margins of error on these are high enough as to possibly undo the findings. Also worth noting: Half of the professions in the top 25 are made up of a majority of women, vs. only six of the bottom 25.

Some have argued that if women simply went into higher paying fields they could eliminate a wage discrepancy, but the data argue against that. After all, physicians and surgeons—who take home very healthy paychecks—suffer among the greatest pay discrepancies, with women in these fields making 69% of what men do.

Instead, Harvard economist Claudia Goldin, author of Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women, attributes a higher salary differential to the fact that some fields disproportionately incentivize people to work long hours and certain hours. That punishes women who take time out from their careers and require some flexibility in their work lives to raise children.

In aggregate, earnings between men and women are not that different until women enter child-bearing years, Goldin says. “But in some occupations, there isn’t a large penalty for time out of the workforce or shorter hours,” she notes.

What often separates those fields, she says, is that another person with a similar title can take over to serve as a perfect substitute. It’s easier for a woman to leave at 5 p.m. to pick up her kids if information systems or a standardization of product makes handing off her duties costless.

Goldin gives the example of a pharmacist (a profession in which women earn a high 93% of what men do). In that role, a computer system provides access to standard data about the customer, so that the customer needn’t always see the same person.

Okay, good to know, but if your field doesn’t allow this flexibility you likely won’t be able to make changes overnight. Nor are you probably interested in changing industries now just to gain the greater equality offered by the jobs below.

So what can you do? Advocating for yourself and asking the right people to advocate for you can help around the edges.

And Goldin suggests that you might work toward getting the men in your company to work less. The less willing they are to put in long hours without phenomenally more money, she notes, the more likely companies will be to put in place systems that allow workers to be more interchangeable.

“Ironically, rather than women leaning in,” she says, “it’s about getting men to start leaning out.”

 

Occupational Category % Women in Field Median Earnings, Men Median Earnings, Women % Women’s Earnings to Men’s % Margin of Error
1. Media producers and directors 37% $62,368 $66,226 106.2 10.3
2. Cleaners of vehicles and equip. 14% $23,605 $24,793 105.0 9.6
3. Wholesale and retail buyers 49% $41,619 $42,990 103.3 5.9
4. Transportation security screeners 36% $40,732 $41,751 102.5 4.4
5. Social and human service assistants 79% $34,967 $35,766 102.3 11.6
6. Special education teachers 85% $46,932 $47,378 101.0 3.5
7. Transportation, storage, and distrib. mgrs. 18% $52,017 $52,259 100.5 5.5
8. Dishwashers 16% $17,302 $17,332 100.2 7.4
9. Counselors 70% $42,299 $42,369 100.2 2.2
10. Industrial truck/tractor operators 7% $31,002 $30,981 99.9 2.9
11. Massage therapists 76% $29,272 $29,240 99.9 11.1
12. Counter and rental clerks 47% $27,449 $27,194 99.1 19.6
13. Biological scientists 48% $57,653 $57,107 99.1 9.8
14. Tellers 89% $25,564 $25,222 98.7 3.0
15. Musicians, singers, and related 20% $42,988 $42,279 98.4 13.7
16. Misc. personal appearance workers 79% $22,047 $21,632 98.1 4.0
17. Meeting and event planners 81% $47,876 $46,973 98.1 12.7
18. Security/surveillance guards 22% $30,546 $29,883 97.8 4.1
19. Computer network architects 8% $96,549 $94,445 97.8 5.7
20. Social workers 80% $42,821 $41,795 97.6 3.9
21. Computer occupations, all other 23% $66,971 $65,329 97.5 5.0
22. Nonfarm animal caretakers 69% $25,025 $24,401 97.5 9.4
23. Dietitians and nutritionists 88% $49,001 $47,717 97.4 7.7
24. Postal service clerks 50% $54,166 $52,574 97.1 1.5
25. Hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks 65% $21,995 $21,329 97.0 4.8

More from Money.com on equal pay:

The 25 Careers in Which Women are Most Underpaid Relative to Men

5 Ways Women Can Close the Pay Gap for Themselves

The Single Best Thing Women Can Do to Help Themselves in Salary Negotiations

MONEY Careers

A Good Reason to Tap Your Roth IRA Early

Concentrating surgeons performing operation in operating room
Alamy

You shouldn't always wait until you retire to pull money from your retirement account.

The Roth IRA is a great tool for retirement savings. But here’s something not as well-known: It’s great for developing your career as well.

Many of my young clients in their 20s and 30s struggle to balance current spending, saving for the next 10 years, and stowing away money for retirement. With so many life changes to deal with (weddings, home purchases, children, new jobs), their financial environment is anything but stable. And their retirement will look completely different than it does for today’s retirees.

To my clients, separating themselves from their current cash flow for the next 30 years feels like sentencing their innocent income to a long prison term.

They ask, “Why should we save our hard-earned money for retirement when we have no idea what our financial circumstances will be in 15 years, never mind 30? What if we want to go back to school or pay for additional training to improve our careers? We might also decide to start a business. How can we plan for these potential life changes and still be responsible about our future?”

The answers to those questions are simple. Start investing in a Roth IRA — the earlier you do it, the better.

There is a stigma that says anyone who touches retirement money before retirement is making a mistake, but this is what we call blanket advice: Although it’s safe and may be correct for many people, each situation is different.

The Roth IRA has very unique features that allow it to be used as a flexible tool for specific life stages.

Unlike contributions to a traditional IRA, which are locked up except for certain circumstances, money that you add to a Roth IRA can be removed at any time. Yes, it’s true. The contributions themselves can be taken out of the account and used for anything at all at any time in your life with no penalty. And, like the traditional IRA, you can also take a distribution of the earnings in the account without penalty for certain reasons, one of which is paying for higher education for you or a family member. (Some fine print: You’ll pay a penalty on withdrawing a contribution that was a rollover from a traditional IRA within the past five years. And you’ll have to pay ordinary income taxes on an early Roth IRA withdrawal for higher education.)

Although you shouldn’t pull money from your retirement account for just any reason, sometimes it’s a smart move.

Let’s say you graduate from college and choose a job based on your major. This first job is great and helps you get your feet wet in the professional world. You’re able to gain some valuable real-world experience and support yourself while you enjoy life after school. And this works for a while…until one day, 10 or 15 years into this career, you wake up and begin to question your choices.

You wonder if this career trajectory is truly putting you where you want to be in life. You think about changing careers or starting a business, but you need your income and have no real savings outside of your retirement accounts.

Now, let’s also say that you were tipped off to the magic of a Roth IRA while you were in college and you contributed to the account each year for the past 15 years. You have $75,000 sitting in the account, $66,000 of which are your yearly contributions from 2000 through 2014. It’s for retirement, though, so you can’t touch it, right? Well, this may be the perfect time to do so.

I recently spoke to a someone who did just this. Actually, his wife did it, but he was part of the decisionmaking process.

The wife has been working for years as a massage therapist for the husband’s company. Things were going quite well, but she had other ideas for her future. She wanted to go back to school to get her degree as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. The challenge was that this education was going to cost $30,000, and they did not have that kind of money saved.

So, they brainstormed the various options, one being to tap into his Roth IRA money. They determined that this would be a good investment for their future. Once the wife became a CRNA, her annual earnings would rise an estimated $20,000 — money they could easily use to recoup the Roth IRA withdrawal (though the 2015 Roth IRA contribution limit is $5,500 for those under 50 years old).

This decision gave them a sense of freedom. The flexibility of the Roth allowed them to choose an unconventional funding option for their future and gave the couple a new level of satisfaction in their lives.

And, that’s what it’s all about. We have one life to live, and it’s our responsibility to make decisions that will help us live happily today, while still maintaining responsibility for tomorrow.

Whether your savings is in a bank account or a retirement account, it’s your money. Although many advisers will tell you otherwise, you need to make decisions based on what is best for you at various stages of your life. The one-size-fits-all rule just doesn’t work when it come to financial planning. There is no need to rule out a possible solution because society says it’s a mistake.

———-

Eric Roberge, CFP, is the founder of Beyond Your Hammock, where he works virtually with professionals in their 20s and 30s, helping them use money as a tool to live a life they love. Through personalized coaching, Eric helps clients organize their finances, set goals, and invest for the future.

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MONEY College

The 6 Most Promising Industries for the Class of 2015

These businesses will be booming until 2020 and beyond.

Graduating from college in a few weeks, and looking to start a career where the most growth is? Research firm IbisWorld recently delved into its database of more than 700 industries and came up with a list of the fields most likely to show strong revenue and employment growth, along with above-average salaries, for at least the next five years. Here are the top six businesses for new grads now:

Hospitals/health care. Projected to grow by 19.5% between now and 2020, the medical industry will benefit partly from an aging population that will need more health services in the years ahead. Current average industry salary: $66,567.

Engineering services. The industry “is expected to hire thousands of new graduates over the next five years as business confidence increases,” along with higher government spending on infrastructure, the Ibis study says, for a growth rate of 19%. Average industry salary this year: $87,246.

Management consulting. With an 18% growth rate from now until 2020, profitability — and demand for new hires — has been climbing as the economy recovers and companies invest more in strategy, Ibis reports. Average 2015 industry salary: $58,702.

Accounting. The industry, projected to grow 17%, benefits from the recent rise in financial regulation, which keeps auditors busier than ever. More globalization will also “lead to more cross-border corporate deals that require expertise in U.S. accounting standards.” Current average salary: $67,474.

Semiconductors and circuits. Demand for “advanced wireless consumer electronics, such as smartphones,” including new chip technology that can integrate existing WiFi and mobile networks, will generate 16% growth by 2020, with electrical engineers in especially big demand. Average salary now: $93,167.

Software development. The job market for software engineers, developers, and programmers has been rosy for years, but the Ibis study projects that demand for smartphone app developers in particular will soar at an annual rate of 37.6%, far outpacing the projected 15.5% growth rate of the software business as a whole. The industry’s voracious appetite for talent shows in the average annual 2015 salary: $147,274.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com.

MONEY Careers

Surprising Ways Older Workers Find Second Act Jobs

150331_RET_Job_1
Alamy

If you're older and have been out of work for a while, try these strategies to land a new job

What’s the secret to landing a new job when you’ve been out of work a long time?

A new report by the AARP Public Policy Institute uncovered some surprising strategies that older workers are using to get back into the workforce.

That’s important because, while the job market is significantly better overall, the situation is still dismal for the long-term unemployed. The jobless rate for people out of work six months or longer is 30% vs. 5.5% overall.

Older workers make up a distressingly large portion of that group: 45% of job seekers 55 and older have been looking for work for six months or longer.

The AARP report examined the job search strategies that led to reemployment for people age 45 to 70 who were unemployed some time during the last five years.

It found big differences in job search strategies between older workers who landed jobs and those who are still not working.

The overall picture is mixed: Among those older workers employed again after a long time out of the workforce, some were earning more, getting better benefits, and working under better conditions. But for many, the jobs were not as good as the ones they had lost: 59% of long-term unemployed older workers made less money, while 15% earned the same and 25% made more.

So, what set the successful job seekers apart? These moves stand out.

  • Embrace change. Almost two-thirds of reemployed older workers found jobs in an entirely new occupation and women were more likely to find work in a new field than men. Of course, some of the unemployed didn’t choose to switch occupations. But for others, the change was a decision to do work that was more personally rewarding and interesting or even less stressful with fewer hours. Whether it was by choice or design, broadening your job search may pay off.
  • Go direct. Older reemployed workers were much more likely—48% vs. 37% of those still looking for work—to contact employers directly about jobs instead of just applying to the black hole of online job postings.
  • Network strategically. Everyone knows that networking is the best way to get a new job but apparently talking to everyone you know may not be the most effective method. While half of those who landed a new job reached out to their network for leads, only 34% of the unemployed used personal contacts at all. But the reemployed were less likely to rely on friends and family to find out about job opportunities, focusing instead on professional contacts.
  • Move fast. When hit with a job loss, many people use it as a time to take a break or think about what they want to do next. That lost time can cost you. The reemployed were much more likely to have begun their job search immediately or even before their job ended than those who are still unemployed.

A couple other surprising findings about what works and what doesn’t: Conventional advice is that the long-term unemployed need to keep their skills up to date if they are jobless for a while. While that can certainly help, additional training didn’t make much difference between those who landed a job and those who remained out of work.

As for social media: While 56% of the reemployed found job boards a good source of job leads, just 13% said online social media networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook were effective in helping them get a new job.

Among the most ineffective strategies: Using a job coach, talking with a headhunter, and consulting a professional association.

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