How should you approach an interview question that entails aspects of your personal life? There exist both appropriate and very inappropriate responses you can provide. You might ask yourself, “Why are they asking me this in the first place?” It is likely they wish to know what sort of time off you will request in the future. This said, personal information about your life is usually none of the company’s business. Furthermore, it is appropriate to respond in such a way that communicates this. You are in no way obligated to relay details regarding your personal life during a job interview. In fact, you probably only should if it is incredibly relevant to the available job position.
This being said, you might now ask yourself, “Well, so what exactly should I say?” We have listed a few options for you below, and have outlined a general framework that ensures you do not sabotage yourself by providing unwarranted personal information.
Shift the Focus
Especially when asked a personal question, such as if you are planning on having children, unless it is very relevant to the available position in some manner, it is wise to reject answering the question and shift the focus. For instance, you may say something such as, “To be honest, my personal life is not too relevant to my eligibility for this job, so I would enjoy spending my time discussing my qualifications instead,” or “At this time in my life, I am really focused on advancing in my career.” Both of these statements shift the focus back onto your qualifications and experience for the available job. Whether or not you are planning on having children likely does not impact your skill level, so discussing very much will likely detract from all of the things you have to offer. Despite this, saying something like, “Yes! My partner and I are trying to have a baby now” can potentially make you an unattractive candidate, as you might request significant time off to care for your family. Even if you aren’t planning on requesting time off, your employer might anticipate you will, or believe you will work sub-optimally because you will pre-occupied with family duties and not as focused at work.
However, what you do in your personal life really isn’t the company’s business. This said, the question of if you are planning on having children is commonly asked during interviews, and it can be difficult to avoid. It is ultimately most important to handle this situation professionally, and shift the focus back to what makes you the ideal candidate without seeming combative.
Ask about the Inquiry Further
When you receive a question like this, it is likely your interviewer is actually asking if you will be able to meet the time and energy commitments of the position if hired. It can be seen that this question is fairly ambiguous. Therefore, it is reasonable and appropriate to inquire further about the reason why they are asking you this. For instance, you may ask, “Could you help me better understand how this is relevant to the job position?” It is likely they are not frivolously interested in your family aspirations. By asking a clarifying question, you indirectly address the real roots of the question. Furthermore, it is wise to immediately follow up with a statement such as, “Perhaps you’re wondering if I am able to commit fully and employ great focus, and I can ensure you this will not be an issue.” This way, you curtail the discussion regarding your personal matter, and additionally, assert once more you are very capable of performing the tasks of the job. It will be important for you to then observe their response, and understand if it is appropriate to provide an additional direction for the conversation. Do not be afraid to take control of the interview. If you contend it is appropriate, it may also be wise to then immediately state, “I am, however, interested in what your goals would be for me in this position.” In this case, you create an opportunity to continue a discussion that is more apposite to your abilities.
Opt to Not Answer
Another option is simply not answering the question. You are not required to provide private information regarding your personal endeavors. You are allowed to choose to not reply. It is recommended you only do this if you feel completely comfortable during the interview, and can infer that not responding will not make you a less attractive candidate. Unfortunately, while you are not required to reply, opting to not answer can make you seem contentious and/or secretive. You risk sabotaging yourself either during or after the interview, as you might receive criticism for this decision, even though it would be discriminatory. This being said, not replying is likely more favorable than admitting you are planning on having children, as family commitments are almost always viewed negatively by employers. They don’t like to know you will be splitting your focus.
Nevertheless, if you do decide to not answer, it is imperative you do not appear offended, overly emotional, or argumentative. Simply state something such as, “I would prefer to not answer that question” while remaining calm and confident. You may also add a statement suggesting you do not believe the question is relevant, but again, do not act as though you are attacking the interviewer. It is important to highlight your competencies, and make the main focus of the interview on your strengths. Having said that, it is also possible they will not mind much anyway, and simply continue onto the next question.
Interview questions that request you share information about your personal life are very tricky, but there do exist correct approaches you can take to avoid sabotaging yourself. As described, it is ultimately best to shift the focus of the conversation back to your capabilities, instead of taking the time to discuss irrelevant matters. You may also inquire further about your interviewer’s intention in asking the question, or simply opt to not answer, as you are not required to share private information. However, your true test will come in how you react as opposed to the actual thing you say.