How do I respond if the interviewer asks “Are you a Military Spouse?”

This week’s answer from Donna Huneycutt, a Lawyer and the Executive Vice President of Wittenberg Weiner Consulting, LLC.

 

It is illegal to inquire about a job candidate’s marital status.  That having been said, the motivations for asking the question could be legally appropriate if stated another way:  “Do you have responsibilities outside of work that will prevent you from getting the job done?” or “Should I expect you to have to leave the job abruptly?”

One option, of course, is to point out that the question is illegal.  While you are within your right to do this, the response may make your interviewer defensive and predisposed against hiring you.  If the interviewer’s motivation for asking the question was rooted in concern rather than bias, you have an opportunity not only to assuage the interviewer’s concerns, but to tout your suitability for the role.

Most civilians know very little about military life.  This is your opportunity to tell them how resourceful and resilient a Military Spouse has to be.  Tell them how you are used to anticipating and managing challenges outside of your field of expertise.  Tell them about the patience you have developed and about how you have learned to deal productively with different types of people in different cultures.  Give them statistics about the credentials and work ethic of Military Spouses.  Tell them you know how to woman up!

Tell them how well you performed in past jobs and what you managed to accomplish in just a few short years in your prior role.  Let them know that the continuity of your career is something that keeps you grounded and able to manage the unique requirements of being affiliated with the military.  Assure them that you have an excellent support system and that you are, because you must be, organized, reliable and responsive.

Let them know about how long you expect to be in the area, and, if true in your spouse’s command, that PCS projections are very reliable.  Let them know about the long lead times for a PCS and the fact that, as someone new to the area, you are ready to really invest in a job  (“I have three years to do something really meaningful here professionally and I’m very excited about it”).

Most interviewers know that people no longer stay in jobs for more than a few years.  It’s the nature of employment today.  If they are perceptive and if indeed the role is a good fit for you, they will recognize your value and suitability for the job.

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Comments

  1. shellyhabeck says

    I’ve been asked directly and indirectly about being a military spouse and how long I expected to be “local.” I completely agree with Donna’s suggestions above, its not about how long I’m going to be here but how I’m gonna knock it out of the park for you while I am here.

    One thing I absolutely cannot stand for is an interviewer wanting to know information about my spouse’s career. Whether its field of expertise or heaven forbid rank, questions about a spouse’s career are not relevant and very inappropriate. The focus should be on you, the applicant. Don’t forget that on an interview you are also interviewing the employer and trying to decide whether this is the right fit for you too – don’t be afraid to ask questions and interview them as well!

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