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Thread: Job interview nightmare: ethnic background questions.

  1. #1
    MOONBEAM Guest

    Job interview nightmare: ethnic background questions.

    I was having a hard time with the job search, and had pinned my hopes on getting this temp job starting next Monday. The interview lasted 6 minutes, and the last question was about the origins of my family name.I have a French accent so that's not too difficult to guess, but after that the next question was if I was French born ( yes ) and if I had North African origins, which I do, on my birth mother's side. Which I stated ( you have to understand that I was in shock and didn't even think about saying this was illegal, also, I am desperate for a job and need to make money soon).

    Then the interviewer asked which city my mom was from and I replied: I don't know.I was adopted so I truly don't know much. I decided years ago that I wanted to be my own person and make my own history. I even changed my name legally when I became a U.S citizen to give myself a true, self - defined identity.

    To be honest, the only place where I was never asked about my origins were the U.S. I am starting to consider moving out of the U.K. Financially, coming here has been a disaster, and now, I have to go through all kind of indignities to find employment.

    I am getting asked all the time, why I spent time abroad, why I chose to live in the UK whether I intend on staying here for good or not. I might even be refused benefits because I haven't been in the country 2 years and am not considered a resident.I feel like shouting at the top of my lungs: give me a reason to stay here, let me be financially independent, give me a effin' job.

    That was the last question of the interview, that lasted a whole 5 minutes, and after that they immediately escorted me out. I mentioned this to my recruitment agency. I said that I hoped the questions were to establish a connection, and meant they were interested in me personally.

    Mind you, this is for a temp position, paying 13 K less than my last position. I don't even know how long they need me for. I feel humiliated and angry at myself for having to deal with that kind of ****.

    This also, is personally damaging, as adoption and being of a different ethnic background than my parents and people in my environment were difficult challenges to overcome. I don't feel any connection with my culture of origin, except some music and bellydancing, I am a feminist. I am grateful my birth mother abandoned me so that I could enjoy more freedom as a Western woman.

    I've always been different on so many levels, that I had forgotten about that particular level.

    I need to work by next week, so I'm hoping this was more about creating a connection than discriminating.

    In any case, I am mad as hell and sick at heart.

  2. #2
    joesbabygirl's Avatar
    joesbabygirl is offline Senior Member
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    I wish I had words of wisdom for you, but I dont. All I can offer is my heartfelt - Im sorry youre having to go through this.

    Ill be honest though, and tell you, when I was able to look for a job here, it was really disheartening. They wanted so much and offered so little, all I could think of was . . . modern day slave labor. If youre interested though, you can PM me, and I can give you some ideas, it wont help alot right now, but at least, hopefully, youll be able to see some sort of a future.
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  3. #3
    debralee's Avatar
    debralee is offline Senior Member
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    Moonbeam,
    I don't have any advice for this situation. I just wanted to say I am so rooting for you. I admire your courage immensely.
    While reading your post, I tried to picture myself in your place. It is clear to me that I definitely do not have your inner strength.

    Your post made a huge impression on me. You are putting yourself "out there" to pursue your life the way you want to, regardless of the setbacks, rudeness and difficulties you encounter.

    I am going to use this as a reminder to myself to not avoid moving towards things I feel I need and want to do because it puts me "out there". To face the possible rudeness, discomfort, difficulty and setbacks to pursue what I need to pursue.

    Thanks for posting this.
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  4. #4
    pinkunicorn's Avatar
    pinkunicorn is offline Senior Member
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    Moonbeam, if that company is going to be like that in just an interview, I imagine they would be hell to work for as a "lowly" temp.

    While it sucks that you're unemployed (I've been there--been laid off FOUR times in a two-year timespan) IMHO, it sucks worse to be stuck in a position that drains the life and energy out of you.

    Perhaps you dodged a bullet here?
    Never try to fit in when you are meant to stand out.


  5. #5
    MOONBEAM Guest
    I wish I had words of wisdom for you, but I dont. All I can offer is my heartfelt - Im sorry youre having to go through this.

    Ill be honest though, and tell you, when I was able to look for a job here, it was really disheartening. They wanted so much and offered so little, all I could think of was . . . modern day slave labor. If youre interested though, you can PM me, and I can give you some ideas, it wont help alot right now, but at least, hopefully, youll be able to see some sort of a future.
    Thank you for your support, it means a lot. I agree that the working world resembles slavery. I don't fit in, and unfortunately, people can feel this. I'm very calm, with a sense of humour, I was told recently by a recruiter that it's a pleasure to interview me because I put people at ease, am personable and sympathetic.

    Right now, everything that I am, my whole life experience, the fact that I have worked in 3 different countries, is working against me. But the questions about my origins are the straw that break the camel's back.

    Moonbeam,
    I don't have any advice for this situation. I just wanted to say I am so rooting for you. I admire your courage immensely.
    While reading your post, I tried to picture myself in your place. It is clear to me that I definitely do not have your inner strength.

    Your post made a huge impression on me. You are putting yourself "out there" to pursue your life the way you want to, regardless of the setbacks, rudeness and difficulties you encounter.

    I am going to use this as a reminder to myself to not avoid moving towards things I feel I need and want to do because it puts me "out there". To face the possible rudeness, discomfort, difficulty and setbacks to pursue what I need to pursue.

    Thanks for posting this. .
    Thank you so much! I am not very strong, just at a point where keeping my head up high is all I have left. I always wanted to be a source of inspiration, though I have been feeling like I am living a cautionary tale!This is very lovely of you to take the time to reply, very well appreciated.

    Moonbeam, if that company is going to be like that in just an interview, I imagine they would be hell to work for as a "lowly" temp.

    While it sucks that you're unemployed (I've been there--been laid off FOUR times in a two-year timespan) IMHO, it sucks worse to be stuck in a position that drains the life and energy out of you.

    Perhaps you dodged a bullet here? .
    The company is one of the biggest companies in the world: D****tte and Touc*e. I had 2 interviewers for a temp secretarial position! They gave me this interview with the deadpan expression HR people think is so cleverly intimidating. The girl who was interviewing was so typically a secretary peeing herself for having recruiting responsibilities. The man who asked the illegal questions was in his mid 40s and possibly gay ( was getting the gay vibes from him). I don't recall him giving me a title. He seemed nice, at first.

    I'm sorry you had to go through this nightmare of being laid off 4 times in such a short span of time. You are very resilient. I remember you mentioning you were underemployed, with a college degree and experience under your belt. I was never a fan of employment. I could slap myself for not having invested the money I came to London with to create my own micro business.

    No news from either of the agencies that sent me to the 2 interviews yesterday, so I guess I've just dodged 2 lousy, low paid jobs.

    I want to be Antonio Banderas' sexy maid! That's how I see underemployment!

  6. #6
    Azureth is offline Banned
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    Wow, that's crazy. Couldn't you sue them or get them in big trouble or something for asking that? And do you have any idea why they'd care where you're from?

  7. #7
    theREALTrish's Avatar
    theREALTrish is offline Senior Member
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    I don't know what the laws are in other countries but here in the United States it would be illegal to bring up someone's ethnic background in a job interview. It's illegal to ask any personal type questions that have absolutely nothing to do with job performance or prior positions.

    Given the fact that D****tte and Touc*e is an international company with it's headquarters in the US, I would think that they would have a policy regarding the interview process. Clearly, the person who interviewed you did not follow the law as it's applied here in the states. If I were you, I'd consider questioning it and, perhaps, filing a complaint.....especially if I didn't get the job.
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  8. #8
    SheLikesKitties's Avatar
    SheLikesKitties is offline OW/YM 21YR GAP
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    I do not understand why working in three different countries would be anything but a big PLUS!!! You have international experience, knowledgeable of several cultures, adaptability, quick to learn. That would be ideal for a career of international business. People do that on purpose to get points in their resume.
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  9. #9
    Azureth is offline Banned
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    Quote Originally Posted by SheLikesKitties View Post
    I do not understand why working in three different countries would be anything but a big PLUS!!! You have international experience, knowledgeable of several cultures, adaptability, quick to learn. That would be ideal for a career of international business. People do that on purpose to get points in their resume.
    Yeah, I don't get that either. It just seems really bizarre that they would care about your ethnic background and actually view it negatively that you have traveled a lot? Weird.

  10. #10
    pinkunicorn's Avatar
    pinkunicorn is offline Senior Member
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    I don't know what it's like in Europe compared to the US, but my husband (who is an area human resources manager for a federal government agency) suggested that on my resume I add the reason for leaving each of my positions. That way it doesn't look like I was just "job hopping" for the past few years.

    Maybe, if you feel that working in 3 different countries is working against you, you might want to add WHY you left each country to work somewhere else?

    Also, what kind of positions are these compared to your previous work experience? Perhaps you are over-qualified for some of these places?
    Never try to fit in when you are meant to stand out.


  11. #11
    MOONBEAM Guest

    I didn't get the job: they chose an internal candidate...waste of time!

    Wow, that's crazy. Couldn't you sue them or get them in big trouble or something for asking that? And do you have any idea why they'd care where you're from?
    .

    Unfortunately, I have no record and it's my word against theirs.Because I was sent out by an agency, I did mention it to my recruiter, but recruiters work for the company, not for the candidates, so it didn't surprise me that my recruiter didn't mention anything.

    The U.S equivalent would probably be if you were of Mexican descent but were adopted by a U.S family with a very Anglo sounding name like Reynolds , went to an interview and someone asked you if you were born in the U.S, then, when you say: yes, they ask you if you are truly American, and proceed to ask if you had Mexican origins.

    I never felt like I fitted in anywhere, though I feel at home in many places. Mostly, I feel like a citizen of the world, rootless, nomadic, different.I was never able to fit in anywhere, and feel fully part of a country, culture. I guess this is the plea of the adoptee. I find it a beautiful thing to embrace.I sometimes say I want to live guided by my wings, not my roots.

  12. #12
    MOONBEAM Guest
    I don't know what the laws are in other countries but here in the United States it would be illegal to bring up someone's ethnic background in a job interview. It's illegal to ask any personal type questions that have absolutely nothing to do with job performance or prior positions.
    I am in the U.K, and I confirm it is illegal here to ask questions pertaining to age, nationality, ethnic background.

    The fact that I was subjected to that kind of illegal questioning within such a big company is beyond my comprehension.

    To be honest, I think the interviewer was too curious to hold his tongue, he wanted to label me conveniently, maybe because I was not intimidated and acted in a calm, professional, collected manner.

    I do not understand why working in three different countries would be anything but a big PLUS!!! You have international experience, knowledgeable of several cultures, adaptability, quick to learn. That would be ideal for a career of international business. People do that on purpose to get points in their resume.
    I know! Unfortunately, Europe is terribly backwards when it comes to professional development.There is a definite lack of ambition and a huge reward for mediocrity, staying put and spending years and years in the same job. Of course, now everyone is waking up to the fact that job security and long term employment are going the way of the dinosaurs. I thought for one thing, a big cosmopolitan city like London would be different.

    One of the things I love about the U.S, is that people want to grow as much as they can, make as much money as they can. In that context, international experience is a plus, any skill that sets you apart is a chance to develop your career and make more money.You would think that, in a recession, you would reward those who are adaptable.

    In France, to speak of what I know, if your child has a talent, he/she won't be encouraged towards making it a career, even if exceptionally gifted, but will more likely be advised to use it within a hobby.

    In the U.S, a gifted child will be pushed to develop his or her gift to make something out of him/herself.

    The irony is that I have been job hopping by default as much as by design. I ended up let go from a few temp to perm positions, because of budget restrictions. I go for assistant jobs, because that's been my latest, local experience, and I needed a job like yesterday. I end up being penalized by my language skills and international experience because it looks like secretarial work is not a career choice...insert laugh..., when I apply for project manager jobs, translation jobs, etc, I'm told I am not qualified enough, even though I have a fairly good experience of managing projects and translating documents.

    I think that for the most part, people who interview me are jealous of the opportunities I had and would rather reward a more conventional profile.

    PinkUnicorn, this is very good advice, I will include that in my CV. I usually say a few words in my cover letter, but that makes sense to already preemptively strike out the negative assumptions on the CV.

  13. #13
    soul is offline Senior Member
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    ""I am getting asked all the time, why I spent time abroad, why I chose to live in the UK whether I intend on staying here for good or not.""


    MB - as a fellow Uk'er, I know immigration is and has been for the past 5-10 yrs or so a 'hot topic' in England. We have literally hundreds of thousands of people each year coming to the UK trying to gain employment or citizenship. So much so, that the average Uk person see's the foreigner as someone who is going to either take 'THEIR' job or worse, try and abuse our benifit system (if they aren't a holiday maker ofc).

    Just as a little statistic :-

    * Last year 2011 immigration increased by 20%. The number of immigrants 575,000 last year has run at a similar level for the past seven years* - For a populuation of 60 million compared to say USA 313 million, these figures are quite a lot.


    To be fair, I don't think a potential employer asking why you've moved around a lot is a unusual question, more of a prudent one. Taking the perspective that if they are to invest in you, they hope to have some longevity out of the agreement and not have to keep going through the process of re interviewing other candidates.

    I don't know in what context or vibe they were asking you about your background, whether it was small chit chat to end the interview on or if they actually thought their questions were valid to the job being offered, which it obviously wasn't. Given England has become soooo insanely *IMO* politically correct in everything it does, i'm truely surprised you were asked about your ethnic background. More so given your Job is in London, which as you rightly pointed out is very cosmopolitan, you would be hard pushed to find a 'true brit'. However, asking which city your mum is from, does leads me to think the interviewer was having small talk to end the interview and although irrelevant, they possibly didn't mean to cause any offense. I don't think we can judge a whole company, or country or city on one person.

    Personallly, I think immigration is good, it's upt our economy growth by 3% last year as an example and certainly some influx of certain countries have put the average uk worker to shame, such as the Polish, who work way harder and don't complain half as much

  14. #14
    MOONBEAM Guest
    I wasn't aware the immigration issue was so severe.

    Right now, my application for Job Seeker's Allowance is waiting for approval, I have been waiting for almost 2 months now.

    I'm treated like a leper when going to the Job Centre, and I was even asked over the phone why I came to the U.K. I was also asked to fill out a form indicating my whereabouts for the past 2 years. I had to do so because I haven't been in the U.K for 2 years yet, so am not considered a resident.

    I was also asked if I was French over the phone which is ILLEGAL, by the person from the Job Seeker's Allowance Centre. I am being treated like I am a tourist and that's pissing me off. I have been working for a full year, and have been contributing to the economy, paying taxes, etc...It would be only fair if I received benefits, especially that I was unemployed in this country a few years back, and never asked for a penny in benefits.

    I came here for employment, not to mooch on the system. I understand that we are all competing for the same jobs, but I have skills that most Brits do not have, so I'm not competing for THEIR jobs. However, the position I was applying for was a straightforward English speaking one that didn't require language skills, so I'm pretty sure that was a valid reason to turn me down anyway. I also think that it's outrageous that people ask about my intention on staying here when they are offering a Temp Position.

    I'm not judging a whole country and city through one person, however, I don't take discrimination gladly. I also don't take gladly people who have a job and security, asking me inappropriate questions irrelevant to the job just because they need to chit chat.

    It was my choice to come here, and I had the intention of thriving and contributing.

  15. #15
    soul is offline Senior Member
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    I understand what youre saying MB.

    Some of the questions you're being asked, like 'why have you come to the UK?', are standard questions outlined by our Goverment to tackle terrorism and illegal immigration, the latter being quite rampant. I understand if you're being asked continually it could become somewhat annoying, but Im afraid while in the Uk at least, when we are trying to combat illegal immigrants and those with bad intentions, it won't change.


    I see your intentions are honorable, but there is a BIG proportion of foreigners who come to the UK with the idea abuse the benifit system. The lure of free housing, free health care and money to live on through our benifit system has caused 'bees to a honey pot' from less wealthy shall we say countries. Our benifit system is almost too generous, there are many who stay on the system because it offers a better lifestyle and more money left in the pocket than if they worked a 40 hr week in a regular job. Benifit fraud costs the UK over 5billion per year. You aren't when you're being asked these questions being singled out, all immigrants get asked - you are amongst 500,000 others.

    In regards temp jobs, they can last some months to over a year and sometimes if the employee is good, maybe offered permanent, so I don't think its an outragious question - 'of how long you intend to stay'.


    Really, I do understand about the guy in the interview with intrusive questions has angered you - But what I'm not really getting, is why some of the other questions you're being asked seems to be so incredulous to you. If I went to another country with the idea to work, I would be surprised if they didn't ask some of what you've been asked.

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