Last week we discussed the differences between a resume and a curriculum vita. While many people agreed that the primary difference was the length with the resume being shorter this topic led to another conversation. Should you include personal information such as marital status, number of children etc in your CV? While one student said that in some cases you are required to provide that information other believed that it was illegal.
Another question that came up was what would we do if we were asked such a question during an interview for faculty job? Do we just answer the question or do we somehow try to finesse it? The professor suggested that we finesse it. I can understand that if the interviewer clearly violates the rules by asking an irrelevant question to the interview process such as inquiring about the marital status or the number of children that we should not feel bad about choosing not to answer that question.
The problem is though that the question, even though irrelevant, may be a result of either genuine interest or an effort from the interviewer to have a conversation. So if the question is shut down indelicately then it could have negative consequences. My position is that even if the question is irrelevant if the answer does not bother you then you can just answer it. The reason for this is that the people interviewing you are the ones deciding whether or not you get the job in the fist place and whether or not you are warded tenure in the future. So you don’t really want to turn them off for technical reasons. If these people would like to find out personal information about you they will do so sooner or later. The goal is not just to get the job but to also get tenure later on.
However I understand that if they are looking for someone who will dedicate most of his/her time to academic work and they find out that you are married and have kids you may not get the job in the first place. So I could see why people may want to avoid answering such questions.