What’s acceptable in hiring?

There are a lot of hype articles in this topic, the latest that keeps coming up on my LinkedIn feed is how Barbara Corcoran “Swears by 1 Interview Question to Weed Out Complainers”.

According to Inc., in her search to find “happy people”, she asks them this question: “tell me about your family”.

She says she’s doing so because she’s “looking for the light in people” – it seems she doesn’t understand that it’s not the same as happiness. In fact, we’re all both happy and unhappy people, it really depends on the timing. Happiness is not a state, but a series of individual moments – a happy person today can turn to a Negative Nelly tomorrow.

Positive attitude is important but I feel that Barbara’s basic assumption here is wrong: “If their family couldn’t give them a positive attitude, there’s nothing I can do that’s going to change it”

While I agree that work cannot change it, a person can. Just because one grew up in an unhealthy, unsupportive environment, does not mean that they are complainers. Some people learn it later in their life that complaining without doing something leads nowhere. (And really, what can you do with the environment you were born to…) I dare say, those who understand positive attitude through their own experience of the opposite, will be able to keep it even in tough situations.

I assume it’s a cultural issue but coming from Europe (worked in 4 countries here), I would find this question unprofessional (as if the company would expect a specific family background), threatening (will they want me to work at all hours?), and irrelevant (I made me who I am, not my family).

If I were asked this at an interview, I would decline: I wouldn’t want to work for a boss who doesn’t understand these boundaries.

What would you do, would you tell her about your family?

1 thought on “What’s acceptable in hiring?”

  1. Interesting! I wonder if the question is legal in the US. I know you can’t ask personal questions like age or health-related questions. I would probably respond by asking why she’s asking, because my family isn’t relevant to my work or work ethic. My assumption would be that it is a way to get into my head. The first part of my answer is that I am the 4th of 5 kids… a very telling statement in and of itself!

    Found you through the AtoZ master list as I’m still going through it.
    Doesn’t Speak Klingon


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