What should she do?
I told her there are two things to bear in mind:
First – While I am not a lawyer, and this isn't legal advice, this seems like it could be an illegal question, since it has zero bearing on job performance. They can ask it in a job application, for "background check" purposes, but if they ask you in an interview, it's just another way of asking your age.
Second – If an interviewer asks this question, they're not judging you based on your merits. You're worth more than this. So don’t feel bad about refusing to answer. You don’t owe them an answer to an illegal question.
Have you ever encountered a trick question like this?
If so, I recommend first giving the interviewer benefit of the doubt by saying something like this:
"I'm curious... before I answer this question... what are your objectives with asking this question... what were you hoping to learn about me?"
Now, there's a 50% chance the interview is over at this stage because they'll get uncomfortable with you calling them out. But bear in mind, this isn’t your problem – it’s theirs. If they don't give you a convincing answer (or apologize like they really should), then you can just thank them for their time and tell them you'll pass.
Just say "Thanks for your time. But I'm going to pass. I wish you all the best in your search."
Why answer like this and walk out?
Because they blew it.
End of story.
This may sound harsh, but there are two important takeaways here that will help you avoid these situations altogether:
#1 – Always have several irons in the fire, so to speak, because you have a LOT of power when you have other options. It puts you in a position where you can pass over interviewers if they ask illegal or “trick” questions.
#2 – It’s best to establish a relationship with a hiring manager or recruiter before applying, so you get your foot in the door based on merit. When you apply for a job the old-fashioned way, by sending in a resume, then there's a higher chance that they'll ask you inappropriate questions because they’ll have to judge you based on superficial aspects from your resume – instead of what they’ve discovered through your pre-established relationship.
These are two of the foundational concepts behind my Dream Job Formula program. If you aren’t familiar with it, Dream Job Formula is the sister program to Interview Success Formula.
It shows you step-by-step how to go out and get connected (using email, LinkedIn, and other channels) with hiring managers – so you can earn their respect and trust BEFORE you apply for a job.
When you have your foot in the door based on merit, you don’t have to worry about trick questions or awkward situations.