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Currently in Egypt we have a big mess in our national politics, lots of elections, new constitutions and such.

Some companies now ask questions to determine the political preferences of candidates, along the lines of:

  • Who did you elect?
  • Did you vote on the new constitution?
    • Did you vote yes or no?
  • Did you participate in the first revolution?
    • Do you support the second revolution or the coup?

These questions have become very common in all kinds of local companies.

How can I answer these questions in a smart way that wouldn't make me fail the interview?

  • They try to classify you ... and then they insert their personal "right" or "wrong" depending on what they think , i got friends "fired" for their political point of view ! – xsari3x Jul 25 '14 at 23:16
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    Hi Xsaei3x and welcome to The Workplace! I've edited your question to better fit our format and hopefully get you more answers and upvotes. Please feel free to edit it further if I messed anything up or to improve it further. I hope to see you around! :) – Matt Giltaji Jul 25 '14 at 23:19
  • @MattGiltaji This is a great Edit , thanks a lot for it ! – xsari3x Jul 25 '14 at 23:23
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    @xsari3x Is there a threat to physical safety if you give the "wrong" answer? – jcm Jul 26 '14 at 2:00
4
+50

In the United States, that would be an illegal question to ask at an interview. That said I see two options:

  1. I don't discuss politics at work as I prefer to focus on the job. Then immediately start talking about something relevant to try to change the topic. (obviously don't use this approach if interviewing with a political party)
  2. I support the current government. (seems like a safe bet)
  3. Whatever you think they want to hear.

Personally, I would go with option 1 as it is less likely to result in follow up questions.

  • what if they insisted on answering this question if i took option number 1 ? ! – xsari3x Jul 26 '14 at 0:20
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    @xsari13x You might say that you have members of your family on one side and members of your family on the other, so it's a no-win situation for you and they know where you live :) – Vietnhi Phuvan Jul 26 '14 at 0:50
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    In Cuba for example even the college is for the "Revolutionary" people, if you are aside you are an enemy,which is not with me is against me. Even the jehova witness are separate from work and college – Emilio Gort Jul 26 '14 at 4:32
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    @xsari3x with option 1, the most you can do is try it. if they insist on an answer and such questions are legal in your country, you have to answer. option 3 seems like the best bet then. – Jeanne Boyarsky Jul 26 '14 at 19:36
13

I don't know well the situation in Egypt now, but from my experience living great part of my life in a totalitarian system like Cuba you have 3 options:

  1. Learn how to live and play with the system

  2. Leave the country

  3. Fight for change it.

In such systems there is no neutral. You said in your comments your friends were fired for their political opinion; and there could be other worse repercussions. Such things are a part of life.

You have to make your choice and see if you can afford living without a job and the risk that is involved if you want to express your different opinion.

If you want get the job you could tell them that you are in the same line they are, and after you get the job try to not participate in any political discussions that could be in the workplace.

  • good :) ........ you need money to leave this place ! :) – xsari3x Jul 27 '14 at 23:50
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    Yes, you will need the money and you can get it with point 1, I was in 5 countries before arrive to USA – Emilio Gort Jul 27 '14 at 23:55
  • Ultimately it's preferable to research potential employers ahead of time and pursue ones with similar political leanings. While playing the system is an option, more often than not I find it comes back to bite you in the end. (Neutral is also an option, some companies only care if you are "one of them" others only care if you are "one of us") – RualStorge Aug 1 '14 at 19:07
  • @RualStorge, yes, the ideal in the op situation would be look for an employer with their similar ideas, in my case Cuba have just one political party. – Emilio Gort Aug 14 '14 at 20:33
5

Like other answers have previously stated, this is probably unethical under ideal circumstances and possibly illegal in many countries. That being said, I'm wary of recommending you fake it till you make it as some answers/comments have recommended. The trouble with politics is that one cannot predict how far many people will go to register their support or disapproval of a political stance.

Pretending you're in support of a specific political position may become your undoing somewhere down the line, when your employer asks you to show your support for the company line. It can range from simply wearing a shirt that shows support for a candidate to participating in a rally. Both can easily get you mobbed and hurt.

Play it neutral

Take the swiss option. A neutral party, I believe is the safest bet. Being as apathetic as you can toward political overtures will, at worst, get people to try to convert you. At best, you're tagged as boring, and you'll most likely be left alone. For example:

Who did you elect? I didn't vote, I was ill.

Did you vote on the new constitution? Like I said, I didn't vote - ill.

Did you participate in the first revolution? - No sir, I did not. I want peace for the people of Egypt. We should not be fighting each other

Do you support the second revolution or the coup? - No sir, like I said, I'm a man of peace.

Boring, vanilla, and dispensable in political discourse. Your interview will switch quickly to the meat of your interview: the job

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    There is a (buddist?) saying that you can walk on the left side of the street or on the right side. Both are good. But when you go in the middle, you'll sooner or later get hit by a car. Sometimes being neutral is the worst option of all. It is possible, that acting so, the OP may not get work anywhere. – user1023 Jul 30 '14 at 6:35
4

It's quite obvious that such companies are interesting in employing only the people that represent the political line they support. There may be many explanations for that:

  • the management is politically engaged
  • they believe only people representing 'corrent' views are 'moral' and will do good work
  • they don't want to hire people that represent opposite views to prevent rows, feuds or even murders within the company
  • they check if the candidate is likely to leave the post to join the demonstrations etc.

Since there are no good universal answers, the only possibility to survive is to learn what political views the company do expect before going to the interview. I'd advice against faking your political views, instead, choose the company that fits your political views, if it is the side A, side B, or neutral.

You wouldn't probably be forced to join the demonstration, or even feuds, on the side of party A, if you are against it, and only you have lied on the interview to get the job.

1

Whilst these sort of questions would be considered illegal in many countries, the UK included there are certain instances whereby exceptions are made based on the organisation or sector e.g. jobs in certain government organisations etc.

At one point in my career I've had to undergo an extensive and invasive security screening process which included credit checking, drugs testing etc and a lengthy final interview whereby political viewpoints and my personal stance on various conflicts were discussed.

Whilst in this instance the responses were unlikely to have any serious consequences such as being reported to a security agency, it was entirely possible that what was perceived as a 'potential risk factor' would result in security clearance not being granted and therefore not being successful in getting the job.

I personally wouldn't try to make my answers suit the organisation, not out of a moral objection, but because since the January Revolution there has been an almost continual state of unrest with further protests and a coup d'état. Who's to say that the organisations views which you may align yourself to for the purposes of the interview won't be dramatically unpopular and compromise you later.

If at all possible to politely decline the question with something along the lines of 'I prefer not to discuss politics, however I can assure you that my personal viewpoints will not affect my ability to perform the role effectively'.

If it's not possible to avoid the question (as it wasn't for me when I was faced with it) then I see only a couple of options available;

  • Try to find something within an organisation whereby politics isn't an issue (I understand from your OP that this may be challenging but if answering the question is causing you significant anxiety it may be worth exploring).
  • Try to find a position within an organisation that suits your personal stance and therefore answering honestly won't cause you a problem.
  • Answer with what you think they want to hear and hope it doesn't come back to bite you.

Either way your situation is not ideal in any way, best of luck!

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