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Suppose one is being interviewed (remotely) by a company based in a conflict zone like Israel or the Ukraine. Would it come across as ignorant or rude to ask about how the interviewer is doing with respect to the on going war/conflict? Or should this be left out if it has no relevance to the job and could possibly raise bad feelings (e.g. the interviewer has relatives fighting in the army or has lost friends/loved ones/family)?

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    I've never been in the position, but I'd be shocked if they considered "how much actual risk/inconvenience is there from the ongoing or expected conflicts" an unreasonable question. I don't think I would ask how the interviewer is doing, though they might volunteer some of that as part of their answer. Keep it focused on the job and on what it will be like for you living there, not on the interviewer's family unless they open that topic. – keshlam Nov 20 '14 at 5:51
  • To add to @keshlam's comment (I think it should be an answer), people usually know how their country is viewed in other countries. Maybe they do not agree with it ("There have been some incidents that have been exagerated") but they will usually understand your concerns. – SJuan76 Nov 20 '14 at 8:07
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Part of any interview is informal chit-chat. This is a chance for you and the interviewer to get to know each other. It's a bit like a first date - you want to get an overview of the person, but it's not the right time to go into too much detail. You also probably want to stay away from controversial topics - politics, religion, war, and football.

Even on uncontroversial topics, I would tend to avoid making them too personal. For example, let's say the interviewer lives in the North East USA - which has just had lots of snow.

  • Good "Sounds like the weather there is pretty intense this year, huh?"
  • Bad "How are you coping with all that snow?"

In the first, you're inviting the other person to respond however they see fit. They can move the conversation on, moan about the snow, confess that they spent the day building a snow man.

In the second, you're directly challenging the person and asking for a specific response about their competence. It could be seen as aggressive, or even rude.

So - on to your question. What to do if they live in a conflict zone.

First of all, you don't know this person's politics. They may be in favour of the war, they may have friends who took part in a recent newsworthy event, they may have lost loved ones.

  • Bad "Looks like the rebels are kicking your butts - how does that feel?" (You don't know where their sympathies lie.)
  • Bad "Are you safe? How close are you to the fighting?" (Very personal questions.)
  • Ok "I was reading about the situation - is the office ok?" (You're talking about work - not them personally)
  • Good "How does the conflict affect day-to-day operations?" (Again, work related. They can respond personally if they wish.)

Most reasonable people will understand that you're curious about their country. They will also understand that the news you see doesn't always reflect reality. Don't assume that you know more than they do - and respect their decision if they don't want to talk about a certain aspect of it.

Finally, if you are planning on relocating to the conflict zone - I think you can disregard everything I've said! Make sure you fully understand the risks and dangers before moving.

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