I am an American living in Germany and had an interview with a manager of a company yesterday. At one point, the interviewer asked me about why I chose to come to Germany. I explained the reason, and told him where in America I had originally came from. He then without prompting, stated but I must have been born in another specific country (I am not Caucasian), and then proceeded to ask if the rest of my family also came to America from that country.

Thinking that he might be bringing up something in the position that might potentially use the language or cultural skills of that country (and that Germans can be quite direct), I went along with the rest of the interview and waited for him to explain why he asked. It became clear there was nothing relevant to the job at hand, it was an inappropriate personal question, and quite a racist one at that. My CV clearly states my nationality is American (for any visa questions), and the additional question about my family wasn't relevant to whether I will stay in Germany long term or not, as I had made it clear that I planned to earlier in the interview.

He is waiting for me to follow up via email if I am still interested in the position, what is the best way to bring up this transgression and tell him that I am obviously not interested in the position and quite frankly disgusted by his behavior?

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    You seem more that disappointed by their behavior. Does that mean you don't mind giving them feedback that will burn bridges? Or has it to be quite "honest, straight to the point, but still a little bit nice"? – OldPadawan May 5 '18 at 5:19
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    Asker, read this article please: Americans would be shocked by common resumé practices in German qz.com/1055416/… – Rita Geraghty May 5 '18 at 19:05
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    What's your primary goal? Convincing him that his behaviour was disgusting so that he doesn't do it again? Just voicing your anger? Dealing as little as possible with an individual you despise? – AllTheKingsHorses May 6 '18 at 11:00
  • This is IPS, but on Workplace the advice would be to never give a reason when you don´t have to ... you can only loose – user6109 May 7 '18 at 11:50

You may have run into a culture clash. The behaviour of the German interviewer was not what you as a US candidate expected. You were asked about where you come from and interpreted that as racism, which may or may not have been the case. Some groups that are large minorities in the USA are tiny minorities in Germany, and the reaction to members of tiny minorities is usually not racism, but astonishment and curiosity.

So you want to know what's the best way to bring up this transgression, tell them that you are not interested in the position, and disgusted with his behaviour.

You can just write that in an email. You can tell him what question you didn't like, that your are not interested in the position, and that you are disgusted with his behaviour. What will happen? If you had been interviewed by a racist American in the USA, that person would read your email and say "mission accomplished". Being interviewed by a German with totally different background and culture, the interviewer will obviously know that you won't be taking the job, but might be totally astonished about your reasoning. Having not a clue what he did wrong, the interviewer would then think they are just lucky that you are not taking the job, and might be very hesistant interviewing people of the same background.


Well, that tells more about that interviewer.

In such cases, one should tell them straightforwardly about their behavior. Obviously, the interviewer must be at good position and that kind of question isn't suitable one to ask. However, such rude question can also be a test about how do you react. Therefore, I will say that reply them in a calmly manner.

Since, you're not interested in that position, feel free to mention that and then write something like,

On the other hand, you said that I must have been born in another specific country and asked me if the rest of my family also came to America from that country. This question is inappropriate and illegal to ask. Of course, you must have some special reason to ask that, may I know what was it?

Here, you're asking for the reason in a calm way. If that person apologizes, then it's good. If they don't, forget it. You now know about their nature and are saved from working with that kind of person. In the end, I will advise not to get upset over the questions asked and if it is rude, then either give a humorous reply or ask for the reasons or both.

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    There's a good chance that "it came as rude" will just sound weird to the interviewer because they won't understand why OP considers it rude. – AllTheKingsHorses May 6 '18 at 11:21

Bringing up the interviewer's offensive question won't do you any good. Maybe you'll get a momentary sense of relief by expressing how the inverviewer's question offended you.

But admonishing someone for their behavior will only have an impact if you are in a position of authority over them, which is not the case here. So there is nothing to achieve by doing this.

You're dealing with a different set of cultural standards about what sort of comments are or are not offensive, and so there's a slim chance your indignation will resonate with anyone. Most likely, they will attribute your hurt feelings to cultural differences, and disregard your feedback. At worst, you may end up burning bridges by insulting their employee, and doing so may hurt your networking prospects considering that you're still looking for a job.

Instead, take the professional approach, and simply reply that you are not interested.

I am no longer interested in the position. Thank you for your time.

You do not need to provide any justification for saying no to the position. Keep it simple.


I'm not going to tell you how to feel about the questions you were asked - you have the right to feel however you want to feel. However I would like to give you some things to think about, just so that you know for certain you aren't mistakenly throwing away a perfectly good job opportunity.

You say in your answer that "Germans can be quite direct". So first of all, you accept that there is a cultural difference and that the interviewer may not think or speak the way an American (like you) would in the same situation. There may also be a language issue if he is speaking English as a second language or you are receiving German as a second. Are you really allowing for that difference? If you don't think any allowance should be made then a second question to ask yourself would be isn't saying that all Germans are "quite direct" just as much of generalisation based upon race as the interviewer assuming that your family may have non-American roots?

Something that may be worth considering as a possibility is that the interviewer did not have your visa information. Even if you put it on your application form. I have conducted interviews in the UK (currently also in Europe!) and some large employers, notably government organisations, have a recruitment process that attempts to address prejudice or favouritism whereby the human resource department strip all age/gender/nationality information from applications before the recruiting managers handle it. Now, if there is a possibility that the interviewer did not know anything about your nationality as stated on your application would you still consider any question about your nationality to be "irrelevant"?

Also, crucially, you say that he is now waiting for you to confirm your interest. Does this not sound positive? If he really was a "racist", would you still be in the running for this job?

Rather than me tell you specifically how to express your disgust at these questions during your interview, I am just going to simply validate your feelings by saying that I understand why you may feel this way, and tell you that if you want to express these feelings you are at liberty to do so. Nobody should have to deal with racism, and I am definitely not telling you to put up with it - but properly consider it again in context before you go down the route of expressing your disgust because it will almost certainly cost you the job no matter whether you are wrong or right about the interviewer. Technically, there are precedents for calling out racism at job interviews that could see impaired decisions overturned - but this is very, very hard to prove, especially when there is doubt (and if I'm wrong about any of the points I've raised, you have to admit it is still reasons for doubt). You have far, far more rights as an employee, and employers know this so why would anybody racist employ someone who could call them out as such?


This is a case where the answer is much less relevant than the manner of answering it. For better or worse, you can expect this kind of question/statement given your appearance. The interviewer might have been testing how much of a problem the resulting interaction might end up with.

So what is your relation/contact with the interviewer going to be in future? Are you going to be seeing more of him?

While my personal recommendation might be to make nothing of this, if it bothers you, you might want to write something like:

Before making the decision to accept this position, I would be grateful for you to clarify for me to what extent your remarks about considering my ethnical background incompatible with my U.S. origin were representative for the company culture or rather part of the interview process.

Note that if this was indeed in line with the personal views of the interviewer and/or company culture, he'll not touch you with a ten-foot pole afterwards and tell others to steer clear. This may or may not be actually what you want.

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