It's not right to discriminate against you on any of the big things, like race, religion and gender. But we all know discrimination exists, and sometimes there is nothing you can do about it. Unfortunately, discrimination doesn't stop with the most common biggies (race, sex, age, etc.). Here are some minor, weird things that also might also hurt you during a job interview:
The rules of "watch-wearing" all depend on the location, the industry and the company. Wear an expensive watch to an interview for a minimum-wage job and you may be perceived as over-qualified. Wear a cheap watch to an interview for an executive job, and well ... (Note: This also applies to shoes). You may even fall victim to watch discrimination if you don't wear any watch at all. A watch on your wrist shouts "punctuality" to a lot of HR professionals; not wearing one suggests the opposite. (Sorry, electronic devices just don't pull the same weight.)
Try doing the "dead fish handshake" and see how far you get. Limp is "out" in the handshaking world. And shaking too hard is just ridiculous. (Find out what your handshake says about you.)
Too soft-spoken? Better learn how to speak clearly so you can be heard the first time. Otherwise it may appear as though you are ashamed or have something to hide. (Learn what your voice says about you.)
Your eye contact.
If you don't look at your interviewers, they might assume you are hiding something. Have good eye contact -- or instead of listening to you, they'll be wondering what crime you recently committed. (Do you know what your body language says about you?)
Your past salary.
Make too much? Too little? Any way you roll it, you lose, because they're going to wonder why you weren't making more, or why on earth someone would pay you that much.
Your length of time unemployed.
This is a tough one. Unfortunately, if you have been unemployed for "too long," they'll wonder what is wrong with you, and how come you couldn't land a gig sooner. (Read an open letter to recruiters)
Go in with that big, wild hairdo and that may be all the interviewer remembers. Don't let your extreme hairstyle outweigh your positive characteristics. This also goes for tattoos, piercings, etc. (Don't miss how your hair plays a part in your career.)
Because you smoke.
Walk into the interview room, and the interviewer who's a non-smoker will smell it right away (plus, bad breath isn't going to win anyone over). There's also the "joke" that if you want more breaks you should start smoking -- since smokers take their breaks whenever they want. (Read about the hospital that declared they would only hire non-smokers starting February 2010.)
Because you have bad credit.
Yeah, HR sometimes finds out your credit history. A bad one will have them thinking, "If you can't take care of your own finances, how can you take care of the responsibilities we give you?" (Learn how to get a job with bad credit.)
Can you fight back?
There may be ways to get around job discrimination, although you won't completely avoid it. For example, you can easily find attorneys online who specialize in discrimination lawsuits. But as a job seeker you have some distinct problems (like, how to pay for an attorney). And you'll likely need to have documentation or some kind of compelling evidence that there was in fact discrimination. Typically, job seekers just don't have time to pursue this in court.
You can tell your friends and other job seekers about your experience, which might lead to a small boycott; but you might find yourself on the receiving end of a lawsuit (for libel or slander). And a small boycott will likely not change anything.
You can try and get some buzz going on Twitter and other such sites, but there is no guarantee you'll make a difference.
The most important thing to do about discrimination is to know how to react when you discover it. If you are asked an illegal question in an interview, how do you respond -- with a joke, or with assertiveness? Advice on the proper response is across the board, but I'll leave you with one thought: Encountering discrimination early on in the interview process, and realizing you probably don't want to work at this company, is invaluable compared to working for someone who has discrimination issues.
What advice do you have for those who face discrimination in the job search?