"I was interviewing for a .8 job in the financial sector and it was all going well until I was asked about my family and what caregiving responsibilities I had," says Hope, who works in Auckland's CBD.

"Honestly, I was going for a .8 role rather than a full-time role because I was factoring in said responsibilities — I felt how I would manage that was my business, not theirs.

"After all, what business is my private life to my prospective employer? Do they need to know that my mother is an involved grandparent who is always available at the drop of a hat? I don't think so.

"They need to know about my skills and my experience — and whether I'm capable of doing the job."

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She says, "When I was asked the question, I was taken by surprise — I didn't know what to answer, and I believe that I didn't get the position because I mentioned that I had a high-needs child."

Hays New Zealand has recently found in a survey that 13 per cent of women have been asked in a job interview about their plans to have children or their caring responsibilities,

According to the survey, 22 per cent of these women believe their answer impacted on their chance of securing the job, 35 per cent were unsure.

Just 8 per cent of men surveyed also reported being asked that sort of question — 10 per cent of those believed it impacted on whether they got the job while 35 per cent were unsure.

The survey of more than 1000 working professionals across New Zealand and Australia was conducted as part of Hays' 2018-19 Diversity and Inclusion Report.

Adam Shapley, managing director of Hays New Zealand, says that while more women than men were being asked this question, what was really concerning was that the question was being asked at all.

"You have to ask yourself, from what perspective is the interviewer asking the question? And would you want to work for an organisation that asks such questions in the first place?"

Asked whether asking about caregiving tasks was strictly legal, particularly if the question was often gender-biased, he says: "It is illegal to treat one person unfairly or less favourably than another based on gender, marital status or whether they are pregnant or have children."

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He gave some suggestions on how candidates could reply to such questions when asked. "There are several ways you could respond, and it's up to each individual to decide what they feel most comfortable with.

"You could politely point out that asking such questions in a job interview doesn't help to determine your ability to do the job but you are happy to answer any other questions.

"You could say that your answer is irrelevant to your ability to succeed in the job.

"Or you could say that you don't feel comfortable answering the question but you are prepared to share any details of your experience and skills that will help to determine if you are the best person for the job.

"While it is understandable that you do not want to harm your chance of securing the job, you may also want to think about whether you really want to work for the organisation. If they are discriminatory in their recruitment decision, their discrimination is also likely to impact talent management and career development decisions."

He says though such questions say more about the person who asks the question, it does suggest the company may not have a thorough competency-based interview process in place.

"It's unacceptable that some hiring managers still ask people about their caring responsibilities or their plans to have children. In any job interview, the focus should be on the competencies required for the role. People should not ask, or make assumptions, about a person's commitments outside of work based on age or gender.

Another finding of the survey was that an almost identical percentage of women and men (50 per cent and 49 per cent respectively) ask their manager for career advice at least once a year, fewer women (48 per cent compared to 55 per cent of men) say they have regular two-way conversations with their manager about their performance and career progression.

Shapley says: "It's also telling that less than half of women feel they have open and transparent career development conversations with their boss.

"Women need to be able to talk through their career ambitions with their manager and be given opportunities to break through and gain the necessary experience.

"This could be through stretch opportunities or working with a mentor, both of which give experience required to be considered for more senior roles."

As far as companies who ask the question about caregiving, Shapley says: "We would advise them not to. I have been in recruitment for 18 years and have never asked that question and I think it is simply inappropriate and irrelevant to any interview process."