Illegal Interview Questions

Haveshield-1020318 you ever been asked questions at a job interview that didn’t seem relevant or made you uncomfortable? Illegal interview questions are not job-related and target information about a job applicant that can be discriminatory.  Generally speaking, HR teams do a lot of work to make sure that hiring managers don’t ask questions that are above boards, but these questions still get asked from time to time. As an applicant, encountering illegal interview questions should make you seriously consider if you want to work for that company.

One of my friends shared a situation where she was helping a team of managers does some significant hiring. She was the HR person partnering with a manager.  They were interviewing their first female applicant when the hiring manager went off script and asked her if she had children.  She told the interviewers, no, but the hiring manager continued down the path, telling the candidate that the position was for  2nd shift and that employees couldn’t leave work to go pick up their children.  According to my friend, this hiring manager didn’t ask the male candidates the same question.

Fortunately, in this situation, everything worked out okay. The woman was very qualified for the position and ended up getting an offer from the company.  As soon as the interview was over my friend reported the situation to the head of HR, who then removed the hiring manager from interviews until he was able to retake the interview training.

What are Illegal Interview Questions

The illegal interview questions below are off limit because they target information that is part of a protected class including gender, sexual orientation, national origin, race, religion, age, and disability.  They are not job-related and will not help the hiring manager identify how you will perform.

  • Are you married?
  • Do you have children/want to have children?
  • How old are you/what year did you graduate?
  • What is your religious background?
  • Do you have a disability?
  • Do you have any arrest records?
  • Are you a union member?
  • Is English your first language?
  • Where are you (your parents) from?
  • Have you ever been hurt at work?
  • Do you have a car?
  • Do you own your home?

Hopefully, you don’t ever encounter any of these questions during an interview.  If you do, there are a few ways that you can answer.  First, it’s always okay to politely decline an illegal question.  You could try: “I’m not sure I understand how this question relates to the Sales Manager position, can you please elaborate?” A more direct approach would be: “I am interested in this job, but I’m not comfortable answering that question at this time.”  Yes, there is a chance that responding to a question like that could cost you a job offer, but ask yourself if that’s a company where you want to work in the first place.


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