Top 10 Illegal Interview Questions
You’ve gone through the grueling process of creating a compelling resume, LinkedIn profile, cover letter, and follow-up letter. You’ve effectively networked with potential colleagues/hiring managers and utilized the best methods to apply for various positions to finally be invited for an interview. You’re so excited and thoroughly prepared for your interview, researching the company, conducting mock interviews, and ready to answer any question that may arise. The interview seems to be going very well and you feel confident that you have a great chance of being considered for the position; however, the rapport suddenly grinds to a halt when you are asked about what religion you practice. This question immediately makes you feel uncomfortable and you’re not sure how to respond or if it’s even legal. What do you do? The top 10 illegal interview questions provides a good reference of what may unexpectedly be asked.
Responding to Illegal Questions
There are really two ways to respond to illegal interview questions. First, you can refuse to answer the question and storm out of the interview threatening a discrimination lawsuit; although, responding this way is a guarantee that you will not get this job. Second, you can overcome your irritation and respond with aplomb.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency that administers and enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination. The EEOC was established in 1965 and its mandate is specified under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids employers from discriminating against people based on age, sex, race, religion, or national origin. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990 and prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public/private places that are open to the general public. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. Private employers with 15 or more employees along with state/local government employers must abide by the ADA regulations.
Top 10 Illegal Interview Questions
- What religion do you practice?
Religious discrimination is prohibited, so this or any derivation of this question is also illegal. (i.e. “Do you need any time off for religious holidays?” – “Do you observe Ramadan?”)
- Are you married?
This question is not acceptable and the interviewer may be seeking your sexual orientation, which is clearly prohibited from asking.
- Do you have or plan on having children?
Although you may have a good rapport with your interviewer, this question is off-limits since it discriminates whether you have or don’t have children.
- Where were you born?
Questions about nationality, ancestry, or decent of the applicant or applicant’s family is illegal.
- What is your native language?
This is another question that seeks your ethnicity/nationality and has nothing to do with the job.
- How old are you?
Age discrimination is very common today, which is why your resume/LinkedIn should not list anything beyond 10-15 years. This question may rear its ugly head in alternate versions such as “When did you graduate college?” or “Who was the President when you were born?”
- Do you have a disability?
Discriminating based on a medical condition or disability was why The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was formed; however, after a job offer has been extended, employers are permitted to ask questions about disabilities as long as they ask the same questions of other applicants with the same type of job.
- Are you a US citizen?
Although a company cannot knowingly hire someone who is not a US citizen, the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) forbids employers from asking a person to prove their citizenship before offering employment but can/will after a job offer.
- Were you discharged honorably from the military?
This is a violation of your rights and an interviewer cannot ask this question unless the specific job directly requires a national security clearance.
- Do you use prescription drugs, alcohol, or smoke?
Employers cannot discriminate based on using legal products when the employee is not on the premises or on the job.
An interview is stressful enough without having illegal questions thrown at you. If the illegal questions you’re being asked doesn’t offend you to the point of refusing to answer and walking away, the best thing you can do is respond positively and ask how the question is relevant to the position at hand. Additionally, you can parry the question by cleverly avoiding answering it directly. Your purpose is to get a job offer and overcoming your discomfort and vexation for illegal interview questions will only strengthen your character and adaptability. Remember, you can always refuse the job offer once it’s extended if you didn’t like the moral element of the company based on the interview.
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