Many interviewers and interviewees alike are not aware that in the United States, there are some questions that cannot be asked during an interview because they can be discriminatory and are considered “Illegal Interview Questions“. You are not allowed to discriminate by age, race, religion, gender, marital status, family size, military history, US Citizenship and a number of other things. Some states also have additional laws regarding these illegal questions.
From an interviewer standpoint, the rule of thumb is to not ask the interviewer any questions that don’t pertain to the qualifications of the job. Now it’s okay to make small talk and ask what books or magazines the interviewee reads or what movies or TV shows he or she may watch. But stay away from anything too personal such as race, religion and family life. The potential danger of asking an illegal interview question could result in federal action if a number of candidates complain (or one complains loudly enough).
From an interviewee standpoint, you need to know when you’re asked an illegal question and how to handle it. If you feel the question may allow the employer to discriminate against you, then don’t answer it — try to dance around it by saying something like “I can assure you that my beliefs/situation/etc… won’t interfere in my ability to do a great job.”
Not sure what constitutes an illegal question, here are 25 examples:
- Are you married?
- How old are you?
- Are you a US Citizen?
- Where do you live?
- Do you have children?
- Where were you born?
- Are you pregnant or planning to have children?
- What religion are you?
- Are you in the National Guard?
- What is your native language?
- How tall are you?
- How much do you weigh?
- Do you have any disabilities?
- Have you had any operations?
- Have you ever been arrested?
- When did you graduate from high school?
- When do plan on retiring?
- Have you been sick recently?
- Do you drink alcohol?
- Do you smoke?
- When is your birthday?
- With whom do you live?
- When was your last physical?
- What clubs or organizations do you belong to?
- Do you go to church?
So as you can see, questions related to your health, citizenship and even clubs and affiliations are considered illegal. This is far from an exhaustive list – variations on these questions can also be considered illegal such as “are your kids in school?” or “which religious holidays do you celebrate?”
Remember that as an interviewer, asking any of these questions can potentially cause some problems for your employer. As an interviewee, you don’t need to answer it if you feel that it will prevent you from getting a job.