To prevent discrimination and protect job seekers, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has outlawed a number of questions that can negatively impact your candidacy. If you’re asked one of these questions during an interview, it’s not only a red flag against the organization but also illegal. Understanding your rights, civil liberties, and equal access to employment is an important aspect of the job search process. Over the course of this guide, we’ll provide insights into what questions you never need to answer during an interview.
List of Illegal Interview Questions
Although discrimination is still common in many industries, job seekers are afforded more protections during the hiring process due to legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act. If a company asks you an illegal question that could hurt your chances of landing the job, you aren’t required to answer it. Knowing what a company is allowed to ask you will also help you gain a sense of the organization’s culture, as you may not want to work for an employer asking these questions in the first place. Below, you’ll find a list of questions that you do not have to answer during the interview:
- How old are you?
- What’s your race and ethnicity?
- Do you have any medical conditions?
- Do you have any current disabilities?
- Are you an American citizen?
- How did you learn this foreign language you listed on your resume?
- Are you pregnant?
- What is your religious affiliation?
- What country were you born in?
- What is your sexual orientation?
- What gender do you consider yourself?
- What’s your marital status?
- Are you single?
- Do you have any children?
- Have you ever been arrested?
- What is your political affiliation?
- Do you have any felonies?
- What are your height and weight?
Illegal Interview Questions Related to Age Discrimination
Unfortunately, age bias is an ongoing problem limiting employment prospects for seasoned industry professionals. Even if you’re more than qualified for the position, an organization may opt to go with a younger candidate they feel they can invest in long-term. Many job seekers take steps to omit past work experience and dates to avoid appearing dated to prospective employers. While this can sometimes work, it’s not always recommended to go this route, as it won’t prevent a company from going in a different direction after conducting the interview. If you are asked a question related to your age, you aren’t required to provide a direct answer.
Illegal Interview Questions Related to Race
If a hiring manager asks you a question regarding your race during the interview, you’ll likely want to consider rescinding your candidacy altogether. Ethnicity-related questions are illegal, and if the company is more interested in knowing your race rather than hearing more about your qualifications for the job, this is a major red flag. Historically, racial discrimination has been so prevalent in the workplace that many job seekers have applied with a nickname on their resumes to avoid rejection because of their race. If you feel the need to take these measures to generate an interview, you’re much better off pursuing employment with a different organization that is forward-thinking and socially conscious.
Illegal Interview Questions Related to Gender and Sexual Orientation
It’s illegal for hiring managers to ask questions about a person’s sexual orientation or gender during the interview. This includes asking for details on the person’s marital status, children, sexual orientation, and gender identity. The only situation where a hiring manager could ask about a person’s gender is in rare instances that it serves as a job requirement. For example, this might be appropriate to ask if the candidate is applying for a crisis counselor position at a women’s shelter. If the role is labor intensive, an employer can ask whether you can lift objects of a certain weight. They can’t, however, ask if you can handle a heavy workload due to your gender.
Illegal Interview Questions Related to Citizenship
Employers are legally required to avoid asking for direct confirmation of your American citizenship during the interview process. In addition, they are prohibited from asking you about your place of birth or whether you are a native English speaker. The only situation where it would be appropriate for an employer to ask about your knowledge of foreign languages is if it was directly required for the position. For instance, if you were pursuing a government job in foreign affairs that requires you to be fluent in a specific language, it would be appropriate to ask this question during the interview.
Illegal Interview Questions Related to Religious and Political Affiliations
Hiring managers cannot ask direct questions about your religious beliefs or political views during the interview process. In the vast majority of cases, these aren’t relevant for the position and are certainly not appropriate topics for a job interview. You are free to refrain from answering these questions if the hiring manager asks. Still, you may also want to reconsider working for the organization if they’re focused on these irrelevant details instead of your job qualifications.
Illegal Interview Questions Related to Criminal History
It’s illegal for a company to ask about your legal history during the job interview. As a result, you aren’t required to answer any of these questions if the hiring manager brings them up. That said, if a past criminal charge or legal incident is going to appear on the background check, this is a situation where you may want to get ahead of it and provide this information on your own terms. Although this is far from ideal, it does provide you with an opportunity to explain your side of the story rather than have them discover it after the interview.
Illegal Interview Questions Related to Height and Weight
In most cases, hiring managers cannot legally ask you to disclose your height or weight during the interview process, as this can open the door for discrimination. However, there are rare instances where your height and weight are directly related to the occupation. One example might be if you’re pursuing a position as a fashion model, as the agency might have specific body-type requirements for a particular clothing line.
Illegal Interview Questions Related to Disabilities and Medical Conditions
The Americans with Disability Act was passed in 1990 to improve equity and prevent discrimination against disabled job seekers. Under no circumstances are employers allowed to ask for information regarding a disability or medical condition during the interview. The only thing a hiring manager is allowed to ask is whether you can fulfill specific job responsibilities.
For instance, they could ask you if you’re able to operate heavy machinery, but they’re barred from asking if you’ll have difficulty using machinery due to a disability or medical issue.
Illegal Interview Questions Related to Financial Status
Questions regarding your financial status are off limits to hiring managers when conducting an interview. In the past, financial information has sometimes been used to discriminate against certain candidates based on their ethnicity and cultural background. Because of this, companies aren’t normally allowed to ask about your credit history, home ownership, or past declarations of bankruptcy. The only time an employer can ask a question regarding your financial status is if this information is necessary for the job. For example, if you were pursuing a job for a courier service as a delivery driver, the hiring manager could ask whether or not you have access to a vehicle.