When it comes to job interviews, there are lots of questions that might make you squirm. However, they are perfectly acceptable for a hiring manager to ask. That said, there are actually questions that are asked often – yet are out of bounds and even illegal.
For instance, an employer can ask questions related to your work history, skills, career experience, and why they should hire you. What they cannot ask about are questions pertaining to your personal life, like whether you’re married, have or want kids, or what religion you practice.
To help ensure everything you’re asked is above board – so you know what to answer and what you can politely decline – here are some illegal job interview questions to be aware of.
Questions Related to Family or Home Life
These include questions such as:
- How old are your kids?
- Do you have child care arrangements made?
- What does your spouse do for a living?
- Do you have any relatives that work for our competition?
Asking anything related to your family, your spouse or partner, or your children is off the table. This is simply because your answer can bias the hiring manager, whether in a negative or positive way.
For instance, they might be concerned about hiring a candidate with three small children at home if they know that’s your situation. On the other hand, if you’re married with kids and so is the hiring manager, they might feel like they have more in common with you and could be more likely to offer you the job, as a result. Legally speaking, though, hiring managers can only ask questions directly related to the qualifications of the position.
One area they can ask that relates to both your personal and work life is about your personality traits. This includes your leadership or work style and the types of environment you work best in. Asking questions related to soft skills and personality will help them to assess whether you’re the right fit for the company’s culture.
Questions Related to Politics or Religion
The only time an employer can ask questions related to these areas is when you are interviewing for a religious or political organization. Otherwise, questions such as “Do you need time off for religious holidays?” or “Do you follow politics? What are your views?” are off limits. These don’t relate to the job, the company, or your ability to perform the role, and can even lead to discrimination.
Questions Related to Age
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 is designed to protect job seekers over the age of 40 and limits the age-related questions that can be asked during the interview. Some that are illegal include:
- How old are you?
- When were you born?
- When did you graduate from high school?
- There’s a large age disparity between you and other co-workers. Will that be a problem for you?
- How much longer do you plan to work until you retire?
The only time an employer needs to know your age is to ensure you’re old enough to legally work, such as in an environment that serves alcohol. Instead of asking your age or birth year, they can ask something like: “Are you legally old enough to work for our company?”
Questions Related to Citizenship or Nationality
For most companies, asking about citizenship and nationality are also off limits, as long as the candidate has the proper paperwork in place. Some forms of out-of-bound questions include:
- Where did you grow up?
- Where are your parents from?
- Were you born in the U.S.?
Employers can, however, ask questions such as “Are you legally allowed to work in the U.S.?” or “Can you speak, read, and write English proficiently?” Another question you can be asked, legally, is: “If we hire you, can you provide proof of citizenship?”
Questions Related to Health or Disabilities
An employer can’t come right out and ask about your health or any physical disabilities. In fact, the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) says it’s illegal to discriminate against an applicant or employee with a disability. What they can ask, instead, is whether you are “able to perform the duties of the position you are applying for.”
Other related questions that are not allowed include:
- Have you experienced a workplace injury in the past?
- Have you filed a worker’s comp claim before?
- Are there any medical conditions you have that would get in the way of you doing the job?
Questions Related to Gender
Questions about gender should be avoided altogether since they don’t have any bearing on job performance. So, if you’re asked a question like, “should I address you as ‘Ms.’ or ‘Mrs.,’” it’s actually illegal. Also, questions like “Are you comfortable working for a boss who is female?” are likewise prohibited.
Questions Related to Criminal Records
This can be a gray area and depends on the state you live in to determine whether it’s legal or not to ask. However, if you’re applying to a position with a law enforcement agency, for instance, then inquiring about a criminal background is legal and expected. Likewise, if you’re applying for a position where you’ll be handling money or overseeing children, finding out about your background does, in fact, relate to the position and is allowed.
Questions Related to Credit or Finances
In some cases, credit records can be screened in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970 and the Consumer Credit Reporting Reform Act of 1996. However, an employer cannot ask you questions, such as “Do you own a home?” or “Have you ever declared bankruptcy?”
Get Professional Help with Your Next Interview
There are many questions that are off limits and that you can decline to answer. However, for those questions hiring managers can ask – ones that can be difficult to know how to answer – it’s important to prepare. This way, your responses are thoughtful and impactful.
If you’d like help getting ready for your next interview, turn to ResumeSpice. We know what hiring managers are looking for in responses and can help you improve your interview game, so you stand out and get the offer. Simply call 832.930.7378 or contact us online to get started.