10+ Illegal Interview Questions To Avoid Asking Or Getting Asked

When you are in the interview process as a future employee, it is imperative that you understand what some of the questions are that hiring managers or the interviewing party cannot ask you. These questions are considered illegal interview questions. Meaning, if they are asked, the employer is clearly violating certain privacy policies and you have no obligation to answer them. In addition to not having to answer them, you can file a complaint against the business for having these practices.

Most often, these questions are experienced when you are in the phone interview stage of the hiring process. This is because future employers are trying to get to know you better in order to understand if they want to move you onto the next stage of the interview process. And because of that intent, hiring managers, employees, or anyone who may be conducting the interview often forget that these questions are related to personal privacy.

Understand that if an employer asks you these questions it doesn't always mean that they have the worst of intentions. Unless they are questions that clearly harass your race or gender, sometimes simply asking "Where did you grow up?" can be a violation of privacy but is gentle enough to where you should understand someone isn't trying to attack your personal nature.

Area's that are illegal to ask about

Generally speaking, these area's of interest or potential discussion points are often times somewhat sensitive to speak about in the interview process. If you are conducting an interview, it would be best if you simply avoided the subject matter altogether. That will be the most risk-averse in the scenario and protect both your employment as well as the company. Employees who are conducting interviews that have asked questions in these topics often get terminated once the interviewer reports the issues.

Here are some sample questions to make you understand what's legal and what's not legal to ask based on different aspects:

Address

Can ask
How long have you been at staying at the present address?
What is your current residential address?
How long did you live at your previous residence?
Cannot ask
Do you own a home or rent?
Does someone live with you?

Age

Can ask
Some roles have age permits. In such cases, you can ask for age proof.
Cannot ask
What year were you born in?
When did you start college?

Availability

Can ask
What days and shifts can you work?
Do you have a reliable way mode of transport to work?
Cannot ask
Questions about childcare arrangements or evening work.
Question about owning a car unless the job requires.

Citizenship or national origin

Can ask
Do you have permission to work in the United States legally?
Can you provide the proof of citizenship/visa/alien registration if we decide to hire you?
Are you capable of speaking, reading and writing English?
Cannot ask
Are you a US citizen?
Can you please provide your birth certificate?
Where are your parents from?
Where is your birthplace?
How did you learn English?

Disabilities

Can ask
Clear job description and then ask for candidate’s consent.
Cannot ask
Are you differently abled?

Education Qualification

Can ask
Do you have a high school diploma certificate or its equivalent?
What college or university degrees do you have?
Cannot ask
In which year did you start college?

Emergency Contact Name

Can ask
Only after confirmed employment.
Cannot ask
Any related query is seen as a question about national original or sexual orientation.

Employment

Can ask
How long did you work in your last role?
What is your current and expected salary?
Cannot ask
When did you first start working? (age discrimination)

Family Status

Can ask
Do I need to know about any commitments that might prevent you from working the assigned shifts?
Cannot ask
How many children do you have?

Height or weight

Can ask
Proper job description then ask for candidate’s consent.
Cannot ask
How tall are you?
What’s your weight?

Marital Status

Can ask
No questions
Cannot ask
How many children do you have?
Are you married?

Pregnancy

Can ask
Do you have any leave planned?
Cannot ask
Are you expecting a baby?

Race or Color

Can ask
Not acceptable except it is a bona fide occupational qualification.
Cannot ask
All questions about color and race.

Religion or Creed

Can ask
No questions allowed
Cannot ask
What denomination are you?
Who is your pastor?

Sex, Orientation, or Gender Identity

Can ask
No questions allowed
Cannot ask
No questions allowed

Illegal interview questions

I hope this acted as a simple guide for which areas you can discuss in an interview. Keep in mind, while we did cover the fact that some questions inside of these topics are considered legal, I would still recommend that you avoid the topic area's all together. It simply will not be worth it if there's miscommunication regarding the questions that you asked and how the other party interpreted it. And generally speaking, the policy for all employers is that they will side with the interviewing party and potentially terminate your employment.

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