By: Sam Liberatore, Database Specialist, Career Development Center
During any job interview employers will attempt to gather as much information on candidates as possible. Questions asked during an interview ideally should be about a candidate’s relevant work experience and individual skills. However, applicants should be aware that there are some questions that are inappropriate and/or illegal for employers to ask during an interview. As a job seeker it is extremely important to be able to identify red flags that might indicate you are being treated unfairly during the candidate selection process.
What Are Illegal Interview Questions?
Federal and state laws prohibit prospective employers from asking certain questions that are not related to the job they are hiring for. These questions are questions that would be related to the following:
- Race, ethnicity, or color
- Gender or sex
- Country of national origin or birth place
- Marital or family status or pregnancy
Under the laws enforced by EEOC, it is illegal to discriminate against someone (applicant or employee) because of that person’s race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to retaliate against a person because he or she complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.
How to respond to illegal job interview questions:
Answering these questions can be difficult. It is important to remember that you don’t have to answer these questions, but if you choose to there may be ways to answer that don’t jeopardize your candidacy for the job.
- Gracefully avoid the question and steer the conversation elsewhere
- Keep your answers short, broad and general
- Redirect a question to your interviewer
- Ask the interviewer why the question is relevant to your job
Answering questions in this way avoids directly providing an answer to the previously asked illegal job interview question. By responding this way you dodge the question entirely. Applicants should be comfortable were they work though. If questions asked during an interview are already making you uncomfortable you might considering interviewing elsewhere. If you have faced discrimination by a potential employer during a job interview you may considering contacting an attorney who specializes in labor issues, or contact your local Equal Employment Opportunity Commission office.