At some point in your career, you may be asked an interview question that's just wrong. It might pry too much into your personal life, be unrelated to your qualifications, or be outright illegal. Read below for some tips on recognizing and responding to these questions.
Below are a handful of example questions to watch out for. Many of them are illegal due to anti-discrimination laws. These laws state that interviews should only be a tool for measuring job qualifications. Questions about the things below often lead to discrimination.
To read more about these laws, check out Workplace Discrimination and the EEOC.
Not only are these questions banned, they simply have no place in an interview. Interviewers should never assume that your gender will affect your ability to do the job. Watch out for questions like:1
Employers can't ask you about personally sensitive info surrounding marriage, family, or living situation. These questions aren't related to your suitability for a job and can invite biases into the interview. Also, some of these questions can reveal private info like sexual orientation. Here are a few examples:1
Employers can only ask if a person can legally work in the U.S. Direct questions about where they're from or where they were born are illegal. A few examples are:
The employer doesn't have a right to know whether a language spoken is your first. It doesn't matter what language is your first as long as you're fluent in the language required for the job. Besides, the interviewer doesn't need to ask about English fluency; they can simply tell from the interview itself. A few examples include:1
Asking directly about age is not appropriate for an interview because age isn't relevant to job qualifications. This also includes questions that can't be answered without implying age. A couple of examples are:1
Employers can't ask directly about your religious views. A few examples of this include:1
Interviewers who ask this usually don't mean any harm. Many employers want to respect a person's beliefs and make accommodations for them. They are aware that some people have religious beliefs or traditions that prevent them from working on certain days. However, directly asking about religion is a loaded question. Instead, employers should ask you more open-ended questions about when you're available. Instead, they should ask something like "Are there any days or times when you are not available to work?"
These questions are banned under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This law made disability discrimination illegal, which includes asking questions about it in interviews. This can also include asking questions about illness, medical history, or related things.2 Health-related questions are only allowed if they're directly related to job qualifications. Here are some example questions:
Employers should not ask if you are a member of a specific political, religious, and other non-work-related organizations. Also, they should not use them to make a hiring decision. For example, employers should avoid questions like, "Our organization supports the Republican political party. Do you have any issues with that?"6 Chances are, these things don't relate to the job at all. Because of this, it's better to keep them out of interviews.
During the interview, ask yourself whether each question is suited to the job you're applying for. Watch for any red flags or moments where a question doesn't "feel right."
Also remember that employers sometimes ask these kinds of questions innocently. This sometimes happens with newer interviewers who don't realize that they're inappropriate. A good example is the "accent" question from earlier. While it's clear that the interviewer was just curious, it's still illegal.
Here are some points to keep in mind when dealing with these types of questions.5
Interview questions can tell you a lot about company culture and even ethics. If a question sends up a red flag, think about whether the company is right for you. If you feel "othered" during an interview, that may be a sign that you'll feel that way on the job as well.5
6 Illinois workNet Interview Builder