Job interviews are used to make sure the candidate is a great fit for the company culturally and through their experience. Interviewers ask a variety of questions to help figure that out, however, there are questions job seekers and employers need to be aware of that are illegal to ask.
If one gets asked, it’s not necessarily ill-intentioned, they may not realize it’s illegal to ask. Each state also has its own set of regulations for certain questions, so if you want to be sure of your specific state’s laws, research them before your next interview.
What topics make a question illegal?
Federal and state laws prevent employers from asking any questions that are not related to the job they’re hiring for. Illegal topics include:
- Gender, sex or sexual orientation
- Marital or family status
- Citizenship or nationality
- Credit history
- Criminal record
- Military discharge
- Medical information
Not hiring a candidate because of one of these factors in discrimination.
Examples of illegal questions
Gender, sex, or sexual orientation:
Marital or Family status:
Citizenship or nationality:
Credit history and finances:
Other illegal questions:
What to do if you get asked an illegal question
If you get asked a question that you know is illegal or you feel as though it may be, you are allowed to tell the interviewer that the question they just asked is illegal. If you prefer not to say that, you can answer the question by saying something like “my ____ will not affect my ability to perform the job to expectations.”
Take into account if an employer did ask you an illegal question when making a decision on whether to accept a job offer or not. If you are not sure whether or not a question is allowed, feel free to reference the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website.
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