INTERVIEWS / APR. 18, 2014
version 4, draft 4

How to Identify an Inappropriate Job Interview


We’ve all been to those job interviews that just don’t feel right. Sometimes the questions get a bit personal, or the interviewer asks you for information that you aren’t allowed to give. Perhaps the interviewer didn’t even ask you about your professional experience, but spent their time chatting with you.

How can you know whether an interview is inappropriate or not? Don’t rely only on your gut feeling, but use the advice below to help you recognize an inappropriate job interview.

What is "Inappropriate"?

To define "inappropriate", you must first define "appropriate". "Appropriate" questions in a job interview are justified by the company’s need to verify that you are the right candidate for the job. They have an obligation to their company to ensure that you are the best professional for them. This means that they are obliged to ask you questions that test your capability for their job.

By this measure, "inappropriate" means anything that falls outside this scope. Anything that doesn’t pertain to the job for which you are being interviewed would be considered inappropriate.

Sample Inappropriate Questions

Keep an eye out for the following questions--both in a face-to-face interview and on a written job application:

  • Do you have children? If so, how many? Why does your company need to know about your personal life? As long as it doesn’t affect your work, there is no reason why the company should ask this question.
  • What country do you/your parents come from? Employers CAN ask if the applicants are eligible to work in the U.S., but they CANNOT ask where an applicant is from or where they were born.
  • What is your height/weight? Why does it matter for the job interview? There are no minimum or maximum height and weight measurements, and they have nothing to do with job performance.
  • What is your native language? If an applicant appears unable to speak English proficiently, employers can use a proficiency test. However, they cannot ask this question flat out, though employers can ask what other languages applicants are fluent in should the job require additional languages.
  • What religion are you? Big no-no, this question! Religion has nothing to do with job performance, and employers that discriminate according to religion are liable to be sued. The only employers that can ask this question are those hiring for work in a religious institution.
  • Do you have disabilities? Employers are not allowed to ask applicants this question, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Do you drink? Employers are permitted to ask about drug use, but alcohol consumption is a grey area. They can ask whether or not a person drinks, but not how much.
  • Are you dating/married? As with the question regarding children, there is no reason why an employer should know about your marital status--ergo, personal life.

Remember, any questions that fall outside of the scope of your job duties will most likely be inappropriate.

If you find that your interviewer asks you questions that seem a bit suspicious, take the time to write down the questions asked. When you get home from the interview, look these questions up online to see if they are inappropriate or not. Maybe with these tips you can now tell that a previous interview you had was inappropriate.

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