Did you know that you do not have to answer to every single question interviewers make? While job interviews provide the opportunity for you and the employer to get to know each other better, this doesn’t mean that you have to give out all your personal information and tell them your life story.
Just as in any other professional meeting, there are some rules that need to be followed. However one out of three interviewers are unsure about the legality of some questions and most inexperienced interviewers don’t realise that they are asking for too much when assessing whether you are a good fit for their company or not. As such, they are unknowingly putting themselves at risk of legal action by using questions that discriminate against you. Sometimes it’s even difficult for you to identify when they have crossed the line, so it’s important to become familiar with these questions and ensure that you are well-prepared.
Generally, most illegal and inappropriate questions are:
- Related to birthplace, age, ancestry, or national origin.
- Related to sex, marital status, children or pregnancy.
- Related to physical disability, health or medical history.
- Related to religion.
- Related to criminal records.
See Also: How to Handle Rude Interview Questions
To help you out, this article presents to you the top ten questions that you should avoid answering during your next job interview at all costs:
#1 How old are you?
Questions that are designed to figure out your age are illegal. Even though an employer needs to know your age in order to make sure you are old enough to work for them (above 18), it doesn’t make it acceptable for them to ask your age in such a direct way.
Age-related questions can be more problematic when asked to candidates above the age of 40 since it’s illegal to discriminate against anyone over that age limit. Be aware of questions such as ‘what year were you born’ or ‘when did you graduate?’ as these can also give out your age.
#2 What religion do you practice?
Anything that has to do with religion is off limits. When an employer asks about religion, it means they want to know more about work scheduling and how you are most likely to be spending your weekends and holidays. If this ever happens, you should give a smart and polite answer such as: “I prefer not to discuss religion though I can confirm that it won’t interfere with my job.”
#3 How many children do you have?
This question may sound like the employer is trying to engage with you in small talk, but it is a dangerous question. Family-oriented questions like this should strictly stay out of discussions even when they are being used as an icebreaker for interviews. The employer here is clearly assessing your flexibility and how likely you are to work overtime.
#4 When was the last time you used an illegal drug?
The employer is allowed to ask you if you are currently using illegal drugs although they can’t get information on your drug history. In such situations, you may feel compelled to answer about legal prescription drug use which can also be considered as discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
#5 Do you live nearby?
This question shows that the employer wants to know more about your commuting and availability to work. However, it also implies that they may be choosing candidates based on their location, that is also discriminating. Most employers would ask you if you are willing to relocate. That’s acceptable, and if you feel comfortable, you can further discuss this with them.
#6 Are you in debt?
This is another inappropriate question as it requests information about your credit history which is simply illegal. Your debt – or lack of debt for that matter – doesn’t have anything to do with your performance at work. But, if employers want to learn more about it they need to ask for permission before a credit check.
#7 Have you ever been arrested?
Employers can ask you whether you have been convicted of a crime if you are applying for a position where criminal history determines your fit based on your trustworthiness and character. However, they can’t legally ask if you’ve ever been arrested in general. Background checks are usually used to assess your suitability, though, it’s best that you discuss any incidents with the employer right away. If you’ve ever been convicted, you need to show employers you have learned from your mistakes, and that’s a thing of the past.
#8 Is English your first language?
Employers don’t really have to know this. They don’t have the right to ask if English is your first language in such a direct way. However, they can check your language proficiency from your CV. Also, they can ask about what other languages you speak, read or write fluently if the job demands it. Even a question that sounds as innocent as ‘what country are you from’ is a definite no-no as this can give out your nationality.
#9 Do you like to drink socially?
This is actually very similar to the drug-related question. While it may never come up within the interview, it’s best that you are prepared. If the employer asks you whether you drink socially or not, you have the right to say no. This type of question is illegal as the law protects candidates and recovering alcoholics who don’t want to provide any information about their status.
#10 How is your health?
This question can be a bit tricky to answer. Nevertheless it’s still illegal, the fact which gives you the option to pass over. You will be required to answer to more specific health-related questions, though; ones that are more relevant to the job. These may be used to determine whether you are physically fit to perform the tasks you are given, such as standing on your feet for long hours or lifting a certain amount of weight.
See Also: Top 20 Interview Questions and Answers
Becoming familiar with such questions and being prepared it’s crucial for interview success. If you don’t want to let these questions influence the employer’s decision to hire you, you should learn how to respond in such situations.
When this happens, you have four options. You either:
- Give a brief answer if you are comfortable with that.
- Respond to the intent of the question.
- Ignore the question completely and change the subject.
- Politely decline to answer the question.
Being the candidate under assessment shouldn’t make you feel that you don’t the same rights as the employer. On the contrary you should know what to expect in any job interview. Here’s a video from Lawyers.com that gives out some pretty useful information about handling illegal interview questions:
So, have you ever heard any of these questions while being interviewed? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.