How to Handle Illegal Interview Questions

in doubt what to answer interview

Interviews are nerve racking affairs and that’s when they are normal. Add a bit of unpredictability in the form of an illegal question and you have a gut wrenching dilemma to the added stress of trying to get the job. So what do you do? Bend to the interviewers’ will or stand your ground? Let’s see how to handle illegal interview questions.

What Are Illegal Questions

First off, to be able to handle answering illegal questions you have to know what they are. Generally illegal questions are ones that pertain to marital status, nationality, family, race, gender, religion and sexual orientation. So if your interviewer asks if you are a “single, Maltese, Denisovan, Male, Pastafarian that is attracted to those little Kiwi birds” then you might have an illegal question on your hand.

Pleading the Fifth

Pleading the fifth is ”the privilege that allows a witness to decline to answer questions where the answers might incriminate themselves”, in interview terms, that means that you will basically say in an extremely polite way that you don’t want to answer. You can respond like this: “I apologize but if you don’t mind I would prefer not to answer that question” and make sure that your body language remains positive; don’t clench your jaw, turn the edges of your mouth down (frown) or slightly nod “no”. Try to smile naturally while you say this, because if you are too enthusiastic of a smiler it might make the interview think that you are about to stab him/her with the company pen you were given. Keep in mind that this is probably the riskiest of methods to dodge an illegal question as you are more or less calling out the interviewer.

The Saint

Lying according to most Judeo-Christian religions is a sin, and you should live a clean life, free of sin and strangely poppy seed oil -no I never realized that poppy oil seed is the devil’s tears- Anyway, so instead of avoiding or lying about the illegal question just answer it. Of course that’s considering that the question isn’t something wholly inappropriate, racist or sexist. So if the interviewer asks “Do you find tutu wearing monkeys attractive” cut your losses and admit to your admittedly elaborate perversion. I mean monkeys don’t seem like the type of animal that would enjoy being in pink tutu, no matter how adorable.

The Bait and Switch

Like a magician’s techniques of distraction, misdirection and sleight of hand, you too can veer an interviewer away from a question that is illegal. For example if the interview asks if you have an involuntary vasectomy which makes you unable to procreate, all you have to do is say: “HOW THE FLIPPING HELL DO YOU KNOW THAT???” erm actually no, say “That’s an interesting question, but can I ask you about the position’s specific responsibilities again?”   


This is probably the safest and easiest, if you are asked about your national or racial heritage, simply answer: “I am legally authorized to work in U.S.” Sure the unanswered question might keep your interviewer up at night, but that’s not your problem now, is it? 

Is there anything else I missed? Let me know in the comment section below.




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