Navigating Illegal Interview Questions

Illegal Interview Questions & How to Find Them

Many interviewers do not intend to ask illegal interview questions, but also are not aware of current employment laws and the implications of asking certain questions. The United States has many laws in place to protect various classes of people (also known as protected classes) from discrimination in the workforce. Some of the most widely used illegal interview questions are:

  • How old are you?

  • Do you have a car?

  • Do you have any kids?

  • What religion are you?

  • Are you a US citizen?

  • Have you ever been arrested?

  • Do you have disabilities?

  • Are you married?

  • Are you pregnant or do you plan on becoming pregnant?

Not only are these questions irrelevant to how well you may perform your job, they are also illegal. Depending on your state, there may be additional questions or factors which employers cannot use to making employment decisions.

What Employers Can Ask

Employers can get the information they need by asking questions a bit differently. For example, many employers asking if you have a car are primarily concerned with you showing up to work everyday. In this case they can ask, “Do you have reliable transportation to work?” Whether it be by foot, train, bus or car - as long as you can get to work you’re all set!

Likewise, employers can ask if you are legally eligible to work in the United States and if you will require sponsorship at any point. Often you will find these questions fairly standard, as they are the safest way for an employee to get the information they need without breaking the law.

Want more information? Visit the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website for more resources and information specific to your state or industry.

What If I Am Asked an Illegal Question

If you are asked an illegal interview question, we suggest answering it as if it was asked legally to begin with, if possible. For example, if they ask how old you are, you could simply respond with, “I am over the age of 18.” If they ask if you have a car, respond with “I have reliable transportation to and from work.”

Depending on your relationship with the interviewer, you may even be able to delicately let them know they have asked an illegal interview question. However, we do understand sometimes these questions add uncomfortableness to an already uncomfortable situation. If they persist with asking the question, or seem like they are making employment decisions based on protected class traits, we suggest considering whether or not you would like to work with an employer skating the lines of ethics. If they are willing to blur the lines in hiring decisions, we would be weary regarding larger, more impactful issues as well.