Questions that are illegal for an employer to ask

Employers ask many questions during an interview with the purpose of getting a good understanding and feeling for the candidate. However, there are questions that are illegal for an employer to ask:

  • Any question related to ethnicity, age, sex, religion, national origin, marital status, past arrests, alcohol and drug use, credit history and childbearing plans are illegal.
  • An interviewer may not ask you about your religion, church, synagogue, parish, the religious holidays you observe, or your political beliefs or affiliations.
  • An interviewer may not ask about your ancestry, national origin, or parentage; in addition, you cannot be asked about the naturalization status of your parents, spouse or children. The interviewer cannot ask about your birth place. However, the interviewer can ask whether you are or not a U.S. citizen or resident alien with the right to work in the U.S.
  • An interviewer may not ask about your native language, the language you speak at home, or how you acquired the ability to read, write, or speak a foreign language. But, he or she may ask about the languages in which you are fluent if knowledge of those languages is pertinent to the job.
  • An interviewer may not ask about your age, birth date, or ages of your children. But he or she may ask whether or not you are over 18 years old.
  • Most of the time illegal questions are asked unintentionally, especially during a more informal interview such as a lunch or dinner interview. If you feel you are being asked an illegal question you can legitimately, but politely, refuse to answer. You might say, “I’m not sure of the relevance of that question, can you tell me how it specifically relates to the job?” You can also choose to deflect the answer. You may be able to identify the underlying concern by listening closely to the question being asked. For example, if a woman is asked when or if she plans to have children, she might identify that the employer is concerned about her potential commitment to the position. She could respond, “It sounds as if you might be concerned about my commitment to the position. I can assure you that my career is very important to me. It hasn’t been an issue in the past, nor do I anticipate it being an issue in the future.”
  • Many times a candidate will disclose personal information during the interview. For example, in explaining why he is seeking a new position, a candidate will state how his spouse was relocated to a new city. It was not necessary for the candidate to divulge this information; however, it did provide a solid explanation as to why the candidate left his previous position. When considering disclosing personal information, ask yourself if the personal information can be related to a professional context, and if the information you voluntarily provided is more likely to help you or hinder you in the process.clues that it is time to end the interview.

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