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Legal and Illegal Interview Questions

Legal and Illegal Interview Questions

Job-seekers may not realize that not all questions asked during job interviews are always legal. It is illegal for an employer to ask questions that are discriminatory. A discriminatory question is a question that shows an attitude that could be harmful to certain groups of people. In the United States, it is illegal for employers to discriminate against job seekers because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, or age.

Some employers who ask discriminatory questions may be unaware of legal guidelines, and might ask illegal questions unintentionally. Unfortunately, a few employers do intend to ask discriminatory questions.  It is not always easy to be certain about an employer's intentions during an interview.

If you want to answer an illegal interview question and freely choose to do so, of course that is up to you. The important thing to remember is that legally, no one can force you to answer an illegal question, and that refusing to answer an illegal question cannot legally be used against you in a hiring decision. If you wish to file a complaint against an employer, contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for information. Please note: Much of the information for this blog was taken from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's website. Here is the link:

In this blog, we will look in detail at interview questions that are illegal, but first let's look at some common interview questions that are legal.


Thirteen Legal Job Interview Questions

1. What hours and days are you available to work?

2. Are there specific times when you cannot work?

3. Do you have responsibilities other than work that will interfere with specific job requirements like traveling?

4. What type of education, training and work experience did you receive while you were in the military?

5. Are you a member of any organizations that relate to your ability to do this job?

6. Have you ever been convicted of a crime? If so, when, where, and what was the disposition of the case? Check your state's laws about this question, because different states have different laws:

7. Are you legally eligible for employment in the United States?

8. Have you ever worked under a different name?

9. Can you perform the duties of the job you are applying for?

10. If hired, can you furnish proof that you are over age eighteen?

11. What is the name and address of the person to be notified in case of emergency?

12. Do you have a high school diploma or the equivalent?

13. Do you have a university or college degree?

Ten Types of Illegal Interview Questions:

Here are some of the questions an employer is prohibited by law from asking you.  

1. Questions about your race. Employers are not allowed to use information about your race to decide whether or not you get a job.

2. Questions about your height and weight. Unless an employee needs to be a certain height or weight to do a particular job, employers are not allowed to ask you about your height and weight.

3. Most questions about your finances. Unless an employer can prove that the financial information is essential to the job you are applying for, employers are not allowed to ask questions about the following -- your current or past financial assets, credit rating, bankruptcy information, garnishment information, refusal or cancellation of bonding, car ownership, rental or ownership of a home, the length of time you have lived at an address, charge accounts, furniture ownership, or bank accounts.

Employers are allowed to check your credit history, but only if you give them permission to do so. Bad credit can be used against you when you are applying for a job, but filing for bankruptcy cannot. It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against someone for filing bankruptcy. Also, employers must tell you if your credit information is used against you. They must give you a copy of the report, an explanation of the employers' legal rights, and contact information for the source of the report. You can contact the source to dispute anything on the report that is inaccurate.

4. Questions about your religious affiliation or beliefs. Religious corporations, associations, educational institutions and societies are allowed to consider religion as a job qualification. Other employers are not allowed to ask you about your place of worship, days of worship, or religious holidays. They are also not allowed to ask you for references from religious leaders like ministers, rabbis, imams, or pastors.

5. Questions about U.S. citizenship. Employers are not supposed to ask you if you are a U.S. citizen until they are making an offer of employment.  After they offer you a job, they are allowed to ask if you are a U.S. citizen.

6. Questions about your marital status and the number and ages of your children. In interviews, employers are not allowed to ask you whether you are pregnant, what your marital status is, whether you plan to marry, the number of children you have, the age of your children, the names of your children, your child-bearing plans, whether you have had abortions, whether you use birth control, your ability to reproduce, your child-care arrangements, the employment status of your spouse, or the name of your spouse. The employer may ask some of these questions after offering you a job.

7. In some states, questions about arrests.  In some states, employers are not allowed to ask applicants any questions about arrest records. Check your state's employment law website for information. Check your state's laws about this question, because different states have different laws:

8. Security/background checks for certain religious or ethnic groups. If an employer does background checks for job applicants, the employer has to conduct background checks for all applicants, not just for applicants of particular religions or ethnic groups.

9. Questions about disability. Employers may not ask questions about disabilities or require medical examinations until they offer you a job. They may not ask you about the nature or severity of a disability. If you have a disability that is obvious, or if you tell the employer you have a disability, then the employer may ask questions about accommodations you might need on the job. The employer may ask if you will need accommodations to perform specific job duties.

10. Medical questions. Employers may not ask applicants to answer medical questions. They may not ask an applicant if he or she has a disability, and they may not ask questions about the nature of a disability. Employers may not ask applicants to have medical examinations unless the employer has offered the applicant a job.

35 Examples of (Probably) Illegal Job Interview Questions

Here are some examples of questions that are usually illegal for employers to ask. In some instances, an employer may be able to claim that he or she needs this information because of a job requirement. If you have a question about a particular interview situation, you can call the EEOC at the number given on their website.

If an employer asks you a question you believe is illegal you can say politely, "I'm sorry. I believe it is illegal for you to ask me that question. Could we go on to another question please?"

1. What is your national origin?

2. What is your native language?

3. Where are your parents from?

4. Where does your family come from?

5. How much do you weigh?

6. How tall are you?

7. What color are your eyes and hair?

8. Do you own your own home?

9. Do you have a car?

10. Have your wages ever been garnished?

11. Have you ever declared bankruptcy?

12. Have you ever filed for worker's compensation?

13. Have you had any work injuries?

14. What church or temple do you belong to?

15. What religious holidays do you celebrate?

16. Are you a union member?

17. What clubs or societies do you belong to?

18. What type of military discharge did you receive?

19. Have you ever been arrested? Check your state's laws about this question, because different states have different laws:

20. Do you have any disabilities?

21. Is your disability going to get worse?

22. What is your date of birth?

23. What is your maiden name?

24. What are the names of your relatives?

25. What is your marital status?

26. Do you wish to be addressed as Mrs., Ms., or Miss?

27. How many children do you have?

28. Who is going to babysit your children while you are at work?

29. Are you planning to have children?

30. Are you pregnant?

31. When did you graduate from high school?

32. When did you graduate from college?

33. How long have you lived at your current address?

34. What was your previous address?

35. How long did you live at your previous address?

I hope this blog helps you to understand more about legal and illegal interview questions. Good luck, job seekers!

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Barbara Myers's picture
  • by
  • Mon, 12/22/2014 - 10:03
The funny thing about all these things on this blog is the questions that aren't suppose to be asked...I have been asked pretty much all of these question by every employer that i have had since i have live in this town or should i say state..