Questions that Cannot Be Asked During an Interview?

questions that cannot be asked during an interviewYou arrived ten minutes early for your interview and have been nervously drumming your fingers on your briefcase while you wait in the lobby for someone to usher you back into the company’s interview room. A smart-dressed woman eventually opens the door and calls your name, beckoning you to follow her. She takes you back into a small but comfortable room with a table: seated at the table are the other members of the interview team. You take a deep breath: your interview is about to begin.

While no two interviews are alike, individuals who are interviewing for any job in any industry have the right not to be discriminated against in the hiring process. Employers are even cautioned not to ask certain questions during the interview process so that the candidate cannot accuse them of making hiring decisions using discriminatory criteria. Some of the questions employers should not ask interviewees include:

“When did you graduate high school?”

Why it’s a problem: Federal and state laws prohibit discriminating against potential employees who are over the age of 40. While this question does not directly ask the interviewee his or her age, it does give the employer information from which he or she can deduce the candidate’s age. Besides, unlike the fact that the candidate did graduate high school, the date he or she did so is not relevant to any job duties of any position.

“How many children do you have? Do you plan on having more?”

Why it’s a problem: This question may seem innocuous enough, but some employers use questions like these to gauge whether you will be asking for significant time off to care for a newborn child or to care for any children you already have. An employer cannot discriminate against a job applicant on the basis of that applicant’s family size.

“That’s an interesting last name. Where did your family come from?”

Why it’s a problem: An employer may be genuinely curious about an applicant’s family origins, but this type of question has no place in a job interview. If a job candidate answered such a question, the interviewer would have knowledge about the applicant’s ethnicity or national origin – both of which are protected classifications. If an employer is genuinely curious about the origins of an applicant’s last name, he or she should ask the applicant after he or she has made a hiring decision.

What To Do if the Interviewer Asks You a “Forbidden” Question

Interviewers are only human as are the applicants they screen. If you participate in enough interviews, chances are an interivewer will ask you one of the questions listed above. In some cases, the question may be asked with no ill or discriminatory intent. In other cases, though, the question may be an attempt by the interviewer to pry into areas he or she has no business going. If you believe the person conducting the interview is asking you an improper question, you can:

  • Refuse to answer the question.
  • Inform the interviewer you believe he or she has asked an inappropriate question and explain the reasons why you believe this to be true.
  • Explain to the interviewer that you are not attempting to be rude or evasive and you would like to answer his or her legitimate questions about your qualifications for the job.
  • Tell the interviewer that you will leave the interview if he or she persists in asking you improper and/or illegal questions.

Even though you are the one looking for a job, you still have rights that the interviewer and your potential employer can and should respect.  For more information see the Huffington Post’s article on 10 Questions Employers Cannot Ask During an Interview.