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Thursday, September 4, 2014

13 Illegal Interview Questions: Do You Know What To Do?



Most Job Seekers have no idea what an Illegal Interview question sounds like. Here is a list of 13 questions that a job interviewer should not be asking you. Remember the purpose of an interview is to get the job. So it is important that you understand how to answer even inappropriate interview questions.(Editor's Notes)



13 Sample Illegal and Legal Interview Questions: (and a few answers-see below)
 

1. Age
Inappropriate:
  • How old are you?
  • What year were you born?
  • When did you graduate from high school?
Appropriate:
  • Before hiring, asking if you are over the minimum age for the hours or working conditions.
  • After hiring, verifying same with a birth certificate or other ID, and asking age on insurance forms.


2.Citizenship
Inappropriate:
  • Are you a citizen of the US?
  • Are your parents or spouse citizens of the US?
  • On what dates did you , your parents or your spouse acquire US Citizenship?
  • Are you, your parents or your spouse naturalized or native-born US citizens?

Appropriate:
  • If you are not a US citizen, do you have the legal right to remain permanently in the US?
  • What is your visa status (if no to the previous question).
  • Are you able to provide proof of employment eligibility upon hire?
____________________________________________________


3.Criminal Record
Inappropriate:
  • Have you ever been arrested?
  • Have you ever spent a night in jail?
Appropriate:
  • Have you ever been convicted of a crime?
_________________________________________________
4.Disability
Inappropriate:
  • Do you have any disabilities?
  • What's your medical history?
  • How does your condition affect your abilities?
Appropriate:
  • Can you perform the specific duties of the job.
  • After hiring, ask about medical history on insurance forms.
_________________________________________________
5.Family
Inappropriate:
  • Questions concerning spouse, or spouse's employment, salary, arrangements, or dependents.
  • What kind of child care arrangements have you made?
  • How will your spouse feel about the amount of time you will be traveling if you get this job?
Appropriate:
  • Can you work overtime?
  • Is there any reason you can't start at 7:30am?
  • Whether an applicant can meet specified work schedules or has activities or commitments that may prevent him or her from meeting attendance requirements.
__________________________________________________
6.Marital Status
Inappropriate:
  • Are you married, divorced, separated, engaged, widowed, etc?
  • Is this your maiden or married name?
  • What is the name of your relative/spouse/children?
  • Do you live with your parents?
Appropriate:
  • After hiring, marital status on tax and insurance forms.
_________________________________________________
7.Military
Inappropriate:
  • What type or condition is your military discharge?
  • Can you supply your discharge papers?
  • What is your experience in other than US armed forces?

Appropriate:
  • Describe the relevant work experience as it relates to this position that you acquired from a US armed forces.
__________________________________________________
8.National Origin
Inappropriate:
  • What is your nationality?
  • Where were you born?
  • Where are your parents from?
  • What's your heritage?
  • What is your mother tongue?
  • How did you acquire the ability to speak, read or write a foreign language?
  • How did you acquire familiarity with a foreign country?
  • What language is spoken in your home?
Appropriate:
  • Verifying legal U.S. residence or work visa status.
  • What languages do you speak, read or write fluently?
_________________________________________________

9.Parental Status
Inappropriate:
  • How many kids do you have?
  • Do you plan to have children?
  • How old are your children?
  • Are you pregnant?
Appropriate:
  • After hiring, asking for dependent information on tax and insurance forms.
_________________________________________________
10.Race or Skin Color
Inappropriate:
  • What race are you?
  • Are you a member of a minority group?
Appropriate:
  • None
_________________________________________________
11.Religion or Creed
Inappropriate:
  • What is your religious affiliation?
  • Which religious holidays will you be taking off from work?
  • Do you attend church regularly?
Appropriate:
  • Can you work on Saturdays?
_________________________________________________
12.Residence
Inappropriate:
  • Do you own or rent your home?
  • Do you live in town?
  • With whom do you live?
Appropriate:
  • Inquiries about the address to facilitate contact with the applicant.
  • Will you be able to start work at 8:00am?
__________________________________________________
13.Sex
Inappropriate:
  • Do you wish to be addressed as Mr., Mrs., Miss, or Ms.?
  • What are your plans to have children in the future?
Appropriate:
None

Source:University of Chicago 
_________________________________________
Looking for Some Answers On How To Deal With This Age Bias Questions
_________________________________________
Learn how to Ace your next Job Interview
____________________________________________________

Free:49 Benefits To Hiring An Older Skilled Worker


100 Post a Comment:

Chaya said...

OK, these questions are illegal - but what is a job seeker supposed to do if s/he gets asked illegal questions? Will s/he be forced to answer or should s/he say,"That's an illegal question and I don't have to answer it..." and still have a chance of getting the job?

Rick said...

At my last interview, I was asked if I was married, if I had kids, and if I went to church. I was floored. I politely told the interviewer that legally they can't ask those questions but I don't mind if they know. After all, I was wearing my wedding band. I consulted my recruiter after the interview and told him what had happened. I knew I would fit in with their group, but had I been "different" than them, I'm not sure how she would have reacted.

Anonymous said...

I think I missed something. What I am supposed to do if asked one of these questions?

Anonymous said...

Why is it okay to ask if a person can work on Saturday? For some this is a holy day. For others Sunday is a holy day. This is also a discriminitory question because it allows the questioning party to assume a specific religion.

Ollezaza said...

Please clarify:

Are these questions "Illegal" or just "Inappropriate"?

I don't want an interviewer to side-step the terminology.

Mike said...

They are all inappropriate, and if you are refused employment based on your answer to them, they may be judged illegal.

The clue to answering ther question may be in the "appropriate" responses suggested in the article. For example if you are female and the interviewer asks "are you married?" Say "I expect yopu may be wondering whether I will be fully committed to this job, well let me reassure you...".

Just responding "that's an illegal question" will put the interviewer on the defensive and kill your chances on the spot, no matter how much you are in the right. Use psychological ju-jitsu in the face of inappropriate questions by trying to determine what the interviewer is concerned about when asking the question, and responding accordingly.

Gene said...

Most of these questions are not illegal, even if they are inappropriate. You might want to clarify which ones, if any, are definitely illegal.

And Mike is exactly right on how to handle it. Anyone who says these are illegal questions, will not be getting the job.

clifford said...

You can't ask if your prospective employee is a United State citizen or not? Incredible.

Matthew said...

@Clifford:

You cannot ask about citizenship status because national origin is protected by law. Asking if an individual has the legal right to employment is appropriate (and even recommended).

@Gene:

Nearly all of these questions are illegal.

kyalisu said...

Of course you can't ask if a prospective employee if they're a US Citizen (and government contractors already know if you're a citizen or not, so...).

The last thing you want is a discrimination lawsuit. Then you'll have the ACLU and EEOC on your back. Totally unnecessary. Just make sure they're qualified.

And before it's said, not having citizenship != illegal alien, so you don't have to fear ICE.

Stephen said...

I too am concerned that the editor of this article does not site their source for this information, however, in classes I took on job interviewing we were given a suggestion for gracefully avoiding answering any inappropriate or illegal questions: Just divert the subject back around to your skills for the job you are applying for. At the end of the day the employer should want someone with the qualifications to do the job. An example of a response would be: “I don’t know what that has to do with my skills for doing this job.” Then continue talking about your skills. I realize this might turn some interviewers off but hopefully they would want to know more about your skills than about your personal life. I’ve been on both sides of the table professionally and I know we always were more interested in the skills of the person we were interviewing. Once they were hired we dealt with any personal matters in their lives as fairly as possible.
This is just a suggestion. Hope it helps.

Stephen said...

I too am concerned that the editor of this article does not site their source for this information, however, in classes I took on job interviewing we were given a suggestion for gracefully avoiding answering any inappropriate or illegal questions: Just divert the subject back around to your skills for the job you are applying for. At the end of the day the employer should want someone with the qualifications to do the job. An example of a response would be: “I don’t know what that has to do with my skills for doing this job.” Then continue talking about your skills. I realize this might turn some interviewers off but hopefully they would want to know more about your skills than about your personal life. I’ve been on both sides of the table professionally and I know we always were more interested in the skills of the person we were interviewing. Once they were hired we dealt with any personal matters in their lives as fairly as possible.
This is just a suggestion. Hope it helps.

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of companies which want you to bring a form in to your interview which lists all of the parameters they need to do a background check. This, of course, includes your date of birth. In my field (IT Security) all companies do a background check before hiring. The problem is that many companies do this prematurely, and find out your age before they've even decided whether or not to hire you. And if you don't get the job, and you are over 50, you end up wondering if your age played a part in their decision.

Joel Bernstein said...

Please explain to me how to avoid filling out age questions as most companies are now using Taleo or Brass Ring. You can't even get by the part that asks for your birth date. Isn't this a violation?

Anonymous said...

Wow, all these rules and regulations on what you can and cannot do.

I guess this is the sort of controlled society that we live in.

My suggestion is to not even hire anyone and just use contractors through an agency. Then if the person does not work out or you don't like them then ask for a replacement.

law interview questions said...

Yes,this is the exact post that i want.Really fantastic article and questions to know about a person's legal life.Thanks for posting ....

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Anonymous said...

Once one gets as far as the interview, rephrasing the question to the PC version is a less confrontational approch to most of these questionsi.e. "I think you really meant to ask me "Is there any reason I could not be at work during your standard business hours?".

This answers their legitimate question, acknowledges that you know they crossed the line, and shows you have the sophistication to deflect and move on.

As to SS# - 000-00-0000 seems to satisfy most "MUST PROVIDE/RFI" boxes. (Similarly, $000,000.00 for salary history)

I have not found a way to skirt this issue of the online requests for DOB, graduation dates etc. - other than a touch of dyslexia or mis-typing - ANY ideas???


Denis

Anonymous said...

I can understand why it is inappropriate to ask: Are you a citizen"

But why is it appropriate to ask: "If you are not a citizen, are you legally allowed to remain in the country?"

Isn't that a way of getting the answer to the first inappropriate question?

In a way this seems only like an attempt to create a "Politically Correct" way of obtaining the same information. To me, it's still just as bad and inappropriate. And secondly, who is the governing body that has decided how these "appropriate" questions are to be worded?

Something does not seem right with all of this. There are several of the "appropriat" 13 questions, that are still questionable.

Anonymous said...

This is truly sad. I knew this country when she was great; when we were not afraid to say we were great; when men were men, women were women and you could tell the difference. I have lived long enough to her in decline and it is a terrible sight.

Anonymous said...

I am a professional over 40 (actually over 50) that has had about 15 interviews in the last five years. In not a single one did they NOT ask me my age or birthdate or high school graduation year. In one way, shape or form that question is asked and determined. Most online applications also have a birthday question. Get real here, the vast majority of American companies practice age discrimination. Even Jack Welch in his book "Winning" advocated against hiring the older worker. The only variable is what age the hiring manager or company considers "too old". It used to be 55, now I have seen HR blogs where younger recruiters think 35 is an "older worker."

Anonymous said...

I have completed hundreds of online applications, some with major companies, this year. Most, if not all, of them ask for citizenship, race, and gender. When I answer these I always wonder if they use for hiring and to fulfill requirements for their EOE status. While I have not been asked for my age directly, I believe employers are looking closely at years of experience and college education dates (a dead giveaway in most instances) to gain this information. I came across an opportunity posted on Indeed.com yesterday where an employer stated they were looking for younger talent. Is this legal? What is an out-of-work job seeker to do with questionable inquiries on an application without risk?

Tony said...

I read this article with some bemusement - when did it become illegal to ask someone for factual information?

Isn't the purpose of speaking to someone to get to know them better and be able to form a better view about their suitability for a particular role? I know it may be a surprise but doesn't the potential employer want to get the best person for the role they have and finding out about the interviewees is an integral part of this?

If the concern is that the employee might be "ageist" in some way, perhaps the interview ought to be conducted over the telephone, so that they can't actually see how you look - it tends to be a bit of a giveaway on the age thing in my experience! Mind you, one's voice changes with age, so perhaps we need to have people employed to record fixed responses from every candidate to remove the potential bias from this aspect as well.

Then all we have to do is work out who can recruit the voice over people and on what basis......

In the USA, if you ask all the interviewees for the same information, isn't that being even handed?

Not to mention open and honest?

Anonymous said...

Age is a big negative as insurance goes up when you reach 40, and dramatically when you hit 50. Many employers want the energy of youth, but age knows how to utilize experience and knowledge to work smarter rather than harder.

Be wary of the veteran question- they get a credit for hiring veterans but use the conflict (like Viet Nam) to determine your age.

I too suspect that employers use background checks as part of the initial screening, even prior to phone screen.

Technology has provided employers with the means to screen out "dead wood" - unfortunately true talent gets caught in that net. What a waste!

Steven Collins said...

Some jobs are government positions and contracts that REQUIRE a security clearance or US Citizens at a minimum - presumably eligible for a clearance. The question is necessary or everyone is wasting their time. Every company is required to fill out an I-9 to verify citizenship status - asking a question up front merely cuts to the chase and cuts employment hiring costs. If the law says you cannot ask this question in an interview but then requires you to not hire the person if they are illegal, someone might need to explain this to me as I don't get it. Please make room for me at the wall to beat my head against.

The second point, do you really want to work for a company that believes you as an older worker are not going to fit in, perform well, or in any other way consider age a limiting factor? Unless you simply want to set yourself up to fail or are looking for someone to sue (and what a waste of time that is... not to mention the reality of not finding future work, if you are prone to civil suits with employers...).

My recommendation is to seek work that will suit you and your employer, or create a business that you run yourself and make your own rules... maybe you require a minimum of 20 years of experience...

Many agencies have physical standards and age limits, police, fire I would guess... while it is wrong to simply set an age limit (a physical test would be best) some jobs require youthful ability, lower pay expectations, and longevity in their workforce.

I am 52, a disabled vet, and I hire people from 18 to 65+ but I also determine who I place where based on experience/ability/knowledge, and what I believe the job requires for best performance.
It is my company, my service and reputation, and my client and if I were simply to hire any person that walked in off the street just because they were breathing and wanted to work, I would be out of a job myself.

These things are logical if you think about it. I run a security company and I would not put myself into certain jobs, nor am I foolish enough to think I can do anything - I have limitations and I know what they are (this is called experience and wisdom if I may be bold).

Of course there is simple discrimination, but again do you want to work for that company or waste your time and possibly money changing them? If you feel they are wrong, write the CEO or a Board member and tell them what you think. Write a clear concise statement of your opinion of their hiring process as it pertained to you, don't threaten them rather try to shame them if they deserve that. Make sure you are on solid ground regarding your capabilities and the job, and who knows, they may call you back or they may think about what they are doing. Change can occur and we do have laws against discrimination, but let's use common sense. If a company wants to work around these things they will generally find a way... Do you want to get a paycheck from them? If you are being hired at a management level, then maybe yes, if you can affect a change. If you do get hired as a non-management employee you can work to show them that they did not make a mistake and that you are as good as everyone else... but does that mean overtime, high energy, social events, and all that younger workers tend to do willingly and without resentfulness? Is that what you want? Part 1 of 2

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if these questions are illegal for any company to ask, or only companies above a certain size? There are many laws and regulations that are different for small companies.

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Anonymous said...

Honestly, some (not all but some) of the "inappropriate questions" I find nothing wrong with. For example, I actually prefer if someone asked me what salutation I would like as I prefer Miss over Ms. It's really not that big of a deal. Sometimes we as a society have a habbit of blowing things out of proportion.

Anonymous said...

The above posting could be more precise. One of my former employers used to provide guidance on this before you got to interview anyone.

e.g.

1. Illegal: Are you a US Citizen?

Legally permissible (and relevant as appropriate):

a. Do you have work authorization to work in the United States?
b. (If the job needs security clearances) Do you have the ability to seek the following clearance(s): etc etc etc

The "legal question" per above "What is your visa status?" is questionable, in my mind. It can open an employer to a lawsuit on the basis of discrimination of origin.

11. Legal question "Can you work Saturdays?" seems questionable to me. A much better question is "The job duties involve work on Saturdays. Are you able to perform that portion of the job duties?".


Now to the most important part - I dont know why the OP did not answer his own question: What to do if the interviewer does ask an illegal question:

The best way to respond is to respond to the legal form of the question! e.g. If the interviewer asks "Can you work Saturdays?" ask if the job duties involve work on Saturdays. Then depending on the response (Yes) say Yes, if so. If you cant work Saturdays, and the position does involve work on a Saturday (e.g. a weekend cashier's job) - you are excluding yourself from the job.

If not, and the interviewer was indeed fishing to find out if you are Jewish (or something), then respond with "I believe in getting my job done, whatever it takes". That can mean working to Fri midnight, and avoiding Saturday if that is appropriate for you. But you dont need to discuss that in the interview.

Another example: How old are you etc.

e.g.

Interviewer: We support diversity of all kinds. How old are you?

Answer 1: Humourous version: I will add to that diversity, I think. (Delivered with a smile).
Answer 2: Again Humourous: Oh - I like to hide my age just as much as the next guy.


Another example: Are you a US Citizen? Did you naturalize?

Answer: Yes, I do have permanent work authorization in the US independent of employer.

Anonymous said...

>> Anonymous said...
>> The above posting could be more precise

To be sure this particular comment was by way of comment from a lay person only, to be clear: This lay person is not an attorney, did not go to law school, and the above should not be construed as legal advice.

Anonymous said...

Regarding age discrimination, I find many job applications ask questions about college education, degrees, and date of graduation. This is nothing but a back door way to determine age. Simply subtract 21 or 22 from the graduation date to determine birth date.

Some of my HR friends said this asking for date of graduation is valid so as to enable them to check with educational information from the college or university. Garbage.

I would be interested in hearing how others deal with the college graduation date...ignor it, put in a rediculous date (1900) or put in the actual date of college graduation.

Ken M

deependra said...

I was also asked in my technical interview by the Interviewer "WILL U WORK 72 hr COUNTINUOUSLY,I DO ? "

Anonymous said...

deependra
If you are really in need of a job, you may tell you can work even 144 hours a day, if god permitted.
If not, you may say that you can work 72 hours continuously, provided the pay goes exponentially eg.,
First 8 hours - normal pay
Next 8 hours - normal pay * 2
Next 8 hours - normal pay * 4
etc...

Ken, VP HR said...

I think a couple of folks hit the mark on this. These questions are examples of what should not be asked. It is illegal to make employment decisions based on these factors, but once the question is asked it is extremely difficult to say that it was not a factor in the decision. If it really wasn't a factor, then why ask?
I think there is a lot of misunderstanding about what can and cannot be asked. Yes, race, veteran status and disability information can be asked at the time of the application, but it cannot be connected to the application and must be kept separate. This is for government reporting purposes if they ask to see your candidate pool.
They can ask for information after you are offered the position and if the postion requires security clearance or background checks then the offer is contingent upon passing that screening and failing the screening would nullify the offer. It still is wrong to ask prior to making a job offer.

Anonymous said...

Always the illegal questions are asked to me when I seek a job, and during the interview, specially temporary agencies.
And, I get NO JOB AT ALL... the interview ends there...

Anonymous said...

As Ken VP HR indicated, these questions have little/no bearing on the job at hand and have no reason to be asked.

For the candidate--rather than countering with "that is an illegal question," respond with what the interviewer is really wanting to know: your availability for the hours of the job or will they need to sponsor work authorization.

Answer with a job related response to steer the conversation back to the job at hand. Confronting the interviewer may not bode well for your chances--but finding a way to give them the information they want (and is job related) achieves their goal.

Lila Sovietskaya said...

Asking for graduation date is very common even among large companies. Either it is legal or they pay no attention.

Not responding to an illegal question and informing them that it is illegal will cause a polite thank you, then no response or it might cause an answer like 'we have found a better qualified candidate" Unless they really want you because you are faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive

Anonymous said...

For recruiters, you're best bet now is to hire everyone temp to perm and bullet them in the probation period when you don't need a better reason than, "I don't like the cut of their gib". It easier than the alternative of just not hiring anyone that looks like they might become any sort of a problem, ie they are of child bearing age etc.

One day the liberals will realise that restrictive employment legislation causes employers to hire less not more or the people most effected.

hamster5 said...

Several years ago a friend was asked during an interiew by an officer of the company (VP) what his religion was, or "are you Catholic?". He claims to have answered, " I know that you would not have asked an illegal question like this unless you have already decided to offer me the job. So I will glady answer. No, I am a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints, etc." He claimed that his answer was a big part of the reason he was hired. Was this an appropriate way to handle the illegal question?

Anonymous said...

I am finding in the UK that for permanent finance positions where a qualified accountant is required for a role, recruiters are asking for the year you qualified or for security purposes they need a copy of your passport to confirm identity, i.e. they can't upfront ask how old you are, but they are asking for it through another route.

Anonymous said...

I found a job but was having two very specific health issues that were painful and could not be ignored. I took off for several doctor appts but always made up my time and gave lots of notice. I made the mistake of talking to the HR man about my issues (because surgery was imminent) while discussing insurance. A week later, right before my 90 days were up, they told me I hadn't done anything wrong, I just wasn't a "good fit". This was a small family owned biz and I know in my heart it was my health issues because I did everything I knew to do in the position even though I'd not been given a job description. The Oper. Manager even told me I took that job to a whole 'nother level. BTW - the HR man was the owners' father. I'd call someone, but I couldn't prove a thing. I was just grateful they let me go in a way that didn't interfere with unemployment benefits. It was not a good place to work and I was honestly relieved more than anything. I was also asked the church question 20 years ago in Nashville and answered it, even though I knew then it wasn't appropriate. These things happen, it's important we educate ourselves on what to do when they do. Thank you for this article.

Thomas said...

One point to add- these questions may be illegal in the US, but they may be legal if applying for jobs elsewhere. I work all around the world as a career interim, and in UAE, for example, it is completely legal to ask for nationality details, because nationals of different countries are paid differently, even if they do the same job. There are also legally binding targets for certain nationalities (eg 30% locals), so in these countries employers can and should ask these questions to comply with their laws.

Anonymous said...

And exactly how would one ever know that the answers to these questions (or lack thereof) was the reason for not getting the job? Cmon! I am 53 years old and for the last 3 years haven't worked in my field - I know it's partly due to my age but there is no way to prove it especially in this economy and 300 other people being interviewed. Face it, the interviewer has their minds pretty much made up within 10 minutes. I have actually gone into an interview and the person looked visibly taken aback and I got to sit down for two minutes and got asked so you have 25 years of experience? Answer: Yes. Next statement by interviewer: OK thanks for coming, we will be in touch. Really! A two minute interview! (due to my college education and years I look much younger on paper since I didn't get my degree until my mid 30's and they assume I was 18 when I started college and not 28)

Unknown said...

I was asked "When did you graduate" Which I interpreted as a way of asking my age. I simply replied "Its been a while" and moved on to the rest of interview

Sean said...

I don't know about nationwide, but these questions are indeed illegal in CA. Of course, the left coast has some of the strictest (and strangest) employment rules.
And performing a background check, to the best of my knowledge, can only be done if an offer of employment is extended, not before. I believe there has to be a valid reason for the check, not just qualification for a specific position.

Anonymous said...

First of all, the are you a citizen question will not apply to 99% of the audience you are addressing (because they are and because of the nature of the jobs in question) and you know it. I don't give a damn about any of these questions. I can rework the question's to answer what they are really getting at to turn a negative into a positive; that is, all but one:
We have to point blank stop the hiring of illegal aliens now and not even one moment from now. More legislation to make it illegal to hire them, to sell to them, to rent to them, to give them a ride. You want America to survive? The cut the PC crap and enforce laws that make immigrants do it right - the way my ancestors did and the way the overwhelming majority of immigrants have always done. And demand that an American must be American by earning citizenship that requires him/her to speak, read and write English. Or else, forget America and jobs and the freedom to work and earn and advance our family's lives. By the way, it is likely in the next 12 months that 18 states will have new immigration laws using the new Alabama law as their model, meaning employers will be charged with verifying prospective and existing employees legal citizenship status. Either this is a capitalist Republic or a Socialist Nanny State. Take your pick. Are you willing to gamble your children's future for the socialist agenda?This U of Chicago study is a waste of time. Excellent interview skills wins the day along with character and experience.

Anonymous said...

From an HR Professional perspective, if you feel an interview question is inappropriate or illegal, you should politely refuse to respond and even ask the interviewer why the question being asked, since it is irrelavent to the essential functions of the position. If you do not receive a follow-up interview, consider yourself lucky that you were not asked to work for an organization whose interviewing process focuses more upon certain physical, racial, or age characteristics rather than upon your actual qualifications as a viable candidate who possesses the required skills necessary to perform the essential functions of the job!

Neil@assign said...

It's important to know which questions are illegal or inapropriate to be asked, so this post is very useful, however my advice to anyone being asked such questions should (a) do not answer (b) remain professional and calm (c) throw the question back to the interviewer by asking "why do you feel that this question (age, nationality, marital status etc.) is relevant to the role?" and wiat for their answer...

shohle said...

And then there is the standard Utah interview questions - which no one seems to mind asking or answering - "how many children do you have?" Followed by "do you have family here in Utah" (code for 'are you LDS?') and/or the ultimate question "would you like some coffee?" which, if you say yes means you are not mormon. Then my all time favorite, which I have been asked twice - "does your husband know you are interviewing for a job?" Good luck complaining about any of these questions, because all the local judges are part of the well established Utah theocracy.

Anonymous said...

I think it is appropriate to ask about citizenship if the job requires a government security clearance. At a minimum, they can say, this job requires you to get a secret clearance, which requires US citizenship. Are you eligible?

Anonymous said...

"Why is it okay to ask if a person can work on Saturday? For some this is a holy day. For others Sunday is a holy day. This is also a discriminitory question because it allows the questioning party to assume a specific religion."

Actually, it doesn't quite do so. They couldn't tell whether you were Jewish or a Seventh Day Adventist Christian, as the latter also consider Saturday to be the designated day of rest.

Anonymous said...

This is really interesting. I'm not in the US and I never applied for a job abroad. Anyhow, when I submit my CV, I state my full address, so the interviewer, if he prepares the talk, will know about my neighborhood. Turning up for the interview, he'll see I'm male, white, married (waering a ring), he can guesstimate my age, so what's this all about. In a modern society we won't care anyway and pick the most qualified...

Anonymous said...

I am not from the US, nevertheless, when a headhunter, a recruiter or a human ressources manager ask you how hold are you or which is your age, you can only reply him and tell it. If you read the application form you could find in internet applications, you will, very often, have these kind of request date of birth, age scale. About citizenship are you allowed to work is this country ? I am very sorry to reply that you only could answer to these kinds of question.
The real problem comes from an another point : in fact at 40 years you are a pre senior, at 45 a senior, and, we must work more longer before being retired, how could we do if we could not find a job regarding age ?
The only way I see, is to send application form until you have sign a contract, sometimes, you will have to write 1000 cover letters and fill up application forms. In any case, if you have an illegal question, you have to answer it, but if your reply is, sorry, this is illegal, you could be sure of two things :
1- you certainly will not get the job
2- you will be black listed by the headhunter or all persons in charge of this recruitement.

Anonymous said...

I have been asked if I have any problem traveling in conjunction with my work. I have a disabiliity that prevents me from driving. To avoid the perception that I may have had my license revoked and to make it known that I would not be abe to travel alone, I state tha I have no problem traveling to job sites, as long as another person is with me and can do the driving.

When asked why, I repsond that the topic will be answered when it reaches the point of hiring.

Anonymous said...

I'm a recruiter, so yes, I work in HR (technically). Regardless of what people have posted, likes or dislikes, or opinions about questions you can and can't ask; none of these questions are appropriate, which may lead to them being illegal (and a potential hefty lawsuit that follows them). Bottom line; if you're asked any question that has to do with anything other than the job itself, it's most likely inappropriate, and certainly irrelevant.
If you are asked these questions, it should prove to you that A) the recruiter is poorly trained, and B) the recruiter's boss is a poor manager (which is even worse imo)
As a candidate; I do research on the company, ask questions at the interview, and make informed decisions.
As a recruiter; it's unbelievable that questions like these are still asked.

Peggy McKee said...

I still think that the job seeker should focus on giving the interviewer the information that will set them apart from others.
Often, this makes the question of age, race, religion, etc. less important.

Here is a great tool to use in the interview:
http://30-60-90-day-sales-plan.com/getthe306090daysalesplan.htm

And more information here:
http://www.careerconfidential.com

Peggy

Anonymous said...

I've been irritated about being continuously being asked about my visa or H1B status and volunteered that I was a US citizen. I've been thanked for volunteering that information because they couldn't ask. Should I instead be indicating they may have some additional costs associated with hiring me and reduce my chances of getting the job?

Anonymous said...

I was once asked in an interview by the CEO of a company (and the father of the woman who would be my boss) if I was married. I assumed he was trying to figure out if I was gay or not. I laughed and asked why. He just joked that if I was married, she might not like my long beard.

A year later, when talking with someone who worked for the company, I learned the CEO was asking that because he was trying to marry off his daughter.

Still, as a gay man, I've sometimes learned after being in a job for a while that I wouldn't have been hired if they'd known I was gay. By the way, that wold be perfectly legal in most US states.

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Anonymous said...

This is total BS as in; 1. Age
Inappropriate:

How old are you?
What year were you born?
When did you graduate from high school?
These questions are asked on many on-line forms and you can not refuse or by pass these types of questions because the web page disallows not filling in all blanks.
Try applying in a Work Free State like Maryland. This write-up served no purpose.

Anonymous said...

It seems crazy you cannot ask if someone is a citizen, this PC thing has gone way too far. These days people can have all kinds of documents which are fake, and the employer is supposed to verify all that? No wonder jobs are leaving the country.

Brandon said...

This Is Great information for anyone with concerns about unfair hiring practices I would highly recommend it. Do you have a Facebook Share button anywhere?

oceanflash08 said...

Brandon, Facebook share is at top of article. Thanks for engaging.

Anonymous said...

Well its nice to know that it is illegal to ask these questions, however since there is absolutely no reference to any laws providing the legality of the questions I have to raise a flag.
Please note that the employer should reserve the right to ask any damn question they want provided that it directly correlates to the company, job, public image or priorities of said company. It seems fairly unorthodox to say that an employer cannot put the questions on the application, as I cannot remember a single job application that does not ask about, sex, martial status, military status, children, disabilities and more than a few that do ask about religious affiliation.
So long story short, please review the article and supply sources, because if this is just someone's opinion then it amounts to a hill of beans.

Anonymous said...

In some countries in Europe, women are still asked questions about being married or not, planning on having children, childcare, availability for full-time work, etc. A friend in Germany said "I don't have children" to the question and the interviewer said "Oh you don't like kids?" :-((

Anonymous said...

This is not 100% factual. Illegal as the title states and innapproiate as the article reads are 2 entirely different things. It is most definately not illegal to ask a potential employee about child care arrangements. You need to make sure that they have them arranged so that it does not affect their attendence.

Terry said...

Article reiterates what I've learned from Job Coaches and trainers, however, it does not address how to redirect or gracefully dodge these questions when "required" on an application form? Any suggestions for that?

Anonymous said...

They are illegal.

Anonymous said...

What about outside/3rd party recruiters? Are they held to the same standards? I had a recruiter from Linked In drill me on whether I owned a home, would my husband have an issue with relocation (I am a single parent and always aware that a potential employer could have misguided issue with it), and if I was facing disciplinary action with my current employer (no). I felt that the questions were very inappropriate and made me uncomfortable. What does that have to do with my abilities or skills as a dedicated and hard worker? shameful.

I also struggle with turning in an application before I interview. I understand both sides, but doing so just opens the door to discrimination since there are so many pointed questions (birth date being one of those).

tonyleeusa said...

Is this question appropriate: "When do you plan to retire?" I was asked this question by one of the interviewer with a major corporation.

Anonymous said...

What do you do when a company asks to fly you to an interview. Someone calls to make a plane reservation and asks you for your full name, gender, and date of birth, because the airlines won't sell a ticket without that information. Just another way to find out your age.

Anonymous said...

April 4 Anonymous,

Unfortunately, the TSA requires this information upon issuance of a ticket. The ideal case would be that a company travel agent not involved in the recruiting process inquires about your date of birth and sex. This has been the process I have gone through for several recent interviews.

Anonymous said...

I do not believe I saw this posted by the previous bloggers, but we are continually asked about our Veteran Status. It is not enough to ask if you are a Vet they also want to know WHICH ERA you served. Now if that doesn't box you in I don't know what does. To cloud the issue I have seen some which actually ask if you are a WW2 Era Vet??? Oh come on!! Is that so they can't be slammed for asking about your service during the Viet Nam War?
Further, they are now asking you to take a Pre Employment Personality Test. This supposedly is a third party service the hiring company uses. Questions are answered to how you react to certain situations, from 'Strongly Agree' to 'Strongly Disagree'. There is no review of your answer, the 'Anonymous Third Party' responds to your test with a 'Pass' or 'Fail'. End of discussion, "Thank you for your time and application, Next!" The issue however, is that you can buy a book that tells you how to pass the test!!!! How is that 'OBJECTIVE'?

Anonymous said...

I do not believe I saw this posted by the previous bloggers, but we are continually asked about our Veteran Status. It is not enough to ask if you are a Vet they also want to know WHICH ERA you served. Now if that doesn't box you in I don't know what does. To cloud the issue I have seen some which actually ask if you are a WW2 Era Vet??? Oh come on!! Is that so they can't be slammed for asking about your service during the Viet Nam War?
Further, they are now asking you to take a Pre Employment Personality Test. This supposedly is a third party service the hiring company uses. Questions are answered to how you react to certain situations, from 'Strongly Agree' to 'Strongly Disagree'. There is no review of your answer, the 'Anonymous Third Party' responds to your test with a 'Pass' or 'Fail'. End of discussion, "Thank you for your time and application, Next!" The issue however, is that you can buy a book that tells you how to pass the test!!!! How is that 'OBJECTIVE'?

danbud said...

I applied for a position with our local, privately held, telephone company. Questions included for Spouse were Name (Include Maiden Name if Wife, Approximate Age (if living),Present Address (if deceased give date), and Employer (former employer if now deceased or not employed). Similar details were required for parents, each sibling and child. Another question was,"Are you now or have you ever been a member or affiliate of any group, association or organization advocating, or lending support to any effort to overthrow the government of the United States? If yes, name the organization and give complete details."

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Delphine said...

I have two comments:

1 Asking whether one can work on Saturdays targets Jews and Seventh Day Adventists. What about Muslims who need time off for prayer? What about practicing Christians who can't work on Sundays? One can instead, describe the standard hours of work in the organisation, along with the need for flexibility at certain times, and then ask whether the job applicant would be able to work within those constraints.

2 An interview is a two-way street: If the interviewer asks illegal questions it either reflects ignorance of the law, in which case you must question the overall competence of the organisation, OR it reflects the values and culture of the organisation: how strongly do you feel about legal compliance? Will you be able to work for an employer that consciously breaks the law in recruitment - what about afterwards? Will they respect your legal rights as an employee any more than they respected your rights as a job applicant? As the lawyers say 'caveat emptor' (buyer beware),

Brian said...

One should keep mind that, generally speaking, asking questions is not illegal. It is NOT illegal for an interviewer to ask you how old you are. It IS illegal to discriminate against you based on that information. So, a reputable interviewer will not tend to ask such questions as the specific information is not useful. However, how you react to such a question IS useful. If you get in a snit when asked something you think is inappropriate, that's a pretty good clue about how you will react in similar situations on the job.

So, be careful... and chill out.

Anonymous said...

Good article. Two things come to mind: (1) How will you know if you are turned down for a job it is because of your response or lack thereof to an illegal or inappropriate interview question? You will never know. (2) This article does not address application forms on company websites that require entry of college graduation year or other graduation year for example. At the end of the form you are also asked the optional demographic questions that are not supposed to impact an potential employer's decision about you but if you provide this information, how do you know the responses have disqualified you for a job? Again, you won't know.

Anonymous said...

I ALWAYS get the kids questions. I don't have any, and have no future plans for them, but what if I did? This always reminds me why it sucks to be a woman in the job market.

Anonymous said...

Read this article for some good information:

http://www.1on1careercoach.com/blog/690/illegal-interview-questions--what-do-i-do/

Anonymous said...

I would like to know why so many of the
"job sites" require date of graduation, when they clearly know it is inappropriate? Yes of course I know it is a marketing tool, but it has a very different meaning to those over the age of 40. Anyone can start a class action suit and say they were not hired because of requirement. I even had one company application that asked for my date of birth. I wrote back to the company, told them they should check with their general counsel about the request. I explained the law and the proceeded to tell them that I would not work for a company that did not value diversity, did not update their forms to conform with current case law and to wish them success.

Anonymous said...

While this might not be for everyone, but when asked for the dates I went to college, I use dates that decrease my "estimated" age by 10 years.
I did this once and the person had actually been at the school I mentioned during this time and asked me about a teacher he knew - my responce was that I didn't know him, but knew xyz (made it up). I actually got the job...

Jim

Anonymous said...

Is everyone so cynical and mistrusting of recruiters and hiring managers? I could really care less what religion someone is...the suggestion as to the legality of asking if someone can work on Saturdays is not a matter of "no Jews allowed!", more likely it is a scheduling issue. HR needs to accommodate everyone and having an employee who can never work on a Saturday can create conflict with other employees needing to work more Saturdays to make up for that one employee's lack of flexibility. I suggest those who observe holy days purposefully avoid jobs that require work on their holy days...is that too much to ask? Maybe I'm just your average New York business professional, but we are most concerned with getting work done, and less concerned with the religion, race, marital status or age of who gets it done!

Anonymous said...

Is it illegal for an interviewer to ask if I am an only child? And for them to take note on that? At first I didnt think much of it but now I'm wondering...

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Sridhar Chandrasekaran said...

Quite Interesting. You have picked some of the most common illegal interview questions. thanks for sharing.

aira chu said...

The candidate should always be respectful, polite, and professional when receiving news on the progress of an interview. how to start your own recruitment business

Anonymous said...

I recently had a prescreening
interviewer who asked me to provide
my current salary and GPA from
school (which was many years ago and
has little to do with my job now).
I did not give out either and
instead provided the salary range
in which I would leave my current
job. I think asking your current
salary gives them more leverage in
offering one person less than
another. Are these illegal
questions?

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Interview Questions and Answers said...

Thanks for the article, excellent stuff.
I have seen interesting Interview Questions and Answers here.

Attorney Jobs said...

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legal recruiter said...

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Anonymous said...

is it appropriate asking a job candidate if:
how he or she (candidate) will feel if has to work with a person from different nationality?,with someone with accent that he may not understand??
if is inappropriate to ask this question any explaination why ??? thank you

Anonymous said...

I've had male employment law attorneys ask what my husband does for a living, my age, and whether I have children. The women I interviewed with didn't ask me these questions. When I didn't get those two jobs, I wondered whether they were judging me on some invisible scale. Whether they meant to or not, the reason these men asked nosy questions was to define me in their their misogynistic heads.

Anonymous said...

I just had an interviewer go back 20 YEARS (!!) on my resume, asking about jobs from almost 20 years ago! For all those articles that tell you 'no one cares about jobs from 20 years ago'.This company does! And why do companies always dislike college students who are in a major that is not the same as their company? What do you say to that? "How much time do you generally spend in school?" I was asked. "What are you gonna do after you get this college degree, are you going to leave for something in your field?" No matter how many times you tell them you want to work for their company and you want to STAY at the company, they say this. What is a college student supposed to say in these 'interviews'?!

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