Sep 21, 2017

Illegal Interview Questions

Job interviews are all about asking good questions, but sometimes interviewers go too far and ask inappropriate or even il legal questions. While there is a lot of information available about how to behave when you are called in for a job interview, it is far more difficult to find research on how you should act or what you should ask if you are a hiring manager and actually conducting a job interview. Are you a new interviewer and afraid that you will make a rookie mistake during the interview process by asking bad interview questions? You don’t want to break the law! Here are some sample illegal interview questions, and some good interview questions you can ask instead.

In all job interviews, the goal of the interviewer is to gain essential information about a candidate. While establishing a friendly rapport is certainly important in any interview, some questions are too friendly or even illegal. To make sure applicants are not discriminated against for any reason, companies are subject to laws intended to protect the privacy of applicants. Protect yourself and your organization by avoiding these inappropriate questions during an interview.


Click here to request information on the degree that is right for you


While an applicant’s youth or maturity may be directly related to their ultimate success in a position, you can never make assumptions about whether an individual is right for a position based on their age alone. You might be accused of age discrimination in the workplace.

Bad Questions to Ask:

  • "How old are you?"
  • "How much longer do you plan to work before you retire?"

Good Questions to ask:

  • "Are you over 18?"
  • "What are your long-term career goals?"


Even before you schedule the interview, you are probably already fairly certain of the gender of the candidate based on their name. However, you cannot make assumptions about an individual"s skills based on this information.

Bad Questions to Ask:

  • "We have always had a male/female in this position, how do you think you will compare?"
  • "Do you think you can handle supervising members of the opposite sex?"

Good Questions to ask:

  • "What can you offer our company?"
  • "Tell me about your previous experience managing other employees?"


While you want to make sure a candidate is legally allowed to work in the United States, you cannot ask questions regarding citizenship, first language, or other subjects that might be viewed as discriminatory.

Bad Questions to Ask:

  • "Are you a U.S. Citizen?"
  • "What is your native language?"
  • "How long have you lived in the United States?"

Good Questions to ask:

  • "Are you authorized to work in the U.S.?"
  • "What languages can you speak fluently?"

Religious and Political Beliefs

Religion and political beliefs are very touchy topics, and should be avoided in the interview room conversation. Even if you would like to know about a candidate’s religious or political practices to determine work availability, you cannot overstep your boundaries by directly asking about an applicant"s beliefs.

Bad Questions to Ask:

  • "What’s your religion?"
  • "What religious holidays do you observe?"
  • "Do you belong to a club or social organization?"

Good Questions to ask:

  • "What days are you available to work?"
  • "Are you available to work our required schedule?"

Marital and Family Status

Concerns related to an applicant’s marital or family status most commonly arise with female job candidates ranging from age 25 to 40, as employers might worry that family obligations might interfere with work. While you may need to know whether a candidate’s home life will negatively influence their work practices, you cannot directly ask certain questions or make assumptions.

Bad Questions to Ask:

  • "Is this your maiden name?"
  • "Do you have children?"
  • "Who is your closest relative to notify in case of emergency?"

Good Questions to ask:

  • "Have your worked or earned a degree under a different name?"
  • "Are you available to travel and work overtime?"
  • "If there is an emergency, who should we notify?"

Health and Illness

Overall physical health may be necessary for completing everyday job tasks at your organization, but you must avoid making assumptions about a candidate’s physical abilities. While you might avoid hiring individuals who have a history of taking long smoking breaks or who frequently call in sick, you cannot ask these types of questions directly.

Bad Questions to Ask:

  • "Do you drink alcohol often or smoke regularly?"
  • "Do you use drugs?"
  • "How much do you weigh?"
  • "Have you had any recent illnesses or hospitalizations?"

Good Questions to ask:

  • "In the past, have you been disciplined for violating company policies regarding controlled substances?"
  • "Are you able to lift items weighing up to 30 pounds?"
  • "Are you able to perform the specific responsibilities of this job?"

As you can see from reading this article, success in conducting a job interview is largely based on semantics, wording and how you ask a question. You can often find out the exact same information if you ask a candidate good interview questions, at the same time also saving you and your company any potential legal trouble.

Share Your Comments & Feedback:

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.