Illegal Questions to Ask in a Job Interview

As an applicant, the most important thing you should know is that all questions should be job-related. If the question is not job-related and has to do with sex, race, national origin, or age, it is probably illegal. If an employer cannot ask a question directly, it cannot ask that same question indirectly, either.

Here are some illegal interview questions:

1.Illegal Questions About Race
A.Are you Asian?
An interviewer cannot ask a question about an applicant's race as this is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Asians and Pacific Islanders are one of the five groups recognized by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which administers Title VII.

B. What race is your spouse?
Asking about a spouse or relative's race is also prohibited by Title VII.

C. Are you an American Indian? What tribe?
Under Title VII, an interviewer cannot ask a question about race. American Indians and Alaska Natives are one of the five groups recognized by the EEOC.

D. Are you bi-racial?
Again this is prohibited by Title VII. After someone is hired, an employee can be asked to fill out an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) form, but this is prohibited in an interview.

2.Illegal Questions about National Origin
A.What kind of accent is that?
Trying to determine where someone is from by their accent is prohibited by Title VII. You cannot ask indirectly what you cannot ask directly. An interviewer may think he/she is just making conversation, but it is an improper question

B.Where were your grandparents born?
This question is never job-related and is prohibited by Title VII. An interviewer can only ask whether you can work in the US. It is a yes or no question. Anything else about national origin is inappropriate.

C.What is your native language?
Again this is illegal and is national origin discrimination. However, it is proper to ask an employee what languages he or she speaks and what his/her proficiency is in those languages.

Again this is prohibited. Even if the interviewer thinks he/she is getting to know the applicant, this is national origin discrimination.

3.Illegal Questions About Sex
A.What does your spouse think of you working at night or traveling?
There is no job-related reason to ask this. This goes back to a more patronizing time when an employer had stereotypes about working women and somehow wanted to get the spouse's (usually husband's) approval. An employer cannot even ask you if you have a spouse.

B.What is your spouse's salary?
This is clearly not job-related. Companies in the past wanted to know what the husband's salary was so it could offer the women applicant a lower salary. This is also a violation of the Equal Pay Act.

C.Are you pregnant?
This is not job-related and is specifically prohibited by Title VII and pregnancy is a protected classification under Title VII.

D.Do you have children or are you going to have children?
Any questions about children or daycare are prohibited by Title VII. There are some sexual stereotypes that women with children will have more absences than those without children. The only valid question that can be asked is whether you can work the hours of the job.

4.Illegal Questions About Age
A..How old are you?
This is not job-related and is prohibited by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which prohibits discrimination of anyone forty or over. There is generally no mandatory retirement now (there are exceptions for pilots and other safety sensitive positions), but an employer can ask age after an applicant is hired for retirement and health insurance purposes.

B. When were you born? When did you graduate from high school?
Again, you cannot ask indirectly what you cannot ask directly. This is not job-related and is age discrimination.

C. Don't you think you are too old for this position?
Again this is age discrimination based on age stereotypes. If the job is a physical one, you can ask all applicants to demonstrate that they can do the job duties as long as the older applicants are not singled out.

D. Are you a grandparent?
Again the employer may think he/she is making conversation, but it can be perceived as age discrimination. Again there is no job-related reason to be asking this.

1.If you are asked one of these illegal questions, how do you respond?
The answer to this depends on how much you want the job. If you still want the job, you may want to give an answer that lets them know you know it is illegal.

5. Here are some examples:
A. I am sure you know that you cannot ask that question. However, I have nothing to hide. I have two children three and four, and they go to daycare.
B. Not that this is job-related under federal law. I do have two children. Their father takes them and I pick them up from daycare.
C. I know that this is an illegal question and I am going to refuse to answer it. It is not job-related so I assume this refusal will not be taken against me in the interview process.
D. If you are really mad and are no longer interested in the job, you could say something like this: "I know these are illegal questions and I am going to stop by the EEOC office on my home to file a complaint.

If you follow these guidelines, you will be interviewing like a pro.