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  • Writer's pictureDavid Manes

Illegal Interview Questions: 10 Questions That Shouldn’t Be Asked

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Illegal interview questions can reveal an underlying problem of employment discrimination in a company. Employment law prohibits employers from making hiring decisions based on legally protected class status. During the interview for a job, interviewers might reveal that discrimination had a role in not receiving a job offer from the company. Applicants and interviewers alike should be aware of questions that are illegal or inappropriate during the interview process.

Applicants have a choice in how to respond to any of the following questions. Although the law does not obligate you to answer these questions, not answering might impact your chance for the job. Of course, if an employer is exhibiting discriminatory leanings, you might not want to be hired by that company.

When an interviewer uses illegal interview questions during your meeting, take note. Hiring discrimination can be difficult to prove, but a good employment lawyer may be able to fight for your right to equal opportunity employment. Contact a lawyer today if you’ve experienced discrimination in hiring.

10 Illegal Interview Questions That Shouldn’t Be Asked In An Interview

1. Do you have any disabilities?

Illegal: The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) obligates employers to consider job applicants based on their qualifications, not their disabilities. ADA requires private employers with 15+ employees and state and local government employers to follow this law. After the job offer is made, employers may ask these types of questions but they must be asked to all employees, not just those with obvious disabilities.

Other off-limit questions:

  1. Do you take prescription drugs?

  2. Have you ever been treated for mental health problems?

2. How many sick days did you take last year?

How Does FMLA Work?

Inappropriate: This question toes the line to disability discrimination, and it’s considered too personal to ask an applicant during an interview. Making assumptions about applicants based on these types of questions could be seen as employment discrimination.

Other off-limit questions:

  1. Do you smoke, drink, or do drugs?

  2. What is your height and weight?

  3. Have you had any recent or past surgeries or illnesses?

  4. Were you ever arrested?

3. What do you believe about work dating?

Inappropriate and Potentially Illegal: This question and other similar questions could reveal gender discrimination in the workplace. Interviewing employers need to be cautious about how they ask about an applicant’s ability to work well with everyone.

Other off-limit questions:

  1. Previously, this role has been held by a man/woman. How well will you do in this role?

  2. Is it a problem to supervise men/women?

4. When are you planning to have a family?

Illegal: Employers cannot discriminate based on sex for a job. Rather than assuming an applicant may not be able to manage the job responsibilities, ask job related questions to find out if an applicant would have difficulty fulfilling the job requirements.

Other off-limit questions:

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  1. Is this your maiden name?

  2. What do your parents do?

  3. Do you have children?

  4. What childcare arrangements do you have?

  5. Will you continue working if you get pregnant?

5. Will you need time off for religious holidays?

Illegal: The law prohibits religious discrimination in employment. Employers cannot base hiring decisions on someone’s beliefs or practices.

Other off-limit questions:

  1. What is your religious affiliation?

  2. What church do you belong to?

  3. Do you participate in a social organization?

6. What country are you from?

Illegal: As a federally protected class,  national origin cannot influence an employer’s decision to hire you. Whether not from the USA or a different ethnicity, an employer cannot base any employment decisions upon your country of origin. Even if the employer is trying to figure out if you are authorized to work in the United States, they shouldn’t ask any of these questions. However, they can ask if you are authorized to work in the USA.

Other off-limit questions:

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  1. What is your nationality?

  2. You have a strong accent. Where are you from?

  3. Are you a U.S. citizen?

7. What is your native tongue?

Illegal: This can look like race discrimination. Although an employer might only want to check language fluency, asking about your native language is illegal. It would be better if the potential employer asks about the languages that you read, speak, or write.

Other off-limit questions:

  1. How long did you live here?

  2. When did you learn English?

8. Are you a member of the military, National Guard, or Reserves?

Illegal: Military status is a legally protected class. Employment decisions cannot be based upon past,  current, or future military service.

Other off-limit questions:

  1. Will you be deployed any time soon?

  2. What type of discharge did you receive from the military?

  3. How often are you deployed for Army Reserve training?

9. How old are you?

Inappropriate: This simple question can often lead to age discrimination since it bases maturity on age. An employer should just make sure that you are legally old enough to hold a job in the United States.

Other off-limit questions:

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  1. When do you plan to retire?

  2. Will it bother you to work with a younger manager?

10. How long is your drive?

Inappropriate: Hiring an employee from nearby might make sense, but this discriminates from qualified applicants who might come from another town. Interviewers should approach this subject by asking about the applicant’s availability.

Other off-limit questions:

  1. Do you live nearby?

  2. What is your commute time?

If you have experienced hiring discrimination, contact an employment discrimination lawyer who will know how to navigate your case and your rights under the law.

Don’t hesitate, talk to an attorney: (412) 626-5626 or

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