Can The Interviewer Ask That?

Can The Interviewer Ask That?

Handling Illegal Interview Questions

All the work you spent perfecting your resume has paid off. You researched the company, thought about answers and you’re ready. This is a job you want and you don’t want to mess anything up. Then your interviewer asks you something that doesn’t sound quite right. With a sinking feeling you begin to wonder if that question is even legal.

What can you do? You want this job but you’re pretty sure the question is out of line. We’re here to help you understand what qualifies as an illegal interview question, and how you can answer them.

What is an Illegal Interview Question?

Sitting in an interview, some job applicants tend to believe that the interviewer would never ask inappropriate questions. Unfortunately this isn’t the case. More than likely you’ll run into someone asking you questions they shouldn’t at some point in your career. Here are a few things interviewers are not allowed to ask.

Anything relating to your family, nationality, gender, race, sexual orientation, criminal record or religion. These questions aren’t always easy to spot. Interviewers might not ask your age specifically, but they might word the question in such a way as to determine how old you are.

Forbes gives us one thing to keep in mind. “…many times, illegal questions aren’t asked with ill intent. An inexperienced interviewer may say something like, “That’s a beautiful accent. Where are you from?” as a way to spark conversation. She might not realize the question is illegal, or may not know how to frame the question in a legal way.”

How to Answer Illegal Interview Questions

If you’re asked these questions, there are a number of ways to handle the situation. One suggestion comes from Business Insider.

“If you are asked any inappropriate questions, Adelson advises not to lie, but, instead, politely decline to answer.”

Declining to answer may prove to be awkward, especially if the interviewer didn’t intend to ask an inappropriate question. If you feel the question was asked without ill intent, aim to answer the question, and simply leave out the bit you feel is out of line.

Interview Examples

For example, let’s say your interviewer asks you if, as a woman you feel you’d be able to manage a team of men. Describe your abilities as a manager, and successes you’ve had in a management role. Don’t bother mentioning anything about genders in your reply. It’s more than likely in this example that the interviewer will be satisfied with your response and move on.

If you find that you aren’t comfortable answering the question as asked, another option is to ask the interviewer to rephrase. Again, this can be awkward but it will show your confidence.

An example here would be if your interviewer asked: “Do you practice a religion that has specific holidays on weekends?” you could respond with “While I don’t feel comfortable discussing my religion, perhaps you could rephrase the question so I can give you a clearer answer.”

Handling Illegal Interview Questions

Getting asked an illegal interview question is never fun, and making sure you stand up for yourself in this situation can be nerve-wracking. But if you’re able to maintain your confidence and answer appropriately and politely, you’ll impress your interviewer and you may have an even better shot at landing the job!


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