Which interview questions are illegal to ask?


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which interview questions are illegal to ask

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What is one interview question that is illegal to ask?

From a candidate’s sexual orientation to citizenship status, here are 14 answers to the question, “What interview questions are illegal to ask?”

  • Are you a US citizen?
  • Where are you originally from?
  • Are you married?
  • How old are your children?
  • What is your religious affiliation?
  • How old are you?
  • Any religious reasons for which you’ll need time off?
  • Question About Family Planning
  • Never Ask About a Candidate’s Sexual Orientation
  • Do you have any disabilities?
  • How long have you been working?
  • Are you planning to start a family soon?
  • What is your citizenship status?
  • What’s your sexual orientation?

Citizenship Status

Asking about an applicant’s citizenship status violates the Immigration and Nationality Act. This law prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants based on their national origin. Additionally, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued guidance stating that inquiring about an applicant’s citizenship status during the hiring process may violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Asking about an applicant’s citizenship status can also lead to problems. For example, employers hiring only United States citizens may inadvertently discriminate against non-citizens. Additionally, if an employer only hires citizens, they may exclude qualified applicants authorized to work in the United States but not citizens.

Saneem Ahearn, VP of Marketing, Colorescience

It’s Illegal to Ask Where a Candidate is from

It is illegal to ask where a potential candidate is originally from. This type of question does not have any bearing on the job qualifications and it is not related to the success of the organization. All employers should make sure their hiring practices are compliant with the law and that every question serves a legitimate purpose for assessing one’s ability to get the job done and nothing more.

Michael Fischer, Founder, Elite HRT

Are You Married?

I was told a story involving someone who worked at a temp placement company. He interviewed one woman who had just moved to a new city and wanted to find part-time work as a bookkeeper. The staffing manager who interviewed her asked her whether she was married. She told him she was and the interview wound down. The staffing manager knew that was a question he wasn’t allowed to ask, but he didn’t apologize. He assumed (wrongly) that she brushed it off, so he forgot about it.

She contacted the company the following day and filed a complaint. She also decided to find temp work through that company’s competitor. The staffing manager, who swore that he had merely slipped up and didn’t mean to be inappropriate, was severely punished. That specific question is disallowed in an interview setting. It’s best to avoid any sort of personal questions related to family or relationship status. It can result in an expensive lawsuit and bad publicity.

Trevor Ford, Head of Growth, Yotta

How Old Are Your Children?

In my experience interviewing candidates in the past, I was shocked to learn that there are certain types of questions that are considered illegal to ask during the interview process. One of those questions is asking how old a person’s children are. This question can be seen as an implicit way to ascertain the candidate’s age, and even if that wasn’t the intention, it can still be viewed as an invasion of privacy, as this type of personal information doesn’t need to be openly shared for a job opportunity. Overall, it is important to keep professional boundaries intact and ensure all questions remain respectful or related to relevant skills needed for the position.

Rosmy Barrios, Director, Health Reporter

What is Your Religious Affiliation?

It is illegal to ask “What is your religious affiliation?” during an interview because employers are prohibited from discriminating against applicants based on their religious beliefs. Asking a job applicant this question could be seen as an attempt to determine their religion, which could be used to influence the hiring decision. This type of discrimination is against the law.

Farzad Rashidi, Lead Innovator, Respona

How Old Are You?

“How old are you?” is an acceptable question to ask a candidate during an interview, as long as it is not done in a way that could be construed as illegal age discrimination. However, it is important to be aware of the EEOC’s regulations regarding age discrimination and to make sure that any questions asked are not in violation of those regulations.

Luciano Colos, Founder & CEO, PitchGrade

Any Religious Reasons for Which You’ll Need Time Off?

Asking about the expected number of personal time off by the prospective employee is OK. However, specifically questioning the religious events for which they might consider a leave is wrong. I’d like to call it illegal, too. Religious views are personal to people, and most people prefer to keep the information to themselves. As a recruiter, you should respect the right to privacy of individuals and not ask them to answer about their religious choices. Such questions can also make some candidates feel uncomfortable.

Samuel Charmetant, Founder, Artmajeur

Question About Family Planning

Never ask candidates about their plans to have children. This type of question is often directed to women for fear of their upcoming inability to work while pregnant and later when caring for a child, but men are also faced with this inquiry. It is unethical to investigate a person’s family preferences to seek benefits or losses for the company. Moreover, a recruiter asking such a question can be accused of discriminating against a candidate expressing a desire to have children who can devote themselves to a family instead of work. Information about pregnancy and family planning is considered sensitive personal information. Thus, no employer should require such information, interfering with the private sphere of a potential employee.

Nina Paczka, Community Manager, Live Career

Never Ask About a Candidate’s Sexual Orientation

You cannot try to elicit information that may be used to discriminate against candidates. You should never ever ask about their sexual orientation. The question is not only too private, but also illegal to ask, as it suggests potential discrimination issues. One’s sexual orientation has nothing to do with a person as a potential employee. What you evaluate as a recruiter is a candidate’s work experience, skills, talents, work habits, and character traits. Sticking to these, you’ll be professional and “legally safe.”

Agata Szczepanek, Community Manager, LiveCareer

Disability-related Questions

The one interview question that is illegal to ask is if the candidate has any disabilities.

This question is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which states that it is illegal for an employer to ask about disabilities before making a job offer or requiring a medical examination. The employer can only ask about disabilities after making a conditional job offer, and even then only if they have a “bona fide occupational qualification.”

Kimberley  Tyler-Smith, VP, Strategy and Growth, Resume Worded

How long have you been working?

One interview question that is illegal to ask is about a person’s age. Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against workers who are 40 years of age or older on the basis of their age. Asking about a person’s age can be seen as a form of discrimination, and is therefore not allowed during a job interview. Employers are also prohibited from asking about a person’s date of birth or how long they have been working. It’s important for employers to avoid asking any questions that could be seen as discriminatory, and to focus instead on a person’s qualifications and experience.

Jake Smith, Managing Director, Absolute Reg LTD

Are you planning to have/start a family soon?

An interview question that is illegal to ask is: Are you planning to have/start a family soon?

Any question that refers to an individual’s sexual orientation, marital or family status, religion/religious beliefs, political affiliation, living status, etc. If the interview question is not directly related to the job/job tasks/abilities needed to perform the job that you are interviewing for – it is not a question that should be asked. If you experience this type of questioning, you’re, most likely, being asked an illegal question specifically if the question asked has nothing to do with the job duties you are interviewing for.

You might want to ask the interviewer “How is that related to the duties and responsibilities of the job I’m interviewing for?”

Kristina Ramos, Reverse Recruiter, Find My Profession

Why is Asking About Citizenship a No-no

It’s a strange one, but it is designed to prevent discrimination. Hiring managers are not allowed to ask candidates if they are U.S. citizens. The reason being that foreigners may be authorized to work in the U.S., and knowing that they are not citizens may encourage discrimination. You can ask if they are legally allowed to work in the U.S., but citizenship status is none of the company’s business. Until you hire them and have to help them renew their work visa. Ha!

Jared Day, Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder, Nuleev

Sexual Orientation

Despite being gay, I believe asking a person about their sexual orientation in an interview is a complete no-go. Even if the place is LGBTQI friendly, one cannot ask about a person’s sexual preference; they may or may not be open about it. It should be totally a person’s private choice as to when they wish to come out about their sexuality.

William Toro Quientero, Sports & Nutrition Editor, Welcyon

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