We all go into interviews nervous, and ready to answer (or at least pivot) any question that comes our way. But there are a few questions that step over lines you might not even realize are there—though they are there to protect you.
As you’re preparing answers to every possible question in order to put your best foot forward in the interview, try to keep an ear out for some of these, which you are under no obligation to answer. In fact, it is illegal even for your interviewer to ask!
1. “Are you married?”
Any question that could lead to questions about your family situation or plans (i.e. “Do you plan to have children?” or “Do you have any children?”) falls under pregnancy discrimination. It’s often not polite conversation; quite the contrary. An interviewer might even be asking about your sexual orientation—also illegal and discriminatory!
2. “How old are you?”
Even if you don’t think your age is problematic or anything to hide, you shouldn’t be asked this question—or answer. Ageism in the marketplace is a real problem for some applicants. And it is illegal to discriminate against anyone over 40. Similarly, “When did you graduate?” is a sneaky way of getting at the same information.
3. “Are you healthy?”
Especially if you’re applying for a physically demanding job, an employer might want to make sure you’re up to the task. They can ask about specific physical tasks related to the job performance, but nothing further.
4. “What church do you attend?”
Avoid religious discrimination attempts by not responding to any questions about your religion or any religious holidays you might plan to celebrate. A simple “I’d prefer not to discuss my religious preferences” will do, even if your religious observations might affect the amount of time off you’ll need to take.
5. “Where are you from?”
As long as you’re authorized to work where you are, there’s no reason to answer this question. Discriminating on the basis of nationality is illegal. As is asking whether or not English is your first language.
6. “Are you an alcoholic?”
I mean, if someone asks you this in an interview situation, you might want to reconsider your application. But if they do happen to ask, you are under no legal obligation to respond. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 recovering alcoholics and drug addicts are not required to disclose anything about their addiction or recovery.
7. “Are you in debt?”
Employers are not allowed to inquire as to your credit history unless it would directly impact your job performance. They also can’t ask you about owned property, or how you balance your finances.
8. “How were you discharged from the military?”
This is another totally inappropriate question. What you can be asked, however, is what kind of experience and education you acquired whilst in the service.
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