Illegal Interview Questions

During a job interview, have you ever been asked any of the following questions?

  • Do you have kids?
  • Are you planning on having kids?
  • How soon?
  • Are you married?
  • Thinking about getting married?
  • To a man or a woman?
  • Will anyone else be relocating to your new job city with you?
  • What do you think about working in an all-female department?
  • Lundsteen — is that a Dutch name? Danish?
  • Are you a U.S. citizen?

Illegal interview questions have been around for as long as there have been interviews, and there are many very good articles and resources available to help you determine what illegal interview questions are, along with ideas on how to answer or not answer them. But once identified, how do you decide what actions to take? And what are the types of actions you can take?

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has guidelines for what is and what is not OK to screen for when hiring employees. Since it is illegal to discriminate against an applicant because of race, religion, pregnancy status, age or health, hiring managers are advised against asking questions that relate to these issues.

The Associated Press and CNBC conducted a poll of 1,054 Americans and found that a significant percentage report having been asked illegal questions. Sixty-five percent of respondents had interviewed for a job in the past 10 years and 33 percent had interviewed for a job 10 years ago or more (a remaining 2 percent reported never having interviewed for a job.)

A full 35 percent said they have been asked about their age while 21 percent were asked about their medical history or whether they have a disability.  Over 10 percent were asked whether they were pregnant or about their plans to have children while about 10 percent of respondents were even asked about their religious beliefs.

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Jacquelyn Gilbert, professional career consultant and President & CEO of JW Warren LLC (http://www.jw-warrenllc.com), states “employers find it beneficial to make staffing decisions based on candidates’ scheduling restrictions. Often times, the questions that are asked are illegal. There are ways to rephrase questions in order to find out the information needed to make that decision. A question can be phrased as, “This shifts schedule would be Monday through Friday from 9am-5pm, would anything prevent you from working those hours?”

For a great introduction to questions to ask and not to ask click here – Industry best practice is to avoid interview questions that violate the law, are designed to elicit questions about the candidate’s family life, personal life, children, etc.

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