Illegal Interview Questions — What They Are and How to Respond


As anyone who has gone through the hiring process knows, interviewers throw all kinds of questions at you. Some are the more conventional and expected, while others may be a little off the wall so the interviewer can see how you will react.

While interviewers have a fairly wide latitude in the kinds of questions they can ask, there are a few types of questions that are off limits, meaning that they are illegal to ask a job applicant. And, from time to time they pop up during an interview. It may be that the interviewer is pursuing a line of questioning and doesn’t even realize that he or she has strayed into forbidden territory, or that the interviewer himself really doesn’t know what is illegal.


In either case, if you are a job applicant, you need to be aware of your rights, to know what is allowable or not, and how to respond if you encounter an illegal question. Questions related to age, race, and religion are all off limits. The reason for this is to prevent discrimination based on any one of these attributes. What the law says is that an employer should not be able to disqualify you from consideration for a job just because of your gender, age, race or religion.

The only time it may be acceptable to ask a question about any one these things is if they would directly impact on a person’s ability to do a job.

So, for example, while it is legal to ask a person if they are over the age of 18 because the employer can only hire adults, it is not legal to ask person when they were born or how old they are. It is also illegal to ask a person if they are married or single, whether they own a home, where they go to church, if they have children or are pregnant, because none to these things impacts how a person will do their job.

What the employer can ask, however, would be something like, “Do you have any responsibilities that would interfere with regular attendance at this job or that would impair your ability to travel?”

An employer can ask you if you have ever been convicted of a crime, but they may not ask you if you have ever been arrested. Moreover, the conviction should be considered only from the perspective of how it would impact your ability to do the job


If the employer should ask you a question that is clearly out of bounds, the best course of action would be to move the conversation toward an area that is more job related. Usually, a polite reminder about the nature of the question is enough to get things back on track.

  At Trinity Staffing we do our best to always show respect to all applicants in a professional way. 

If you are seeking employment contact one of our experienced account managers today!