7 Interview Questions Employers Should NEVER Ask

Tips & how-to

interview_questionsEven the least-savvy job hunters know that certain topics, like age, nationality, and religion, are off-limits in interviews, and that there are standard questions an interviewer can’t ask in a job interview. Federal laws put in place to protect applicants prohibit potential employers from asking these questions.

But sometimes, interviewers try to get information by being sneaky. Be careful for questions like this, which look like friendly getting-to-know-you small talk but are actually designed to get more information on you.

I see on your resume it says you speak Arabic fluently. Did you grow up speaking it?

Questions about your native tongue are usually trying to figure out your nationality, which an interviewer doesn’t need to know. Your nationality has nothing to do with whether you’re legally allowed to work in the U.S. and your ability to do the job.

Do you normally spend Christmas with your family?

Questions about what you normally do for Easter, Passover, Ramadan, or any other holiday are often designed to find out what religion you are. The interviewer may want to know for scheduling purposes, but you can’t be sure. It’s best to keep quiet on this one.

Yeah, me, I was class of ’87; how ‘bout you?

An employer can ask if you’re 18 or older, the same way he or she can ask if you’re allowed to work in the U.S. But any other fishing for age-related information isn’t permitted. Other things to watch for: asking about movies, TV shows and trends popular back in the day to get a sense of your age.

You live with your girlfriend nearby?

This one’s a double whammy. An interviewer cannot ask what your living situation is (if you’re married, living together or single, or if you rent or own) nor if you live far away and have a long commute.

My partner and I are having a baby soon. You thinking about kids?

Some employers are not crazy about the idea of hiring a woman who is pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, as they will have to bear the costs associated with maternity leave. But that’s their problem, not yours; don’t answer questions about your plans to have children. You also don’t have to answer questions about whether you have kids already.

Man, that governor, what a nightmare, don’t you agree?

Political affiliation is another no-go area. Your political leanings have nothing to do with your ability to do the job you’re interviewing for, and might turn the interviewer against you.

I could really use a cigarette right now. Do you smoke?

Your health habits and health history are none of the interviewer’s business. But one thing they can ask about is whether you use illegal drugs now, so be prepared to answer that.

You don’t know a potential employer’s prejudices, so don’t answer any questions you believe are illegal and that make you uncomfortable. What to do? Insist that the interview stay on the topic at hand, which is what tasks the job entails and whether you are capable of performing those tasks. And figure out before you go into your interview how to respond to illegal interview questions.