Illegal Questions for an Employer to Ask During an Interview

Illegal Questions for an Employer to Ask During an Interviewthumbnail
There are many questions an employer cannot ask during an interview. (Photo: Tim Klein/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Interviews are a defining moment in your quest for employment. Interviews often involve a series of questions about your education, work experience, skills and abilities. Some interviews involve role playing, or describing how you would react to a specific scenario. Unfortunately, some employers cross the line and ask illegal questions that are not relevant to the job. Some examples of illegal interview questions include questions about race, marital status and religion, among others.

Employers may need to collect information about your race for government purposes. (Photo: no more racism image by Leticia Wilson from

What is Your National Origin or Race?

It is illegal for an employer to ask about your national origin or race. The United States Department of the Interior states that there is no legal way of asking questions regarding national origin or race, whether indirect or direct. National origin or race does not have a bearing on whether or not you can perform the functions of a particular job, and your answers could be used by an employer to discriminate against you or other employees. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) describes that while an employer cannot ask about your race during an interview, they may need to collect information about your race to report to the federal government.

Your personal life is off-limits during an interview. (Photo: just married image by NiDerLander from

What is Your Marital Status?

It is unlawful for an employer to ask about your marital status -- whether you are single, married, divorced, or widowed. It is also illegal for employers to ask questions about your family; whether or not you have children, for example. Your personal life is not necessarily a portrayal of how fit you are to do a specific job, and as such, any questions relating to your personal life are illegal. The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire explains that while employers cannot ask you about your marital status, they can ask all interviewees whether their schedule will allow them to fulfill all of the job requirements.

It is illegal for an employer to ask about your religion during an interview. (Photo: church image by pearlguy from

What Religion Do You Follow?

It is illegal for an employer to ask what religion you follow. Questions relating to religion include what denomination you are, what church you attend, or what religious holidays you observe. There is no legal way for an employer to ask any question pertaining to religion. However, employers can ask whether you will be able to work a set schedule, which may or may not interfere with your religious practices.

By knowing your rights, you can better handle illegal interview questions. (Photo: great job image by from

Your Reaction

There are many other questions that are illegal for employers to ask during an interview. It is important to recognize these questions, and to know how to respond if you are ever asked one. There are pros and cons about answering and not answering an illegal question. The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire describes one of the best ways to deal with a scenario like this is to ask how the question directly relates to the job, and then decide whether it is appropriate or inappropriate to answer.


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