Illegal interview questions are more common than you think and may create more stress for what is already a stressful situation. Not only do you have to convince the interviewer that you are the best candidate for the position, but you have to also steer clear of any of these discriminatory questions or ones that may create an unconscious bias. While it might be a red flag that you should reconsider working for that company if they ask any discriminatory questions, we understand that you may still want the job. Here are the most common illegal interview questions asked, and how to answer them.
1. Do You Have Or Plan on Having Kids?
Wondering if you have or plan on having kids may be a simple conversation starter or a way to relate. However, it really should not be asked or discussed. It is a non-job related question and bears no influence on your qualifications or skill set. Unfortunately, there are employers that ask the question with the assumption that having kids may limit your work hours or cause a distraction. Or, they think that if you are planning on having kids, you may be out on leave for a few months or may eventually quit your job. This discriminatory nature is usually addressed towards women.
You have every right to not answer the question. But, if you still really want or need the job, you need to answer the question in a way that is not off-putting to the interviewer. The best way to do this is to say that even though you do have kids, you believe that you have all the perfect qualifications and skills for the position. You are great at time management and that your kids are never a distraction. If the interviewer pushes more, keep bring it back to you and your qualifications.
If you are planning on having kids, or are pregnant, you do not need to disclose that information. Your answer should be focused on your qualifications and that you are career focused. You are willing to put in whatever time is needed for the demands of the job. If you get the job and your employer later fires you because they found out that you were pregnant during the interview, you have job protection and legal remedies under pregnancy laws.
2. Have You Ever Been Arrested?
Remember that time in high school or college when you were arrested for . . .. If you were ever arrested in your past for any reason and not convicted, you do not have to disclose the arrest. If you are asked this question in an interview, tell the interviewer that you were never convicted of a crime. The interviewer should move on from the question.
If you were arrested and convicted of a crime, when asked, you have to tell the employer about your convictions. It is against the law for someone with a felony conviction to not disclose this information. Also, it will eventually come up, most likely in a background check. It is better to hear it from you where you can provide an explanation and context around the conviction. Your explanation should include what you have learned from the conviction, how you are different and how it has helped or changed your skills.
3. How Old Are You?
This question comes up a lot in interviews. The employer may try to ask it in a discreet way, like, when did you graduate from high school? Or, when did you first start working? Maybe you are young and afraid the employer will think that you do not have enough life experience even though you meet all the qualifications for the position. Or, more common, maybe you are over the age of 40 and fear discrimination. Employees over the age of 40 are protected under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) from discrimination. But, whatever the case, if there is no age requirements for the job, the question should not be asked.
If you are asked a question related to age, it’s really hard to dodge, especially if you look young or old. The best way to answer this question is to make your age an asset. Describe work situations where your age and experience has been an asset to other employers/clients. If you feel that the employer is asking the question because you will be working for a manager who may be younger than you, stress that you are eager to learn and have no issues working with anyone, regardless of age. It is best to address the situation rather than leaving the employer with their own assumptions. Try to figure out why the employer would think your age would be a negative in the job and turn it into a positive.
4. Do You Have Any Disabilities or Medical Conditions?
It is legal for an employer to ask if you are able to perform the job without a reasonable accommodation. However, they cannot ask the details around your disability or medical condition. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it illegal to discriminate against a qualified applicant because of a disability. If an employer asks this question, respond by saying that you do not have any serious medical condition that will affect your performance in the job. If you have an obvious disability, like walking with a cane, address the situation and state how the job will not be affected by the disability. It is best to discuss an accommodation with the employer if needed. Let the employer know that the accommodation will not affect your performance.
5. What Religion Do You Practice?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. This includes the hiring process. An employer cannot ask whether you are religious, and, if so, what religion you practice. If you are asked this question, respond by saying that your faith and beliefs will not interfere with the job. If the job requires working weekends, reassure the employer that you are available to meet all demands of the job. This includes working on the weekends.
If you were wrongly refused a job for any of the reasons listed above, you may have a legal remedy. Although it is extremely difficult to prove discrimination, if you have any proof, contact an employment attorney. Proof can include emails or letters that state why you were not hired or conversations that you may have had that were overheard by other employees.
Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only. It provides general information and is not intended and should not be construed as professional advice. The author is not your attorney, accountant, financial planner or any other professional and no professional-client relationship is created. We do not represent that the information provided is accurate or up-to-date as laws and regulations are always changing. If you have an issue that requires professional help, you should contact the appropriate professional to help you on your specific set of facts. Please read the Terms and Conditions for additional information.