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10 Things You Can't Be Asked at a Job Interview

By Laura Strachan, Esq. | Last updated on

Applying for a job can be a stressful pursuit as an applicant prepares answers to those predictable questions, and hopes that his research will help him stand out amongst the sea of eager applicants. Whether fresh out of college, or re-entering the workforce after a long hiatus from the nine to five grind, one way to prepare yourself for an interview is to know which questions you don't have to answer.

Drum roll please .... below are 10 Things You Can't Be Asked at a Job Interview:

  1. You have a unique look, what race are you? Although there is a fine line between an appropriate and inappropriate interview question, most employers are aware that making race a factor in the decision process is illegal. An employer can, however, inquire as to whether an international applicant is legally authorized to work in the United States on a full-time basis.
  2. So tell me, boyfriend or girlfriend ... or both? Simply put, the sexual preference of an applicant should have no bearing on whether he or she can perform the job.
  3. Do you have a bun in the oven, or planning on babies anytime soon? Women are often the target of illegal hiring questions. Questions pertaining to pregnancy, future childbearing plans, unwed motherhood, or child care are all illegal.
  4. Ever been to rehab? Questions relating to drugs or alcohol, although there are often company policies prohibiting these pastimes on the job, are not appropriate for interview questions. An employer can inquire into whether an applicant uses illegal drugs.
  5. Been to the hospital lately? Along the same thread as disability questions, there are privacy implications at play when questions concern medical history.
  6. We all get a little crazy sometimes, do you have any sort of mental illness you should warn me about? Aside from questions relating to mental disabilities being a privacy issue, this line of questioning is inappropriate for employers to ask.
  7. Not too interested in hiring someone with a disability, got any? Disability questions are off-limits, and a conversation concerning disabilities is illegal, unless prompted by the applicant.
  8. What are your thoughts on God? Questions concerning religion are best left at the pulpit, and an applicant is under no obligation to give a response.
  9. We're trying to keep costs down, have you ever filed a workers' compensation claim? Employees have the right to file for workers' compensation for job-related injuries, and this cannot serve to later limit an individual's ability to seek employment elsewhere.
  10. How old are you? Unless the employer is trying to discern whether you are legally an adult, questions relating to age place the employer in the realm of age discrimination.

Sadly, asking an applicant their greatest weakness is fair game, as are any other clever way to discover if an applicant has the skills and personality to fit with a company's culture. But, any question aimed at an individual's personal attributes, orientation, or personal background is not only off-limits, but illegal. As a job-seeker, confronting an illegal interview question can be uncomfortable, if not downright awkward to address; but the bottom line is that you do not have to answer them, and can tell the employer that their line of questioning is illegal or report the company to a local Equal Employment Opportunity office.

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