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How Do You Know if an Interviewer’s Questions Are Illegal?

You landed an interview for your dream job. You’ve got the experience and skills to excel. Then the person interviewing you asks some questions that make you uncomfortable and seem irrelevant to whether you’re a good fit for the position. How do you know if these questions are permitted? If they aren’t, how do you gracefully refrain from answering them without jeopardizing your chances of being hired?

Questions about specific attributes are illegal under federal and/or state law. Sometimes, interviewers can try to get at the answers without asking a question outright. That doesn’t make the inquiry any more permissible. Let’s look at some common off-limit topics:

Race/Ancestry/Birthplace: It’s illegal to ask prospective employees about any of these things. Someone can ask how many (and what) languages you’re fluent in if it’s applicable to the job. Employers also have the right to ask if you can legally work in the U.S. If a question is asked that you believe is illegal, simply respond, “That has no effect on my ability to do the job.”

Age: This is only relevant if you’re interviewing for a job with a minimum age (such as a bartender) or a mandatory retirement age that you may have already passed. Employers can be sneaky, however. If you’re discussing your college education, they may ask what year you graduated. You don’t have to answer anything that would divulge your age. You can state that your age will have no impact on your job performance.

Religion: Questions about religion are forbidden in just about all situations. An exception would be if you were applying with a church or religious organization where being a member of a particular faith is a requirement for the job.

Family status: Interviewers have the right to ask if you’re available to travel, if you anticipate needing an extended absence and what hours/days you’re available to work. Those are relevant issues. They don’t have the right to ask if you’re married and/or have children or other dependents or who cares for them in your absence.

Questions about disability, credit, military status and gender also have limitations.

It can be difficult to know for certain whether you were denied a job based on illegal discrimination or whether the company just found someone they thought was more qualified. An experienced Arizona employment law attorney can help you determine whether you have a discrimination case.

Source: The Balance, “How to Handle Illegal or Inappropriate Interview Questions,” Alison Doyle, accessed May 04, 2018