Appropriate Vs Inappropriate Interview Questions

Race / Color / Ethnicity

An employer may need to ask about race for affirmative action programs. Otherwise, here are some examples of what not to ask in an interview:

  • What’s your race?
  • What’s your color?
  • What’s your ethnic background?
  • What nationality are you?
  • However, What’s your race/ethnicity? Is okay for affirmative action programs, but never on the phone. If you’re an employer, get legal advice before you ask.

    Background Checks / Credit Checks

    If background checks aren’t used against a protected group, they’re not inappropriate interview questions.

  • Do you own or rent your home?
  • Do you have a bank account?
  • Have you declared bankruptcy?
  • Have your wages been garnished?
  • (Using background checks to discriminate by age, race, religion, medical condition, etc.)
  • Age

    The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects job seekers over 40. Age questions not to ask in an interview include:

  • When were you born?
  • How old are you?
  • What’s your birth date?
  • What year did you graduate high school?
  • Why does high school graduation date make the list of questions you can’t ask in an interview? It can show your age.

    However, How old are you? And What’s your birth date? are fine if it’s a legal requirement for the job. For example, if you may be under 18 or if you’ll work in a bar.

    Are You Pregnant?Nope. This one is illegal, sexist, and downright rude. First of all, nobody should ever ask a woman if she is pregnant. Questions like this should raise red flags for a job seeker. If a hiring manager has the audacity to ask this question, there is likely a toxic work culture element. Pay attention. Other questions around the subject of pregnancy and family are also illegal.

  • Do you have children?
  • How many children do you have?
  • Do you plan on having more children?
  • What kind of childcare arrangements do you have in place?
  • How old are your children?
  • Are you planning on becoming pregnant soon?
  • Do you plan on having a family?
  • We have strict attendance requirements here. Are there any reasons you might miss work?
  • Grey Areas for Illegal Job Interview Questions

    Height, weight, citizenship, and similar concerns may count as inappropriate interview questions. It depends why the employer asks and how they use the info.

  • Height/Weight
  • Financial Information
  • Unemployed Status
  • Background Checks
  • Citizenship
  • Medical Questions & Examinations
  • That covers all the topics for illegal questions to ask in an interview. For specific questions you can’t ask in an interview, scroll down.

    Pro Tip: Which of the following is inappropriate to ask on an employment application: (1) How old are you? (2) Do you have a disability? (3) What’s your race? Those are illegal employment questions under most conditions. But for affirmative action use, all of them are allowed.

    Want more interview tips to get hired faster? See our guide: 50+ Successful Interview Tips, Advice & Guidelines

    Are You Married? This question is illegal. In addition to being illegal, there really is no reason this question is ever relevant to any job description (though if you can think of a reason, please let us know.) Aside from being deeply inappropriate, this question is borderline harassment, especially for a prospective female employee.This is also a place where an employer might try to figure out your sexual orientation, which is, again, irrelevant to the position. It is your decision whether or not to share any/all information.

  • Do you live with anyone?
  • Are you planning on getting married soon?
  • Do you have a boyfriend or a girlfriend?
  • I hope you dont mind me asking, what is your sexual orientation?
  • I noticed the ring on your finger; are you engaged?
  • Do you have a spouse? What does your spouse do for a living?
  • Its also worth noting that interviewers can find tricky ways to ask this question—like posing questions about what you did over the weekend, what your mornings look like, or questions about who you live with. Feel free to be vague—and answer these types of questions with answers that pertain to the job. For example: “This morning, I listened to a podcast about the marketing industry and I actually think you would find it very interesting.”

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