A job interview is a unique opportunity for an employer to evaluate you and determine whether you are the right fit for a particular position within a company based on your experience and background. Interviews can cover a wide range of topics and questions; however, there are legal limitations on what questions a potential employer can ask during this process.
Indications an employer might be asking you illegal interview questions
If you are caught off guard or made uncomfortable by a series of questions in an interview, it is possible the questions being asked are discriminatory and illegal. Even simple questions or conversation topics seemingly geared toward getting to know you can be avenues to obtain improper information during an interview. Illegal interview questions can be used to discriminate against you during the hiring process, a violation of the U.S.’s employment protection and anti-discrimination laws. Employers must abide by these laws during interviews to ensure their hiring practices are fair and equal for all applicants.
What topics are off-limits during a job interview?
Discrimination in an interview may sometimes be clearly apparent to you but often times it can be subtle. The reality is that interviews are often a stressful process, and so you may not realize discrimination has occurred until after the fact.
Questions or statements related to any of the topics below indicate your legal rights and protections have likely been violated:
- Race and/or ethnicity
- Country of birth
- Religious preference
- Gender identity
- Sexual orientation or preference
- Relationship or marital status, as well as family status
- Current pregnancy status or future plans of pregnancy
What to do if you are asked improper questions during an interview?
Interviews can be fast-paced and involve a number of back and forth interactions between yourself and the interviewer/s. An unexpected discriminatory question during an interview can quickly stop you in your tracks. If you are faced with an illegal interview question, consider your options and the steps you can take to address your concern:
- If you are asked a question that appears to inadvertently cross into an inappropriate topic, attempt to redirect the conversation with a response that relates to your skills and experience.
- If your attempts to divert the conversation are futile or the interviewer continues to delve into a line of questions that are in apparent violation of your rights, you can choose to politely express your concern with the series of questions being asked or to stop the interview altogether.
If you are ultimately not hired by the company and feel that it is in any part due to a bias against you, you should contact an employment law attorney to discuss your options to protect your legal rights and interests.