How to Dodge 5 Illegal Interview Questions
Every one of us had the opportunity to find himself/herself in this position- an interview for our dream job. We prepare ourselves the best we can, we do our best to leave the finest impression there is.
Sometimes we even simulate it at home, so that we know how to answer the possible questions. And somehow things work pretty well until, out of nowhere, we hear “Are you married?”
Before you know it, you’ve found yourself in a very unpleasant situation. That’s because this one, as well as many other questions, are illegal. This means even though the interviewer asks some of these, you are not obliged to answer it.
All the questions related to your family or marital status, language, citizenship, and nationality, gender, age, race, religion, height and weight, criminal record etc. are forbidden.
Simply put- all those that would reveal personal information which could potentially lead to discrimination.
We have chosen some of these questions, perhaps the most significant ones, to help you find the right answer without revealing anything that would make you feel uncomfortable.
Every interviewer has the reason for asking some of these illegal questions (unlike those that are legal, but difficult to answer to).
Once you know what’s behind that, you will be able to give the right answer within the limits of legal. Each of these questions can be asked in a bit alternative way so that both sides can be satisfied.
The whole point is to keep the job interview within the limits of job-related information, gracefully avoiding these tricky questions.
5 ILLEGAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS AND HOW TO DODGE THEM
As we said, the top five illegal questions are the ones related to gender, marital and family status, citizenship, nationality and language, age and religion.
That’s why we picked them to show you the best way to dodge them.
There’s always a background, and the sooner you discover it, the sooner you will manage to keep the conversation in the right way.
And by background, we mean the reason why the interviewer asks these questions. The best way to show it is by giving the examples of the right and wrong way to ask them.
1. What’s your Gender?
Even though one could say that there are some jobs that are better suited for women, whereas some others are more appropriate for men, it really doesn’t matter. Gender definitely has no influence over the quality of your work.
Another reason why the interviewer should never ask this question is because of transgender people. Sometimes is simply not so obvious whether a person is male or female, so asking a question in this form can hurt his/her feelings.
The reason why the interviewer is asking about gender could be that he/she is interested in how you can contribute to the team you are supposed to be in. If you are a woman and you are supposed to be working with a group of men, will you be comfortable with that? Same rule applies in opposite situations. So, instead of asking such direct and rude questions, like the one we listed here as well, we shall give you good and bad examples.
Bad example: So far, only man/woman worked in this position. Do you think you could handle it well?
Good example: What can you bring to this role?
Bad example: Are you capable of managing men/women well?
Good example: Could you tell me more about your previous staff managing experience.
As you can see, it doesn’t take much to get the desired information by asking the right and polite question. You as a potential employee should give your best to stay focused and find the appropriate words.
So, even if the interviewer asks directly, try to answer in a way that you don’t mention gender at all. Instead, point out your previous experience and role, and what were your contributions to it.
2. Marital or Family Status
These questions mostly bother women, as they are usually the ones taking absences from work due to children’s bad health and similar. Being a successful mother and successful employee at the same time can be difficult these days. One has to be a superhero in order to balance between these two.
Starting from a job interview, if a woman feels that her family will be a “problem” for the future job, you can only imagine all the frustration. And that’s not all! You know that some couples don’t want to have children, whereas some cannot, due to some health problems.
There are also gay and lesbian couples, with or without kids.
So, direct questions related to this can also lead to many hurt feelings. After all, if one is capable of meeting the deadlines and working quality, the questions about family and marital status really have nothing to do with the job.
Here are some of the bad and good examples of how an employee can find out whether a potential applicant is suitable for the job or not. Some of them are exclusively for women, and some can also be related to men.
Bad example: Do you have children? Do you plan to have them? How many children do you have? Do you have childcare arrangements in case of working overtime?
Good example: Would it be a problem to work overtime or during weekends occasionally? How do you feel about traveling for work?
Bad example: Are you pregnant? Would you come back to work after maternity leave?
Good example: Tell me something about your long-term career goals.
Bad example: Are you married? Is this your maiden name?
Good example: Are there any references or qualifications of yours under another name?
By asking any of the family or marital status related questions, an interviewer simply wants to know, how reliable a potential candidate would be in terms of presence and absence at work.
As we said, it’s particularly hard for women in a situation when these questions are asked. But, like with the previous group, just keep the conversation on a safe pace and no reasons to worry. Try to point out your professional qualities, the responsibility, and punctuality, since these are the qualities required for any job.
3. Citizenship, Nationality, or Language related questions
It has been a thing that’s been going on for quite a long time. People migrate from one place to another, and naturally, they look for a job in a place where the accommodated themselves. For this reason, an interviewer should never be curious about personal data regarding language, citizenship, and nationality. These kinds of questions can only be asked in one situation- for monitoring purposes! Even in that case, it is done anonymously.
So, even when the interviewer notices that the applicant has a bit uncommon or unusual name, that he/she speaks with a different accent, he/she should refrain from asking direct personal questions. As long as a candidate has the right qualifications for the job, nothing else matters. The purpose of these question is to find out whether the applicant is eligible to work in that country, are there any legal issues that can be an obstacle.
Here are the most common illegal questions related to nationality, citizenship, and language, as well as their legal counterparts.
Bad example: Where were you born? Where are you from?
Good example: Are you eligible to work in (the name of the country)?
Bad example: What is your native language?
Good example: What languages are you fluent in?
The greatest catch of all is that these types of questions often slip as conversation starters. So, even when the interviewer didn’t intend to ask you some of these, it happens by accident.
If you are positive that it happened by accident, you can smile, give an answer and return with the same question, or you can avoid the answer by leading the conversation back to safe.
4. What’s your Age?
Somehow you will always notice a bit illogical thing- some employers want to have younger employees with lots of experience. Doesn’t it make a bit absurd? Some people gain experience through their work, and the more they work the better professionals they become.
However, there are some job positions which require more physical strength which means that a younger person would be more suitable.
On the other hand, some states have laws that prohibit age discrimination and protect the potential workers, but it applies to people over 40. So, if an interviewer points out that a certain role is more suitable for more experienced and older people, though it sounds utterly unfair, still it’s not illegal.
We shall now list good and bad examples of age-related questions, along with bits of advice on how to turn the answer into your favor.
Bad example: How old are you?
Good example: Are you over the age of 18?
Bad example: When did you graduate?
Good example: Do you have degrees, certificates or some other qualifications related to this position/role?
Bad example: When do you plan to retire? How long do you plan to work before retirement?
Good example: Tell me more about your long-term career goals and plans.
Even though these questions are rather tricky, there’s actually a very good way how to give the best answers without revealing how old are you. It’s not the point to hide your ages, but to point out that some other things matter more to the job than the information of your age.
For example, if you are a younger applicant, and this happens to be your first job interview, point out all the activities you had so far which can contribute to the work. Let’s say, volunteering, or some seminars. That way you show that even though you may not still have some rich experience, you are willing to expand the knowledge and improve yourself.
If you are an older candidate, put the accent on the rich experience you have gained. Show that all your knowledge and working habits can contribute significantly. Point out that you are willing to learn more.
You see that finding the right words is not so difficult, as long as you have in mind the right intention of the interviewer. After all, they are trying to find the best possible candidate, so they want to make sure that they are making the right choice. Make things easier for the interviewer by showing why you are the best person for that position.
5. Do you believe in God?
And finally, we have reached the question of religion. Having in mind that God is a word that appears a lot I conversation even when it has nothing to do with religion (like OMG), still one should be careful.
The questions of religion and beliefs are sensitive ones. People tend to argue a lot on that. And sincerely, whether someone believes in God or not, whether one is an atheist or whatever else, really have nothing to do with a job. For that reason, the interviewer shouldn’t even consider asking this question at all.
Here’s how to ask this thing impolitely and politely.
Bad example: What religion do you practice? Which religious holidays do you observe?
Good example: Would it be a problem to work in the schedule/days required for this role/position?
The only reason why the interviewer may be interested in asking the religion-related question is for the sake of being informed whether the employer will be able to work during a certain period of time.
Moreover, he probably wants to know how to plan weekend and holiday schedules. Perhaps the best would be that you as an applicant politely point out that you won’t be able to work during certain days without mentioning religion. Ask as well would it be a problem.
There’s always a solution which won’t compromise either of the sides.
ADDITIONAL ILLEGAL QUESTIONS
Besides these top five questions, there are few more which should never be mentioned in a job interview. Like these five, they have nothing to do with job qualifications and are of no importance for any job position. These are questions related to:
- Credit and financial situation
- Disabilities and health issues
- Criminal record
- Height or weight
The financial situation is of no importance and has no influence over the job. Asking this will only put the applicant into an uncomfortable position.
As for the addiction, well, naturally, if an employee shows up drunk as a skunk at work, it will be a problem. But as long as the employee respects no-smoking and no-alcohol rules at work, these questions are redundant.
Speaking of medical issues, one should not confuse medical history with a medical certificate. This certificate is often issued for some positions and roles, but that is to state that there’s no communicable disease and that you are fit to work. Any other information regarding your health is not necessary.
The question for criminal records only goes in certain situations. For example, if someone is to apply for a position “driver”, an interviewer may ask if there were any fines and arrests related to driving.
Affiliation works pretty much the same as religion. Whether you belong to a certain political party or a social club is an entirely personal thing, and has no significance for your future job.
The interviewer has no reason to ask this question because each person has a different view of how far is one ready to travel to work (location). One would commute for two hours just to work in a position that fulfills him/her, whereas the other would think that 20 minutes is an eternity. As long as the applicant states that he/she can get to work on time, location doesn’t matter.
Height and weight are also of no importance when it comes to job qualifications. Even though certain jobs require more agility and strength, the ones where the employee should lift heavy things, for example, an interviewer shouldn’t ask about these two. Instead, he can ask whether the candidate is comfortable with lifting heavy things or climbing high places and such.
As you can see, these questions are also unnecessary during a job interview. Each one of them, as well as the five above-mentioned has their better and more polite alternatives.
If we speak from a position of an interviewer, the goal is to get as much useful information as possible without hurting the rights and feelings of the applicant. If we speak from the position of an applicant the goal is to show that one is the right candidate by revealing only job-related data. In both cases, it happens that a conversation slips in the wrong direction.
That means not only the interviewer but a candidate as well may give answers and information that the interviewer initially wanted to avoid.
STEERING THE CONVERSATION IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
Switch to a more suitable topic
Even if you are in the middle of an uncomfortable question, and you want to vanish, still try getting out of that situation by suggesting another topic. It doesn’t have to happen out of blue, but try to link to some word or phrase that seems suitable and natural for what you want to say next.
Stay within job-related topics
As we already said, some questions simply slip off, with no bad intentions. One may or may not answer them. However, if the conversation is strictly job-related, no problems will occur. So, even if it happened that you wander off-limits, try returning the conversation in the “business-only” direction.
Focus on the future
By this, we mean future that’s job-related. Always point out the importance of the experience you will gain if you get the job. Also, show that you are willing to learn. Moreover, show how you can contribute long-term by working on that position. Even if you haven’t got the clearest idea about some far future points, these universal phrases can help you break the initial ice.
Ask your own questions
Again, ask job-related ones. It’s neither rude nor illegal to inquire about your future team, organizations, some plans. Of course, try phrasing the question so that it sounds polite. Imagine for a sec that you are an interviewer and pay attention to the tone of the sentence as well as the words you are using.
As you see, the job interview doesn’t necessarily have to be a stressful experience. It’s easier said than done. However, knowing all these illegal questions in advance helps a lot. It gives you a slight advantage over the interviewer. When you know all of them, as well as their better alternatives, the chances to blow up are minimal.
Another thing you should do in advance is to inform well about the company you are applying for. Visit their website for some basic information so that you are familiar with the company business. That’s the least you can do, and it will leave the impression that you have a professional approach towards the job.
You can even practice the interview with someone who’s close to you. The best is to choose someone who will be objective enough to tell you honestly all the good and bad sides.
In the end, it’s all a matter of luck and occasion, but yours is to give the best you can do. Every job interview is an important and useful experience. Even if we don’t get the job, we still get the picture how does the interview look like, what to expect next time and so on. Knowledge makes us richer, and that means a lot.
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