What Can’t Employers Ask Potential Employees on a Job Interview?

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If you’re looking for a new job, you’ve probably encountered illegal interview questions at least once. Employers are not allowed to ask you personal questions that don’t relate to your potential job duties. Of course, that doesn’t prevent interviewers from asking these types of questions. Once you know what topics you aren’t allowed to discuss in a job interview and how to handle illegal questions, you’ll be able to turn an awkward situation into a chance to shine.

Personal Information

In general, employers cannot ask you about irrelevant personal information. Your age, religion, marital status, and number of children do not affect your ability to perform a job. Interviewers also cannot ask related questions such as your high school graduation date or whether your spouse is employed, as these inquiries can easily be used to find out your age or marital status. Many employers do not fully understand which questions they’re allowed to ask applicants, so it’s your responsibility to understand your rights.

Confusing Questions

Some interview questions are clearly illegal. No interviewer should ever ask you what religion you practice or which country you were born in. However, employers have some grey areas depending on the nature of their work. For example, a manufacturing plant that operates every day of the week can ask if you’re able to work Sundays. If an office that’s closed every weekend asks you the same question, they might be trying to sneakily discriminate against specific religions, a practice on the rise in the United States. As an applicant, you must carefully consider your interviewer’s motivations and phrasing before determining if they’re asking you something illegal.

How to Handle Inappropriate Interview Questions

Your first reaction to an illegal interview question like “How old are you?” or “How many children do you plan to have?” might be outrage, sarcasm or simply walking out of the room. While these questions are discriminatory and wrong, they are disturbingly common in workplace interviews. You will encounter them during your job search. If you’re looking for work, you can’t afford to be upset by these questions. Instead, you need to find positive ways to respond. One option is to tell the interviewer they’re asking an illegal question. With enough charisma, you can showcase your knowledge of workplace law and your ability to navigate difficult conversations. This is a great option if you’re looking for a management or human resources position.

If you don’t feel comfortable telling your interviewer that a specific question is illegal, consider answering the question on your own terms. For example, if an interviewer asks you about your children, it’s out of worry towards your ability to balance work and family commitments. Talk about how you overcame this challenge at a previous job or mention your childcare arrangements.

Job interviews should be an opportunity to showcase why you’re a great match for your potential employer, not a time to worry about illegal questions impacting your candidacy. Now that you know what questions can’t legally be asked during an interview and professional ways to handle these illegal interview questions inquiries, you’re better suited to succeed the next time you’re pursuing a new position.

See also: How Do I Become a Headhunter?

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