Questions that relate to gender, race, color, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age (40 +)  or disabilities are illegal, unless the employer can demonstrate that they relate to a bona fide requirement of the job. Generally, questions about family planning and home responsibilities are also illegal.

The following are examples of illegal interview questions:

  • What is your nationality?
  • What country were you born in?
  • Where are your parents from?
  • Are you a member of a minority group?
  • Do your regularly attend church?
  • As a woman/ man how would you handle working with a team comprised of mostly men/women?
  • What faith are you?
  • Do you plan on getting married?
  • Do you have any disabilities or How does your condition affect your abilites?
    • Employers can ask - Can you perform the tasks/duties of the job?
  • Have you ever been arrested?
    • Employers can ask - Have you ever been convicted of a crime?
  • Are you a United States citizen?
    • Employers can ask - Are you able to provide proof of employmet eligibility? or What is your Visa status?

However, illegal questions do get asked in interviews.  Often times the interviewer may be asking as a conversation starter and may not have ill intent.  Here are three possible strategies to use when faced with an illegal or inappropriate question

 1. Answer honestly, explain how your circumstances may be an asset, if possible.

Q: I notice you have an engagement ring; when will you be getting married?

A: I will be getting married in August and my fiancee and I have agreed to focus our job searches on Atlanta. We are both very committed to our career goals and to working hard to support each other.

2. State what you assume the employer hopes to learn by asking the question. Answer in response to that assumption, which often gives the interviewer time to recognize that an illegal question has been asked.

Q: I notice you have an engagement ring; when will you be getting married?

A: I guess that, in asking about my wedding plans, you may be wondering if I am truly committed to a career, and more specifically, whether I would be likely to be able to move at the end of your training program.

Sometimes it is possible to answer with humor or to simply deflect the question.

Q: Do you have any health problems?

A: Yes; I'm a workaholic.

Next: Check out Questions You Can Ask Employers