illegal interview questions

13 Questions you should not be asked, but…

There are some questions that your interviewer is forbidden (at least in US) to ask you but he/she may find a way to ask you these same questions indirectly, without raising the brows of the law. Here is a list of 13 questions (there are more but these are important/sensitive ones) that you should not be asked but be aware of how interviewer can ask them without raising legal issues.  When you hear these questions, you will know what you are really being asked and answer accordingly.

IF you face direct questions that fall into the ‘forbidden’ zone, you can mention that you are not comfortable discussing or just answer in a way that dodges the interviewers trap.

Questions you shouldn’t be asked…(illegal to ask this question) Interviewer can frame it like this…(Legally ok to ask this way) The way you may answer…
Are you a US citizen? Are you authorized to work in the US? Yes, I am legally authorized to work with my [Country] visa.
What is your native language? What languages can you speak, read and write? I can speak, read and write….
What is your religion? Are there any days in the week that you wouldn’t be available to work? I am available, as required, for the work any five days during the week (if your job requires that you be available for more than 5 days during the week, then do not mention five days). If you have particular objections working on any day during the week, mention that now.
What organization do you belong to? Do you participate in any professional organizations that can help you network in this job? If you participate in any non-religious organizations – mention that. If not, just answer no. You do NOT have to disclose the religious organizations you belong to.
Do you have any disabilities? You will have to undergo a mandatory medical examination to determine your capability to perform the tasks on the job, are you ok with that? You do not have to comment on disabilities that do not hinder in performing the job tasks. And, you cannot avoid mandatory medical exams.
How far do you live from this office? Would you be able to start work at 8 am, every day at the office? YES.
Are you straight/gay/lesbian/other? CANNOT BE ASKED You can choose to be upfront about your sexuality but it is not required to disclose.
How old are you? Are you over the age of 18/legal age to work?To become a partner here you will have to have 15 years left in service before retirement. You can mention that you are of legal age (if you are).
Are you married? Are you willing to work overtime and maybe, travel often? You can mention that YOU are ok with overtime without revealing your family information, if you prefer.
What is your height/weight? Job requires lifting heavy objects and walking on the stairs a lot, would you be able to perform these tasks? Answer as appropriate to your situation.
Do you smoke/drink/do illegal drugs? If given an offer, you will be working in a 100% smoke/alcohol and/or illegal drugs FREE zone, are you ok with that? If you are a smoker, just tell the employer that even though you smoke, you are not addicted and that you can easily go through the day without a lit (if you can).
Have you ever dated anyone at work? Were there any escalations about your behavior at work? Hopefully, No!If you were disciplined at work before for any reasons that an be easily dug up during background investigation – it is important that you come out clean now. If you are confident that the previous employer will not reveal those ‘miniscule’ events, then you don’t have to reveal them.
Were you ever arrested? Have you ever been convicted of theft/fraud/embezzlement/etc.,? Again, if you have traffic tickets – you don’t have to mention those but if you were arrested that went on your records, you have to come out clean since these can be verified during the background check.
Were you fired/let go from your previous employment? What are the circumstances you left your previous employer? If you were one of the 100 folks who were let go, you can mention that during the interview (if asked). Generally, your previous employer will NOT reveal that you were let go – they would mention it as ‘volunteer’ act (you can verify this with your previous employer) – however, if you were fired due to misdemeanor or non-work related issues – your previous employer is obligated to mention that when asked. In that case, you have to let the current interviewer know the issue and the steps you have taken to show that you have ‘changed’. Again, if this question is never asked, do not bring it up.

Please note that there are instances where the employer may have asked you the questions that fall into the ‘forbidden’ zone and you may be denied the job on ‘different’ grounds.  There is no way to prove that you were denied the offer solely on the grounds of ‘forbidden’ question.  If you feel you were discriminated you can file a complaint against the company/employer.  Here are some sources that can help you with discrimination based on above mentioned ‘questions’:

US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (US):

Department of Labor (US):

Other countries: Google for ‘equal employment opportunity’ commission in your country.  For example, if I want to search EEO in India, I will type: “Equal Employment Opportunity India” and I will get relevant results, like,

Since you now know what questions are illegal to ask and how they can be legally asked, you are better prepared with an answer and/or action.