Is That Question Legal?

Be wary if the interviewer asks any questions about:

  • Race/ethnicity
  • Citizenship/nationality
  • Marital status
  • Whether you’ve had, or plan to have, children
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Disabilities
  • Military discharge
  • Organizations you belong to
  • Criminal record

Employers cannot legally ask direct questions about any of the above and you are NOT obligated to supply this information if they do. However, they may legally ask indirect questions such as, “Are you eligible to work in the U.S.?” or “Can you fully perform the functions of this job?”

How to Respond to an Illegal Question

Becoming offended or saying, “Isn’t that illegal?” will probably not help your chances of landing the job. If you believe an honest mistake has been made, you may choose to answer the question, provided that you feel comfortable doing so. Or you may deflect the question and refocus the conversation on more relevant topics. For example, if asked, “Do you plan to have children?” you could say, “My personal life is important to me, but I have always been deeply committed to my work.”

However, if you found the question to be threatening and/or evidence of discriminatory hiring practices, you may reconsider whether you wish to work for the organization. In addition, there may be formal courses of action that you can take. Please contact the Career Center for more information.


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Interview Questions