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6 Types Of Illegal Interview Questions To Watch Out For

6 Types Of Illegal Interview Questions To Watch Out For


There are many different types of illegal interview questions out there. And, sadly, they’re asked all of the time. This has been a problem job seekers have dealt with for decades. In fact, Mary Tyler Moore highlighted the issue on The Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1970.

Moore, who passed away last week at age 80, used her character on the show to help pave the way for equality and fairness in the workplace.

During the first episode of the show, Moore’s character was interviewing for a new job. The man who was interviewing her (her soon-to-be boss), went ahead and berating her with all kinds of personal questions that didn’t relate to the job whatsoever (i.e., Are you married? What’s your religion?). These, of course, are illegal interview questions and cannot be asked.

In the scene, Moore’s character wasted no time calling him out on the inappropriate questions, and actually ended up landing the job.

Did you know that there are interview questions out there that might SEEM legitimate but are actually illegal? While there are some that are clearly inappropriate, not all of them are so obvious. Here are a few types of illegal interview questions you should watch out for during your next interview.

1. Questions about your family life.

  • Are you married?
  • Do you have any kids?
  • Are you pregnant?

2. Questions about race.

  • What’s your nationality?
  • What race are you?

3. Questions about religion.

  • What church do you attend?
  • What is your religion?
  • Are you religious?

4. Questions about your living situation.

  • Do you own a home?
  • Do you rent?
  • Do you have an apartment?
  • Do you have anybody living with you?
  • Do you live with your parents?

5. Questions about your gender.

  • Are you male or female?

6. Questions about your age.

  • How old are you?
  • What’s your birth year?
  • When’s your birthday?

Why These Questions Are Illegal

So, what makes these questions illegal? First, they have no relation to the job requirements. Second, there are strict laws in place that prevent interviewers from asking interview questions that can be discriminatory.

Why Interviewers Ask Illegal Questions

Unfortunately, there are bad interviewers out there who will try to slip some of these questions in on purpose (hello, workplace discrimination). There are also some inexperienced interviewers out there who simply don’t know these are illegal questions and are just trying to make conversation. If you’re asked these questions, whether intentional or not, it’s best to be prepared so you don’t get flustered during the interview.

Although Moore’s character’s approach was aggressive and would very likely work against you if you tried it during an interview, the purpose of this scene was to make a point – the information she was being asked was not relevant to the job or her ability to do it. If you’re worried about getting asked these questions during interviews, check out our Interview Prep Plan.

How To Prepare

Sadly, these types of illegal interview questions are asked all of the time during interviews. Not sure how to prepare for them? We built an in-depth interview prep course that will help you understand how to respond to such questions. Need more help? Learn more about how you can get full access to our course library PLUS our private Slack community (where you can get personalized career support). Best of luck on your upcoming interviews!

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Photo credit: Flickr


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Ariella Coombs Ariella is the Content Strategist and Career Coach for Work It Daily. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.A. in journalism. Follow her @AriellaCoombs or find her on Google+.