The typical job interview is a stressful and challenging experience, especially if you are prone to anxiety or lack an innate sense of self-confidence. It is also particularly difficult for anyone who finds it difficult to think clearly under pressure, as the questions posed in job interviews often require carefully considered and well-articulated answers.
It is also crucial that you understand your rights as an interviewee, as there are a number of questions that potential employers are prohibited from asking under existing employment law directives. By understanding these directives and the boundaries that should exist between you and an employer, you can hopefully enjoy a less-stressful and more productive interview.
So without further ado, here are 10 interview questions that are illegal under existing employments laws: –
1. How old are you?
Perhaps the most common illegal interview question, employers are often keen to determine your age as a candidate. Although this information may have been included on your resume (depending on whether you use a traditional or modern template), the person conducting your interview does not have the right to directly or indirectly ask your age during the process. In the US, the Age Discrimination Act (ADEA) is designed to protect anyone who is over 40 from such questioning, while individual state laws also exist to protect younger applicants. The law is applied universally in the UK, where employers can only reference age if it is to guarantee that you are old enough to carry out the required role.
Whether this question is asked outright or indirectly (such as by querying the year that you graduated from college), the response that you give is entirely at your discretion. If you feel comfortable answering the question you are entitled to do so, but if not you can query whether or not your age is relevant to the job role or your application before tendering a response.
2. Are you married?
There is a term in employment law called pregnancy discrimination, which has been created to prevent employers from treating mothers or female applicants unfairly. This prohibits employers from attempting to solicit any information concerning a candidate’s family plans, including marriage, engagement and child planning. While this is a long-standing pillar of employment law, the issue with this question is that it can be posed in casual conversation, so you must keep in mind that you are not obliged to disclose any personal information surrounding your lifestyle or family status. If you are asked this question, you can simply respond by telling your hiring manager that you are not comfortable discussing your private life in a professional environment.
3. What is your sexual orientation?
On a similar note, fundamental discrimination laws prohibit employers from asking any questions relating to sexual orientation. This has no relevance on your suitability for any position of employment, and any hiring manager who quizzes you about your sexuality is committing a clear offence. Unlike the previous two questions (which can be answered at the candidate’s discretion despite being technically illegal), this query should be met with a far sterner and resolute response. More specifically, you should take the opportunity to remind the employer of your rights as a candidate for work and reinforce that your sexual preferences are unsuitable topics of conversation in the workplace.
4. Have you ever been arrested?
This question represents a grey area in employment law, as employers do have the right to ask if you have ever been convicted of a crime. They are not entitled to enquire about your arrest record, however, as you are considered by law to be innocent in any instances where you have been detained by the police but not convicted. Employers can conduct independent research into your background online, however, so you may find it beneficial to be honest and open about your past if you have been arrested prolifically in your youth. If not, you can simply answer this question by reaffirming the fact that you have never been convicted of any crime in a court of law.
5. Can we have your social media login details?
Back in 2012, there were a number of employers who were reported for asking interviewees to hand over their private, social media login details. Many refused, although others parted with their details in a bid to secure employment. This is completely prohibited, as while employers can conduct independent searches of your public social media profiles they have no right to ask you to hand over your private details. Employers are not even allowed for links to your profile page, and if you are asked you should politely refuse. This applies to all online and mobile social media profiles, including fast growing applications such as Snapchat.
6. What country are you from?
For anyone with mixed parentage, dual nationality or an exotic accent, this question may seem to betray little more than mild curiosity on behalf of the employer. Regardless of the intentions behind it, however, this question is illegal on the basis that it involves your national origin. You are not required to reveal any information in response to this question, as it is your qualifications and experience rather than your background that determine your viability as a candidate. It is important to listen closely to the wording use by a hiring manager, however, as employers are entitled to quiz you on your eligibility to work in a specific country. If you are asked this directly, you will need to reaffirm your status as being eligible for work.
7. Do you like to drink socially?
This is a bizarre question, and it is difficult to understand what relevance it has in a professional setting. There is a reason why it is strictly prohibited for employers to ask this, however, and this is to protect recovering alcoholics under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (or the Disability Equality Act of 2010 in the UK). Under the terms of these laws, recovering alcoholics are not compelled to reveal any information that may hint at their status and the same principle applies to anyone who has suffered with substance abuse in their lives. This is why many companies conduct random alcohol and drug tests in the workplace, as they cannot directly ask employees or interviewees whether or not they take such substances.
8. What is your religion?
Along with questions relating to sexual orientation, this is one of the worst questions that an employer can ask during an interview. Although there is a clear motivation for employers to gather this information (as the look to anticipate any scheduling or holiday issues that relate to your faith), there is a correct way for them to go about achieving this and it does not involve asking you to discuss your religious orientation. Instead, employers can ask if there are any days or periods during which you are unavailable for work, as this relates to a specific schedule and the operating hours of the company in question. So although you will need to answer this question honestly, you can refuse to disclose your religious beliefs or outlook.
9. How did you get that scar or physical abnormality?
This may not apply to everyone, but it is a deeply personal and insensitive question that has no merit in an interview or professional situation. The fact that this question is illegal also offers an insight into the depth of the ADA and similar acts, as they not only prohibit discrimination against individuals with a physical disability but they also protect those who are ‘regarded as disabled’ due to a scar or physical abnormality. Any questions about such physical characteristics are prohibited, and you are under no obligation to even acknowledge them. If this question is posed, you can simply underline that it is not an issue that you wish to discuss as it makes you feel uncomfortable.
10. How do you feel about supervising a team of women (or men)?
Both the US and the UK deploy stringent gender equality acts, which serve a clear purpose in the typical workplace. As a result of this, it is illegal for employers to ask you any direct questions that relate to gender or make assumptions based on perceived differences between male and female candidates. In this instance, this means that hiring managers cannot ask candidates how they feel about managing or working with a gender specific team, as this forces them to make comments that are either presumptuous or potentially offensive to either men or women. If you are asked this question it would be prudent to either ask the interviewer to rephrase it or simply relay any experience that you have managing teams in general (which managers are perfectly entitled to quiz you on).
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