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10 Illegal Interview Questions You Don’t Have To Answer

10 Illegal Interview Questions You Don’t Have To Answer

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: –

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

Featured photo credit: Flickr – PresseBox.de flickr via flickr.com

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Published on January 28, 2020

How to Ace an Interview: Nailing the 10 Most Tricky Questions

How to Ace an Interview: Nailing the 10 Most Tricky Questions

As someone who has been in recruiting for over 10 years I can tell you the interview is vitally important to getting that new job you really want. During the interview process, there will most likely be at least 2 interviews, a phone interview and an in person interview. Both are important.

Companies can of course have different interviewing processes but in general, there is at least one phone interview, also known as a phone screen, and a live, in-person interview. The in-person interview can be with one person or it might be with a variety of people. While they are both important, the live interview is typically the one that will make or break you as a candidate for the position you are interviewing for.

Many of the interview questions we will review here will more likely come up during the live interview. But it’s a good idea to be prepared for them on the phone interview as well.

To illustrate how important the live interview is, I’ll tell you about my search that happened a year ago. I’d decided it was time to move on from the role I’d been in for a little over 6 years. As I started researching and looking for a new opportunity, I began down the path with 2 companies. With the one I landed with, I’d had 3 separate phone screens, each one an hour long. They must have thought they went well because I was asked to fly to the city where the corporate office is at and do an in-person interview. — with 8 people.

Yeah, it was a long day. The good news is I rocked the interviews across the board. I flew home that evening and the following day, I received a call with the job offer. That was less than 24 hours after I’d had the in person interview. This is how important the live interview is.

So how to ace an interview? We can dive right in to helping you nail the 10 most tricky interview questions:

1. What’s Your Biggest Weakness?

This is a personal favorite of mine. The primary reason for this question is not to actually find out what your biggest weakness is. Unless of course, you say something like “showing up to work on a regular basis,” then it’s probably going to get you kicked out of consideration for the role.

The main reason for someone asking you this question is to see if you are self-aware. That is if you know your weaknesses and are smart enough to account for them.

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The smart play here is to answer in a modest way. You want to be able to show that your biggest weakness actually has an upside. For instance, I usually say that mine is impatience. Which is true, I like to get things done. But what I ensure what I point out is that even though I am impatient, it’s because I like to crank and get a lot of work done.

2. Why Do You Want to Work Here?

Interestingly enough, a lot of people don’t have an answer to this question. It’s designed to find out if you’ve actually done research on the company and if you are excited about this position.

When I ask this question, many people have told me something like “because it looks like a good opportunity”. I mean, can you be any more generic?

The key to answering this is to show you’ve done research on the company and that you are enthusiastic about the actual position. Companies want people that are excited to work there, not just someone that shows up for a paycheck.

3. Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?

Employers are asking you this question to see if you have somewhat of a plan for your career. It doesn’t have to be completely mapped out in a step by step manner but, a general overall plan is good to see. It means you are goal oriented and are working towards something.

Don’t worry about answering in a way that states you are planning on sticking with the company until you retire. Rather, focus more on how it’s important to you to continue to learn and get better and better at what you do. Companies like to hire self-motivated people.

4. Tell Me About a Time You Messed Up

Or tell me about a time something didn’t work out the way you planned. Similar in concept. The key here is to show that you take accountability for your actions and how you react to things going wrong.

Companies like to see that you are willing to accept responsibility for the things you oversee and own up when you are wrong. People that always find a way to blame their missteps on other people or circumstances typically don’t make good team mates.

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The other component here is things don’t always go as planned, how good are you at adapting and thinking on your feet.

5. Why Are You Looking to Leave Your Current Job?

This may seem like a place to launch into all the things you don’t like about your current job. Or to talk about what a terrible person your boss is. Don’t do it. That’s the path you do not want to go down. And that’s really what this question tends to prod out of many people.

If I am interviewing you and ask this question and you tell me all the ways your boss doesn’t appreciate you and your company has terrible leadership, I’m thinking what you’re going to be saying about me in a year when you are interviewing somewhere else.

Make sure you are framing your answer in a way that doesn’t shed bad light on your current or most recent employer. You want to focus on things like you’ve enjoyed working for the company but your growth options are limited there so you are exploring outside opportunities.

6. How Would Your Current Manager Describe You?

This question gives you the opportunity to show off your strengths and what your boss appreciates about what you bring to the table. You want to focus on the positive traits that your boss likes and how it helps you in your role.

What you do not want to do is sprinkle in the things your boss doesn’t think as highly of. Don’t say something like my boss would describe me as a focused worker, at least on the days I make it into the office.

7. Tell Me About a Time You Overcame an Obstacle

Another one of my favorite questions. Interviewers ask this question to see if you are able to deal with roadblocks.

Things don’t always go smoothly, so having people on the team who are able to solve problems has huge upside.

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Being able to overcome obstacles is a great trait to have. Make sure you have a few stories about how something didn’t go as planned that caused a challenge and how you were involved in solving the problem. It’s a way of turning a bad situation into a good one.

8. Why Should We Hire You?

If you are at the point of a live interview, you should be highly interested in the position.

By this point, you should have a pretty clear picture of what the role is and how your skills and experience will help you succeed. The reason this question is being asked is to see if you are the right candidate for this role.

This gives you a great opportunity to tell your interviewer how your expertise will positively impact the role. Right now, you are in the spotlight to clearly show that your experience is the perfect fit for the position and why. Shine on!

9. What’s Your Greatest Achievement?

Employers tend to ask this question to gain an understanding of what your big wins were. What are the really impactful things that have happened during your career and how you were the reason why they happened.

This is another great opportunity for you to toot your own horn. What you want to be conscious of is how you tell the story about your biggest achievement. You want to make sure you say why it was such a big achievement.

If possible, it’s always good to include your team as part of the big win. Employers love to hire people who can make things happen but, it’s also important they understand the importance of team work.

10. Do You Have Any Questions for Me?

You might be asking yourself why this is a tricky question. Honestly, it’s not a tricky question if you are prepared for it.

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What the interviewer is looking for here is how interested and excited you are for the position. You’d be surprised at how many people answer this question with a blank stare or have no questions prepared.

Again, if you are at a live interview, you should be highly interested in a position and the company. You will convey how interested you are in the opportunity with some well thought out questions to ask.

You don’t want to just ask one question like “How often is payday”? Have at least 4 to 5 questions prepared but don’t overwhelm your interviewer with dozens and dozens of questions. Show that you’ve given some serious thought to this position by coming prepared with solid questions to ask.

The Bottom Line

There you go, insight to nailing the 10 most tricky questions during the interview process. There are, of course, many other questions you might get asked during the interview process but, these tend to be the ones that trip most people up.

Remember to take your time and thoroughly prepare for the interview. You don’t have to memorize your answers or anything but having a good idea of how you’d answer these questions will help you ace the next interview.

Here’s to being career advancement ready!

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Featured photo credit: Romain V via unsplash.com

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