Illegal Interview Questions an Employer Cannot Ask

The one thing you can expect from your work interview is plenty of questions. That’s why you must prepare answers to these questions for days or even weeks in advance. But, what about the questions interviewers cannot ask during employee screening? Unlawful queries are those that touch on issues specified by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

This article will explain exactly what are illegal interview questions and topics and show several specific examples. We’ll also tell you what action to take if an interviewer asks any of these illegal queries during an employment interview.  


What Are Illegal Interview Questions and Topics Not to Pose to Candidates?

There are some out-of-bounds topics laid out by EEOC that employers should never ask in interviews, and then we have questions that aren’t necessarily illegal but are inappropriate for an employer to ask.

Illegal Questions You Should Never Be Asked

Except for a few exceptions, in essence, a census, it is illegal for recruiters in the United States to inquire about applicants’:

  • Birthplace/ citizenship
  • Age/ genetic info
  • Marital information, family, or whether they’re pregnant
  • Race, ethnicity, or color
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Gender or sexuality

Illegal Job Interview Questions Gray Areas

Certain questions can be classified as inappropriate depending on how they are asked and what the employer plans to do with the information they are seeking from you. These areas include:

  • Height or weight
  • Medical questions
  • Financial info
  • Background checks
  • Unemployment status


50+ Illegal Interview Questions That Shouldn’t Be Asked In 2019

So, now that we’ve cleared out what areas the law protects you from talking about, you’ll find it easy to determine the queries which you must answer and those you shouldn’t. Here is a list of illegal interview questions on various topics that talent acquisition executives should not pose:


It isn’t appropriate for hiring managers to demand responses to questions touching on age. In fact, the 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act safeguards employees aged above 40 against this. Examples of such unacceptable questions:

  • When is your birthday?
  • What age will you be this year?
  • Would you tell me the year you were born?
  • When did you complete high school?

Your graduation year falls under this category as it may reveal your age.

When Queries on Age Are Appropriate

Questions on age may be allowed in a few cases. Case in point, a bar owner, may want to confirm if you are over 18 before hiring you for a bartender position.

Citizenship or Country of Origin

In the majority of cases, delving into a person’s citizenship status in an interview for work is against US law. If you have legal paperwork, a hiring manager doesn’t need to know other information regarding your country of birth or citizenship. Examples of unlawful queries in this category include:

  • Are you a citizen of America?
  • Would you share your certificate of birth?
  • Where was your mother/ father born?
  • What place did you learn French?
  • Tell me more about your upbringing?
  • Where is your place of birth?

Legal Queries on Citizenship and Origin

Still, you’ll come across questions touching on citizenship that are within the law, for instance:

  • Are you permitted by law to hold a position in the state?
  • Can you speak/ write/ read in fluent English?
  • If we give you this role, will you verify your citizenship?

Also, it is alright for your prospective boss to inquire about the languages you’re familiar with if the position in question demands it, case in point, a translator role.


Gender Identity and Orientation

Unless your gender as a job seeker is a crucial aspect of the role, queries to do with gender/ sex are generally considered inappropriate for a hiring manager to pose to a prospective hire. Examples of these queries are:

  • What is your sex?
  • Are you male or female?
  • What is your sexual orientation?
  • What would you say you identify as?
  • Have you undergone any gender transition surgeries or similar procedures?


Inquiring about someone’s disabilities or medical conditions is considered illegal. The much an employer is allowed to inquire if you undertake the duties that come with the job. Examples of these discriminatory interview questions are:

  • Are you physically disabled?
  • Have you encountered an injury at work previously?
  • Do you ail from any condition that may hinder you from performing your job?
  • Have you ever claimed worker compensation?

Marital Status and Pregnancy

Questions touching on children, pregnancy, or plans for a family should be left out of the screening room. Talent acquisition executives aren’t authorized to explore queries to do with family life. Examples of no-no questions in this topic:

  • Would you indicate your marital status?
  • Single or married?
  • Are you a parent?

Ethnicity, Color, or Race

Except for an affirmative action program, you should never ask a job seeker queries touching on race or ethnicity. Questions to keep off in these areas include:

  • Which nationality are you?
  • Which ethnic group are you from?
  • What is the color of your skin?
  • What is your race?

Religious Beliefs

Most companies are not allowed to ask religious questions. Unless it’s a religious organization, questions such as the following are illegal:

  • What religion do you belong too?
  • Are you a religious person?
  • Which denomination are you a member of?
  • Who is your priest/ pastor?


Weight and Height

Asking queries about a person’s weight or even height can be perceived as discriminatory or racist. It’s, therefore, illegal to ask:

  • What is your weight?
  • What is your height?

Unemployment Status

Inquiring about unemployment isn’t illegal unless the information acquired is used to alienate people of a particular age, race, or group. A question like the one below would be considered inappropriate:

  • What year did you start working?

Financial Details

Queries regarding financial capabilities have often been used for discriminating minority groups. But unless they touch on religion, origin, age, race, sex, genetic details, or disability, they aren’t really illegal questions during an interview. The queries below (if intended to discriminate) are unlawful:

  • Have you purchased your home or are you renting?
  • Do you own a vehicle? (unless it is part of the position)
  • Do you have debt?

Credit or Background Checks

Background checks aren’t classified as illegal unless they are used to single out protected groups. Examples of inappropriate background or credit questions are:

  • Do you possess a bank account?
  • Has your salary been garnished?
  • Have you ever declared bankruptcy?
  • Do you rent or own your house?

Medical Queries

Among the questions that employers should never ask potential hires in an interview are those to do with medical conditions. Examples include:

  • Have you lost a limb?
  • Do you have any form of disability?

Record of Arrest

In some US states, asking about an applicant’s arrest record is against the law. You cannot ask:

  • Have you ever been arrested?


Unless the job is a sensitive one, an employer isn’t at liberty to ask questions about an interviewee’s convictions. Any conviction questions unrelated to the job are illegal.



Questions to do with education aren’t listed as illegal. However, if they are asked to reveal one’s age, they are illegal. An example:

  • Which year did you graduate?


Availability queries aren’t illegal. But if they’re asked to discriminate some people, they may fall under unlawful questions. For instance:

  • Do you have a problem working on weekends? (it may come off as if asking about one’s religious inclinations)
  • Can you work at night? (if asking discriminately)

Military Discharge

Asking an interviewee about the kind of experience they received that applies to the opening is okay. However, asking about the circumstances for military discharge is inappropriate. For instance:

  • What was the reason for your discharge from the military?
  • Were you working in a non-US military?

Emergency Contact Info

Asking about emergency contacts should not happen before a candidate is hired. It is, therefore, wrong to ask these questions as they may reveal background, sexuality, etc.

Membership to Non-Professional Associations

Employers don’t have the right to ask about a prospective hire’s affiliations to non-professional groups. Such questions may be perceived to reveal someone’s sex, age, or even race. Some of these questions employers cannot ask include the following:

  • Are you a member of any country club?
  • What was your fraternity?

Personal Information

In some instances, personal information can reveal sensitive information about an interviewee’s place of origin, marital status, etc. Examples of such questions include:

  • What is your maiden name?
  • Have you legally changed names?

All that said, the employer might still ask something that you know is against the law or wrong. If it happens, the best course of action is to dodge the query by switching to another subject and later looking for another opening. If you’re extremely offended or wronged, you can launch a complaint against them in the nearest EEOC office. However, remember, most hiring managers are ignorant of the illegal questions an employer cannot ask and end up asking them innocently. In the meantime, practice as many typical and unusual questions for job interviews to ensure you’re well-prepared to land your dream role.

Random posts
4 Ways to Make Yourself Visible to Prospective Employers

Landing a new job is an overwhelming process. If you want to stand out among other competitive applicants and impress recruiters, keep reading. You will learn how to get noticed by recruiters and find out the core strategies to advance your career and make yourself marketable.

Cross-Cultural Interviewing: Overcoming Cultural Differences

Cross culture difference can create a positive or negative impression of you as a candidate. In order to increase your chances to get hired and overcome all cultural challenges read the article below. You will find out the most common cultural interview questions and answers as well as tips that will help you to succeed with a multiphased interview process.

A Guide to Find a Truly LGBTQ Friendly Company

Like any other employees, LGBTQ candidates should thoroughly assess the environment of a company before accepting a role. Luckily, thanks to the Equality Act more organizations than ever are becoming LGBTQ-friendly.

But with that, a major issue arises: how can LGBTQ individuals identify these friendly organizations? Here are some things you can do to determine if a company is friendly and will treat you as a valuable equal.

Banned! Words and Phrases Employees Were Forbidden from Using

There might have been a time when it would have sounded implausible for an organization to tell its employees not to use certain words. The concept of safety words has however caught on in the last few years and this might be proof of the effectiveness of the method to achieving certain ends.

How to Get an Internship in 2019 That Is Not Gross

Despite the overall importance, not many students know how to get an internship. So, check out this guide on how to get an internship in any company, and find out more than 15 websites that can help you find it quickly. 

Here’s What to Do if Your Company Doesn’t Offer Maternity Leave

Giving birth to kids is a vital condition for our biological and economic survival. At the country level, economic growth behooves parents to bring out as many future employees and taxpayers as possible. Unfortunately, women still must make a choice between career and family due to the weak maternity leave laws in our country. Forbes states the USA can’t remain a global economic leader without providing paid family leave for citizens. Are there any ways to defend your rights and enjoy the happiness of parenthood? Let’s try to find out. 


20 Facebook Groups You Can Join to Find Your Next Job

Ah, the age-old routine: you’ve found yourself unemployed, in need of a job, and wanting to not starve to death. Great! What do you do? How do you look for the next job? You might go to an online job board service, such as LinkedIn or Monster, and skim through all the hundreds of jobs. You might get out your newspaper and examine the job listings section. You might even attend a job fair. 

But what if I told you there was another way to find yourself a job? No, this is not one of those freelance markets like UpWork, Freelancer, and Fiverr. I present to you the giant of a site, Facebook. 

50+ Best Questions to Ask an Interviewer to Land a Job

At the end of each interview, a recruiter will ask you “Do you have any questions for me?” In case you have no questions on your mind, you can be sure you will never hear from that company again.

Therefore, we have prepared the list of 50+ great questions to ask in an interview to increase your chances to get a job. The questions will be divided into smaller groups so you can easily choose the most interesting interview questions to ask.

Job Market Trends of 2018

As the end of the year is inevitably approaching, it`s high time to start thinking about the next year. Unfortunately, no one has a crystal ball to tell what the future holds for us; at least, you can start career planning and get ready to take your professional life to the next level. Keep reading this article to understand work market trends of the future and prepare to be the best in your sphere.

Wondering How to Get a Job at Tesla? Follow These Simple Steps

Tesla, oh, Tesla. The Tesla Company is the talk of the town nowadays. This Silicon Valley gem, this marketing disaster/miracle seems to be on everyone’s mind lately. It has been plaguing and terrorizing all of the media outlets for the past 5-6 years. Every day there’s some new article on Tesla, a critique on Tesla’s company policies, an exposé on Elon Musk, an opinion piece on how Tesla is the future of all companies, and the list goes on.