Handling Illegal Interview Questions: What Job Seekers Need to Know

Job interviews can be stressful enough without being asked illegal or discriminatory questions. As a job seeker, it's important to know your rights and how to handle these situations if they arise. In this article, we'll discuss what constitutes illegal interview questions, how to respond to them, and what actions you can take to protect your rights.

What are Illegal Interview Questions?

Illegal interview questions are those that violate federal or state laws prohibiting discrimination based on certain characteristics, such as age, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability, and marital status. Examples of illegal questions include:

  • How old are you?
  • Are you married?
  • Do you have children?
  • What is your religion?
  • Have you ever been arrested?

These questions are not relevant to the job and can be used to discriminate against job seekers.

How to Respond to Illegal Interview Questions

If you're asked an illegal interview question, you have several options. You can answer the question, decline to answer, or redirect the conversation. Here are some strategies to consider:

Answer the Question: If you feel comfortable, you can choose to answer the question truthfully. However, keep in mind that your answer may reveal information that could be used against you.

Decline to Answer: Another option is to politely decline to answer the question. You can say something like, "I'm not comfortable discussing that topic" or "I don't believe that information is relevant to my ability to perform the job."

Redirect the Conversation: You can also redirect the conversation back to the job and your qualifications. For example, if asked about your marital status, you can say, "I understand that's not a legal question, but I'd like to talk about how my skills and experience align with the job requirements."

What Actions Can You Take?

If you believe that you've been asked illegal interview questions, there are several actions you can take to protect your rights:

  • Politely point out that the question is illegal and decline to answer.
  • Report the incident to the interviewer's supervisor or HR department.
  • File a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or your state's fair employment practices agency.
  • Consult with an employment attorney to discuss your legal options.


Illegal interview questions are a serious issue in the job search process, but with knowledge and preparation, you can handle these situations professionally and protect your rights. Remember to stay calm, know your rights, and have a plan for how to respond. By doing so, you can focus on showcasing your skills and qualifications and increase your chances of landing the job.

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