Home > Tips from the Pros > How to answer Illegal Interview Questions

How to answer Illegal Interview Questions

Federal and state laws world wide prohibit potential employers from asking certain questions that are not directly related to the job they are hiring for. Examples of illegal questions include: Race, Color, Sex, Religion, National origin, Birthplace, Age, Disability, Marital/family status

But the question is how do you handle this type of question when you’re being interviewed?

The interview process is hard enough without having to dodge your way through illegal questions.

Refusing to answer the question or becoming angry at the interviewer will probably cost you the chance of getting the job (However do you want to work at this type of company?)

My advice is to answer the INTENTION of the question. You need to understand and be aware of what the interviewer is really trying to find out. You need to measure the motive behind the question and if you believe the question to be “innocent” then go on the offensive with your response.


Question: Are you a U.S. citizen” (illegal question) 

Now what is the intent of this question? Is the interviewer discriminating against non US residents or are they just making sure you are authorized to work in the USA?

If the intent of the question is finding out if I am authorized to work in the USA my answer would be:  “I am legally allowed and approved to work in the United States”

If you’re interviewing for a job which has long hours and overtime – The interviewer asks you “your marital status”. Again it’s important to figure out the intent of the question. Are they asking you this question on a malicious intent (which is illegal and thus should be reported) or is the question intended because of the long hours? If you believe it’s because of the long hours my answer would be: “I am available to work the hours required including overtime and weekends”

Just remember – Not all interviewers are even aware that they have asked an illegal question. Instead of getting defensive or angry take a moment to realise what the intention of the question is and answer accordingly. Even in this type of situation you can turn an inappropriate question to your advantage by showing the interviewer you’re an intelligent and composed person

Good Luck


© RedStarResume Publications – www.redstarresume.com

Gavin is the founder of “RedStarResume.” We are an online business that helps college students, graduates and young professionals with their resume writing and job searching.

Categories: Tips from the Pros
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