Interviewers are supposed to pursue their employer’s best interest. Consequently, during interviews they may be tempted to gather all the relevant information from an interviewee in an attempt to establish if they are the best fit. However, you are bound by law to ask only legit questions.

It is technically illegal for you to ask illegal interview question that include a question about interviewee’s status in the protected class. Protected class includes aspects such as age, religion, race and pregnancy. Any question that probes into any of these areas is deemed by law to have veered off the limits. The following are some of the illegal questions that interviewers should not ask.

1. Gender

Questions under this category include “Do you feel a woman can perform this task efficiently?” Such a question is not only discriminatory but also constitutes an illegal interview question. Absolutely nothing touching on gender should be asked during an interview. Even when it is twisted to be, for example, “As a single mother, how are you going to take care of your kids while playing this role?” You should not ask a prospective employee about who is taking care of their children.

The law prohibits basing employment decisions on any gender stereotype. Asserting, for instance, that men or women with children are not suitable to work compared to those without is regarded as an illegal interview question.

2. Age

The law prohibits the practice of passing up young candidates for older, more experienced ones and pushing aside older workers for younger employees who tend to cost less. Interviewers should, therefore, desist from asking questions such as, “When did you graduate?” because anyone with a good knowledge of how mathematics work will know that this is a deliberate way of calculating an interviewee’s age. If you, as an interviewer, need to know the age of a candidate for any good reason, be ready to explain to them how that applies to his or her candidacy. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to create an impression that the management in your organization discriminates workers against age.

3. Nationality, citizenship or language

illegal interview question

Employers can land in huge trouble for employing persons not legally permitted to work in their countries. As such some employers take stringent measures to establish in advance if their applicants are legally allowed to work in their countries. However, the only way you can get such information is to ask the question directly. For instance, “Are you authorized to work in the country legally?” any other question including, “Where do you come from,” and “What is your native country?” is simply an illegal interview question. Digging into where your interviewee comes from amounts to nationality discrimination which is prohibited by law. Moreover, don’t ask a prospective employee if English is their first language.

4. Physical abnormality

The law prohibits discriminating any prospective employee on the grounds of physical disability. As a matter of fact, discriminating against actual disability or even perceived, that is, those regarded to be physically challenged a gross violation of the law. You can, however, ask an interviewee if he or she can perform crucial functions of the position with or without the provision of accommodation. Such a question is in no way an illegal interview question. This is because the interviewee will factor in their incapacitation and after that gauge if they will be able to do the job. You are not supposed to base your judgment on any physical disability of the person and then proceed to deny them the opportunity. Doing so is against the law.

5. Family or marital status

Questions fishing for information on a candidate’s family plans (engagement, marriage, and childbearing) are prohibited by law because they fall under pregnancy discrimination category. You are not allowed to make judgments concerning an applicant’s dedication to work on account of their having children or possibility to having children in the future.

As such you should not ask questions such as “When do you intend to have children?” and “Do you plan to get married in the future?” These are illegal interview questions. Instead, to know if a candidate will be committed to the job, you can ask questions such as, “What hours will you be able to work?” and “Do you have any other commitments that will interfere with crucial job requirements including traveling?”

Asking an obviously pregnant candidate when her baby is due is not appropriate because it seeks information on her pregnancy. Discrimination on account of pregnancy is a violation of the law.

6. Arrest record

While it is legal to ask a candidate if they have ever been condemned for a crime by law, asking if they have ever been arrested is squarely an illegal interview question. The reason is, possibly the cases were dismissed without the candidate being convicted or the initial charges were lowered to lesser charges. Avoid at all costs asking an interviewee about their arrests record. You are, however, allowed by law to search independently to establish if there are records of arrests obtainable online.

7. Religion

Asking a candidate what religion they are or which religious holidays they observe, constitutes an illegal interview question. While religion may affect the need for an employee to take a leave, discussing the religion of an interviewee is illegal. You can, nonetheless ask a candidate if they can work on, say, Sunday without tying it to any particular religion. Regard any employee who promises to work the schedule designed for the position at hand as the right candidate without digging deeper to know what their religion is.

illegal interview question


Most of the time an illegal interview question is not asked with ill motive. You should, however, avoid the temptation to use any illegal interview question in an attempt to spark a conversation. Know what makes an  illegal interview question and frame all your interview questions in a legal manner.

Asking an illegal question

If you have a good reason for asking any illegal interview question, be sure to state clearly how the question relates to certain occupational qualifications. This way, the questions will be legitimate. A candidate is within their rights to decline a question that makes them uncomfortable. So, take your time to explain the intent behind any illegal interview question.

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