7 Illegal & Inappropriate Job Interview Questions

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The hiring process is stressful for employers, recruiters, and job seekers. The first two parties want to hire the best candidates to their team, while the candidates hope to impress potential employers.

It’s understandable for hiring teams to want to ask as many questions as possible in order to get to know the candidates. However, interviewers must be aware of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act (EEOA) which prohibits asking questions that might lead to discrimination or the appearance of discrimination. Job seekers need to know this as well so they know which questions they can refuse to answer during a job interview.

Check the list of these illegal or inappropriate job interview questions to avoid below:

1. Questions About Geography and Ethnicity

It feels normal for us to ask questions about where someone comes from when we want to know their origin, nationality, or even ethnicity. Perhaps that occurs after we notice their unique accent or certain appearances. Seems harmless, but no, it’s actually illegal.

To check whether a candidate is eligible to work in the country or area they’ll be assigned to, simply ask if they would be able to provide supporting employment documents. Feel free to decline explaining about your origins, job seekers, because you’re not required to answer.

2. Age

More and more hiring teams and job seekers need to know about The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. It protects people who are 40 or older from discrimination because of age. Therefore, questions about age should never be asked in a job interview, and candidates can simply refuse to answer by referring to the Act. Asking when a candidate graduates from high school or when they started working are not acceptable either.

If the job has a minimum age requirement or other limitations, like if it involves dealing with alcohol, employers should ask “Are you over the age of 21?”

3. Marital Status

According to an article on The Equal Employment Opportunity (EEOA) website, generally, during the recruitment process, non job-related questions involving marital status, number and/or ages of children or dependents, or names of spouses or children of the applicant should not be raised. Those details could be clarified after an employment offer has been made and accepted if needed for insurance or other legitimate business purposes.

Asking other versions of “Are you married,” or “Have you been married,” are also a violation of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Hot Tip: Come across these questions in an interview? You have every right to refuse to answer according to the law.

4. Family Planning

The next common questions in a job interview that should also be disregarded are related to family planning. This includes asking if an applicant has a plan to get married or get pregnant in the near future. 

Why? Because historically many employers use this information to create and maintain a gender imbalance; some companies have preferred hiring men over women with the assumption that female workers will take maternity leave or prioritize their family.

When a candidate discloses on their own about their family and mentions children, employers are not allowed to ask personal questions about them, such as child-care arrangement or the kids’ school.

5. Health

Asking about someone’s health, such as past illnesses or medical procedures, is illegal. If the job requires certain physical abilities from a candidate, the questions to ask in the screening interview should be something like, “Are you able to perform the requirements of this position safely?” 

Questions about applicants’ weight and height are also prohibited because it can lead to discrimination. Unless job-related, inquiries about these topics should be disregarded by job seekers.

6. Pay History

Questions about the candidate’s past and current salaries cannot be asked. Obvious examples are: “What’s your current pay?”, “Do you own your home?”, and “Do you own a car?” These inquiries have been used by employers to determine the base salary for a new hire according to their financial status. The salary for any given position should be decided up front.

7. Religion

Read the following job interview questions: “What is your religion?”, “What church do you belong to?”, “What is the name of your pastor or your Imam?” What religious holidays do you celebrate?” These questions are all inappropriate to ask and violate the EEOA.

When being asked religion-related questions during a job interview, candidates can remind recruiters that those are non job-related and problematic under federal law.


For recruiters and employers, be sure to scratch these questions off your list and for job seekers, know your rights and be sure to protect them and your privacy by disregarding any illegal questions.