How to Handle Inappropriate or Illegal Interview Questions?

Interview questions that are inappropriate or illegal should not be asked. However, you should always be prepared for them. These questions might make some applicants feel awkward, humiliated, and puzzled, even if they are asked innocently by the interviewer. Knowing how to spot them and how to respond can help you stay safe while also moving the interview along.

How do I know if a question is inappropriate or illegal?

Queries about the following are common examples of inappropriate or illegal questions:

  • Age
  • Race, Ethnicity, or Color
  • Gender or Sex
  • Country of Natural Origin or Birth Place or Citizenship or Language
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Marital or Family Status
  • Salary History

Certain questions are deemed inappropriate or illegal because they may encourage an interviewer to prejudice against you as a candidate, either intentionally or unwittingly. If you say yes when asked if you are married, for example, an interviewer may conclude that you are less eager to travel for a job, even if this is not the case.

The basic rule of thumb to knowing whether a question is appropriate or not is: Does the question have anything to do with your work skills or experience for the job you are applying for?

How do I respond?

It can be difficult to respond to queries that are inappropriate or illegal. You have the option of answering the question honestly, albeit doing so may endanger your employment application. You can also refuse to answer the question, which may be appropriate in some circumstances but may make you appear defensive or unpleasant if the question was not asked with ulterior purposes.

Fortunately, there are methods to respond to these inquiries without being evasive or rude:

  • Politely avoid the question and steer the conversation elsewhere
  • Keep your answers short and general
  • Ask the interviewer why the question is relevant to your job

Remember that these questions are occasionally asked unintentionally by interviewers who are just trying to strike up a discussion and haven’t been properly schooled on which topics to avoid. Going straight to “I’d prefer not to answer that” in this situation can lead to unnecessary embarrassment. First, do your utmost to deflect the question tactfully.

For you to be fully prepared, we have created a list of such questions you must deflect when asked in an interview 👇🏾

  1. Are you planning on starting a family?
    This illegal interview question is a problem since it is asked of women far more frequently than men. However, the employer is looking to see if you’ll be dedicated to the job and your career. “I’m not there yet,” is an appropriate response to this. “I’m interested in the company’s growth and career development opportunities. Could you tell me more?”
  2. When did you graduate from college?
    You have a few options for replying to interview inquiries concerning when you graduated or your age. Even if the question shouldn’t be asked, you could answer it if you believe your response won’t jeopardize your prospects of earning a job offer. A second option is to say, “I’d be happy to answer, but I’m not sure why you need this information.” That could save you from having to respond directly. At the very least, you’ll learn why you were questioned and have the option of responding – or not.
  3. Have you ever been arrested?
    Asking about a candidate’s arrest history is an illegal interview question. Because neither criminal conviction nor illegal drug usage are protected categories, the hiring manager can ask if you have been convicted of a crime or if you have used illicit drugs in the recent three months.
  4. Tell me about your disability and how it has shaped you?
    If you find yourself in this situation, say something like, “I believe what you’re trying to get at is how well I’ll do in this capacity. I have to tell you that my previous project management experience is exactly what you’re seeking for. I’m fully dedicated, and I’m ecstatic at the prospect of assisting you and the organization in moving this initiative ahead.”
  5. How much did you get paid at your last job?
    Try to avoid having this talk until you have a concrete offer. However, if you’re questioned before then, don’t give a direct answer. Reply by putting the question back in the interviewer’s hands. “I’d like to learn more about the role and its responsibilities before I consider compensation,” you could add. It’s in your best interest to persuade the interviewer to reveal the wage range for the position before you say anything! In terms of the negotiation, you now have the upper hand.

If you learn to identify inappropriate or illegal questions, you’ll be better prepared to respond so that both you and your interviewer can avoid awkwardness and move on to the next question.

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