Illegal Interview Questions

Don't Ask These Illegal Interview Questions

Employment discrimination is a sensitive topic.

Unfortunately, the interview process presents many opportunities for employees to unknowingly ask candidates questions that could violate discrimination laws.

For the record, U.S. law prohibits discrimination by age, race, gender, national origin, citizenship, disabilities, marital status, sexual orientation, arrest and conviction record, military discharge status and pregnancy status.

While it’s natural to be curious about someone’s ethnic background, personal history, life situation and health, these factors have been determined by U.S. federal and state governments to have no impact on job performance. When the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was created upon the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, protections were enacted to create a more equal playing field in the workplace.

Recent research by Glassdoor on the gender pay gap proves that, more than 50 years later, we haven’t yet achieved our quest for workplace equality.


Before the interview, read this

Because the interview process is where your relationship with future employees starts, it’s essential that interviewers know the questions on the don’t ask list. Otherwise, you may be risking a future lawsuit, which can potentially damage your company’s reputation and trust with other candidates and current employees.

Needless to say, rejected or disqualified candidates, by the very nature of the job application process, have a heightened degree of sensitivity, often recalling in detail every question asked during their interview.

Our new eBook How to Conduct Better Interviewsincludes the following list of illegal interview questions. To head off discrimination lawsuits, share them with anyone at your company who interviews candidates.

List of Illegal Interview Questions

  • How old are you?
  • When did you graduate from _______?
  • Are you married?
  • Are you gay?
  • Do you have/plan on having children?
  • Who will take care of your children while you’re at work?
  • Is English your first language?
  • Are you a U.S. citizen?
  • What country are you from?
  • Where were you/your parents born?
  • What is your religion?
  • Where do you go to church?
  • What clubs or social organizations do you belong to?
  • Do you have any disabilities?
  • How is your health?
  • How tall are you? How much do you weigh?
  • Have you ever been arrested?
  • If you’ve been in the military, were you honorably discharged?

Note: This list is not intended to be complete or constitute legal advice. If you have questions about the legality of interview questions, please consult your organization’s attorney. For more tips, checklists and templates on improving your interview process and getting better candidates in the door, download the complete How to Conduct Better Interviewsguide.