When interviewing for a job, you should understand your rights as an applicant. You have the right to certain privacies and by law, employers cannot ask you questions regarding specific personal information.
So what can and can’t an employer ask you in an interview? Specifics on age, gender or sex, religion, country of origin, disability, pregnancy, marital or family status, living situation, if you’ve previously applied for workman’s compensation, credit, and financial status are all examples of topics that should not be explicitly asked in an interview (“Illegal Interview Questions- What Not To Ask Candidates”, 2019). If the applicant offers the information on their own, that is at their discretion. The interviewer may ask around these topics in order to be sure that the applicant is available and physically capable of doing the job, but that is the extent that the questioning can go.
Why would an interviewer ask these personal questions in the first place? Some may ask because they want to get to know more about their applicants and they are unaware of what is appropriate and what is not, but applicants are still entitled to privacy rights. Especially in the cases of questioning that may have discriminatory motives, the applicant is not required to answer illegal interview questions.
So, what do you do if an interviewer asks an illegal or inappropriate question? Depending on your personality and comfort with confrontation, there a few ways to handle this situation respectfully and maturely. The simple one—answer the question. For example, if asked about your religious beliefs, you could answer “I attend church, but I prefer to keep my views separate from work” (Doyle, 2019). This way of dealing with the situation is much less confrontational, but still gives up the applicant’s rights to privacy. Applicants are also entitled to not answer these sorts of questions. If an applicant feels uncomfortable or like their privacy is being invaded by the questions, they could simply ask how the information relates to the job being discussed. If it doesn’t, redirect the conversation.
Furthermore, if a truly inappropriate or offensive question is asked, this is the time to decide if the employer is one in which you would like to work. IT is not a good sign if your interviewer is unaware of what questions can and cannot be asked. Pay attention to your impression of the culture at the workplace, and think about if it is one in which you would enjoy to work and thrive.
Although most HR personnel should be familiar with (and using) the appropriate practices for interviewing candidates, it may not always go as expected. If you are an applicant that is educated on your rights, and you communicate effectively, this should be of no issue.
Doyle, A. (2019, March 14). Tips for How to Answer Interview Questions Employers
Should Not Ask. Retrieved from https://www.thebalancecareers.com/how-to-answer inappropriate-interview-questions-2061334
Illegal Interview Questions – What Not to Ask Candidates. (2019, May 22). Retrieved from
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