When you prepare for an interview, you feel the need to have an answer for every question you are asked.
But did you know there are questions a prospective employer is not allowed to ask you? Federal law prohibits interview questions that could lead to discrimination or even the appearance of discrimination.
But what are those off-limit interview questions? Below are several examples of questions that employers are prohibited from asking you, and how you should respond.
1. How old are you?
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act makes it unlawful for an employer to ask questions about your age or even when you plan on retiring. As long as you are of legal age to work, all other age-related questions are off-limits.
How to respond: The simplest way to respond to age-related questions is to tell the interviewer you are over the age of 18.
2. Are you religious?
An employer is not allowed to ask you if you are religious, if you adhere to specific religious tenants, or if you observe any religious holidays.
How to respond: Most religious questions are innocent and not meant to violate any law. But the interviewer’s intent does not make the question any more permissive. It is likely your interviewer is asking about your religious beliefs to understand your availability to work holidays or certain days of the week. Respond to those concerns instead and you can avoid discussing religion.
3. What is your race or ethnic background?
National origin and race are federally protected classifications. Thus, you are under no obligation to answer any questions about your nationality, race, color, citizenship, or even how long you have lived in the United States.
How to respond: You can keep this response just as simple as you did when responding to age-related questions. Let your employer know you are eligible to work in the United States and move on.
4. What is your sex?
Sex-based discrimination is also prohibited under federal law. There are many different times of questions that fall under sex discrimination, such as whether you are married, have kids, or are pregnant.
How to respond: There are several ways you can respond. One approach is to use a judo-like technique and turn the question on the interviewer by asking about his or her family. But in most cases, just like with religious-related questions, the employer’s concern is probably rooted in availability and your ability to handle all job responsibilities. Respond to those specific concerns.
There are many other impermissible questions beyond those listed. For example, an employer cannot ask whether you have any disabilities or even if you are genetically pre-disposed to illnesses. Further, the questions listed above are only those prohibited under federal law. Many states have passed additional laws that prohibit an even wider range of questions. A quick google search will help you determine which interview questions are off-limits in your state.
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