6 Illegal Interview Questions to Avoid
June 25, 2010
ILLEGAL: “Are you a U.S. citizen?”
LEGAL: “Are you authorized to work in the U.S.?”
Employers aren’t allowed to ask about your national origin, and that includes inquiring about your citizenship status. Touchy immigration issues aside, this question makes unnecessary assumptions based on your looks and racial stereotypes. On the flip side, employers can ask if you’re allowed to work in the U.S. By rephrasing the question, they’re avoiding directly asking if you’re a citizen, green card holder, or on a visa.
ILLEGAL: “How old are you? When did you graduate from college?”
LEGAL: “Are you over the age of 18?”
Whether you’re 18 going on 48 or 60 going on 40, employers are not allowed to discriminate against age (which is what the first question implies). However, when asked differently, the question becomes legal; the legal phrasing implies an age range, not a specific number. After all, employers need to know their employees are over 18 years of age to work legally in the U.S.
ILLEGAL: "Are you married? How many children do you have? Who do you live with?
LEGAL: “Can you relocate if necessary? Are you willing to travel as a part of this job? Can you work overtime as necessary?”
Your marital and family status is not being interviewed here — you are. Anything about your living situation, roommates, fiancés, spouses, children, etc., is off limits. While employers might simply be trying to gauge how busy you are in your personal life to see if it clashes with work responsibilities, it’s illegal to make a hiring decision based on this factor. As a potential employee, if you can commit to the necessary work hours and agree to the job requirements, your other responsibilities shouldn’t matter. Women should especially be wary of being asked for their maiden name — not required for employers if it isn’t legally your name. (But you can be asked if you’ve ever worked under another name.)