(Last Updated On: 02/06/2011)

Unacceptable Interview Questions

In a U.S.-based job interview, it is generally illegal to ask questions about a persons age, ethnicity, religion, race, citizenship, military record, sexual orientation, marital status, arrest record, and/or disabilities. Often these questions are asked because an interviewer isnt aware of the restrictions. The questions might be something like, “Will your spouse object to your traveling alone or with members of the opposite sex?” or “How would you feel about reporting to a younger supervisor?”

You can refuse to answer, which will probably create an unpleasant atmosphere in the interview. You can respond to the offensive question; it may well be that there was no pernicious intent to the question and your response, whatever it is, will be inconsequential. Or you can answer the underlying question, ignoring the offensive issue.

For example, the question regarding your spouse’s attitude about work-related travel contains a legitimate, though unspoken, question. “This job requires travel. How do you feel about that?” You can respond to that on your own terms. Simply tell the employer that travel is not a problem for you (assuming it isn’t, of course). To answer the question about reporting to a younger supervisor, talk about the relationship that you’d like between you and your supervisor, not the age.

Thinking this through in advance will keep you from feeling flustered during the interview.