Illegal Interview Questions

The principal objective to do interviews is to obtain information about person's abilities to do a job and avoid the illegal interview questions, so every companies must know that state and federal laws only allow employers making questions to get this objective and questions unrelated to the job and to find out personal information are illegals.

That is to say, employers should not ask questions about religion, race, color, age, marital status, gender, sexual preference, ethnic background, disabilities or country of origin. You can protect your company and yourself from embarrassment and legal trouble, if you avoid the wrong questions, below are some examples about illegal interview questions:

Race, Color and Religion

Illegal interview questions

Questions about a person's color, race and religion are prohibited and considered discrimination, so this subject should be treated with great care and if it is possible, you have to avoid them. However, there are some questions that can help to get the information you need.

Example of Illegal Questions

  • What religion do you practice?
  • Which religious holiday do you observe?
  • Do you belong to a club or social organization?

Possible Legal Alternatives

  • What days are you available to work?
  • Are you able to work with our required schedule?
  • Are you a member of a professional or trade group that is relevant to our industry?


It must avoid questions related to age, due to discrimination against people over 40 years is prohibited by state law. However, there are few jobs such as driving a school bus or physically dangerous work where employers can ask questions based on age to know is a person is old enough to do the job.

Example of Illegal Questions

  • How old are you?
  • What year were you born?
  • When is your birthday?
  • What year did you graduate from college/high school?
  • How much longer do you plan to work before you retire?

Possible Legal Alternatives

  • Are you over the age of 18?
  • What are your long-term career goals?

Marital and Family Status

In many companies, it is a requirement that employees are present full-time, avoid in the possible the tardiness and absenteeism, and your company is not the exception therefore you'll probably need to include some family and marital status questions, but be careful with inappropriate questions.

Example of Illegal Questions

  • Is this your maiden name?
  • Do you have or plan to have children?
  • Can you get a babysitter on short notice for overtime or travel?
  • Do you have kids?
  • Who is your closest relative to notify in case of an emergency?
  • What do your parents do for a living?
  • If you get pregnant, will you continue to work, and will you come back after maternity leave?

Possible Legal Alternatives

  • Have you worked or earned a degree under another name?
  • Are you available to work overtime on occasion? Can you travel?
  • You'll be required to travel or work overtime on short notice. Is this a problem for you? Or Travel is an important part of the job. Do you have any restrictions on your ability to travel?
  • What is your experience with "x" age group?
  • In case of emergency, who should we notify?
  • Tell me how you became interested in the "x" industry.
  • What are your long-term career goals?


Questions about a person's gender are inappropriate and prohibited, however, you have to ensure don't make assumptions about a candidate's abilities and you can make some questions to clarify certain points, without to cause offence to your interviewee.

Example of Illegal Questions

  • We've always had a man/woman do this job. How do you think you will stack up?
  • How do you feel about supervising men/women?
  • What do you think of interoffice dating?

Possible Legal Alternatives

  • What do you have to offer our company?
  • Tell me about you previous experience managing teams.
  • Have you ever been disciplined for your behavior at work?


As in any business, you must be sure that a person may legally work in your company, therefore it is necessary to make some questions such as language and address citizenship, but you don't forget to be very careful how you ask these questions.

Example of Illegal Questions

  • Are you a U.S. citizen?
  • What is your native tongue?
  • How long have you lived here?

Possible Legal Alternatives

  • Are you authorized to work in the U.S.?
  • What languages do you read, speak or write fluently?
  • What is your current address and phone number? Do you have any alternative locations where you can be reached?

Health and Physical Abilities

It is important the employees' abilities and health are good, but you have to be careful with discrimination and assumptions, so there are some questions that can help you to avoid the legal troubles and get the information you need.

Example of Illegal Questions

  • Do you smoke or drink?
  • Do you take drugs?
  • How tall are you?
  • How much do you weigh?
  • How many sick days did you take last year?
  • Do you have any disabilities?
  • Have you had any recent or past illnesses or operations?

Possible Legal Alternatives

  • In the past, have you been disciplined for violating company policies forbidding the use of alcohol or tobacco products?
  • Do you use illegal drugs?
  • Are you able to reach items on a shelf that's five feet tall?
  • Are you able to lift boxes weighing up to 50 pounds?
  • How many days of work did you miss last year?
  • Are you able to perform the specific duties of this position?
  • Are you able to perform the essential functions of this job with or without reasonable accommodations?

The interview questions are very important to obtain information and thus choose between the candidates, however it should be noted that there exist a large number of illegal interview questions to avoid.