We should not discriminate job candidates because of their race, age, maternity, religion, disability, gender, skin color, and other things. The same thing is true about the employers, and the people who lead a job interview–job applicants should not discriminate them. Once you ask someone a question that relates to their race or religion, you risk a legal action being taken against you.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal agency that administers and enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination in the United States. Similar institutions operate in many other countries of the world.


Do not risk your reputation

The job applicants can submit their charges against you. This can easily jeopardize both the reputation of your company, and your own professional career. You will likely be fired (if you are not the owner of the company), and it will be difficult to get a new job with this scar on your resume

What is more, we live in an era of social media. Even when they do not proceed with a legal claim, they can write a lot of bad things about you online. This is exactly the kind of news that spreads like a flu–people like it, share it, retweet it. Two days later, you have cameramen and reporters rushing to your company…. Let’s talk a bit more about the legal and illegal questions in an interview.


What to do if they ask you an illegal question?

Every job seeker who feels discriminated because of their gender, religion, age or sex can address the EEOC with their claim.

If you are a job seeker, think twice before you sue the employer. You can barely gain anything with the legal action. Employer might end up guilty, paying a penalty, and losing their reputation. But nobody can oblige them to give you a job afterwards…

Going to court is no fun. Perhaps you can make an agreement, and get some money, but at the end of the day you should focus on your job search…

Shaking hands in the final interview, we can see two hands, man wears a black jacket, a woman a brown one.

List of questions that can be considered illegal

  • How old are you?
  • When did you finish your college?
  • What is your original nationality?
  • Can you tell me something more about your origin?
  • Where do you come from?
  • Where does your grandfather come from?
  • What is your religion?
  • Will you need several days off per year to follow some religious rituals?
  • Do you have children?
  • Do you plan to have any more children?
  • How much of your time do your children consume?
  • How many years have you left until you reach the age of retirement?
  • Don’t you think your health conditions may limit you in this job?
  • Do you believe in God?
  • Do your children still visit the school?
  • Are you married, or single?
  • Are you in a serious relationship with somebody?
  • What are you willing to do to proceed to the next round of interviews?


Everything depends on the context of the interview

Some of the question mentioned above can be considered illegal, but they do not necessarily have to be. It depends on the context of the interview, and on the position you apply for.  In many cases, a question can be justified.

If you visit one of the popular job boards, you will find that many offers indicate the preferred age of an applicant, or gender. Some do it in a very direct way, some in an indirect one, telling you that you can apply but not succeed, in a more polite way. Is this a discrimination? Or, do they simply need such a person, because of the nature of the job, the team of people who work in the company, or because of some other reason?


It is better to tell everything on a job description

I believe (but consider it only my opinion) that it is better to show your cards, to tell the job applicants as much as you can. It makes no sense to let (or even encourage) people in their fifties to apply for your offer, if you know, and are 100% sure about it) that you want to hire someone young for the job, someone in their twenties or thirties.

Telling the truth immediately will save the precious time of many job applicants. If they didn’t waste time applying for your job offer (not knowing that their application is deemed to fail), they could focus on applying for a job which they could realistically get.


Conclusion – employers

If you are an employer, try to avoid asking questions that can be considered illegal. You should understand what you need to know from the resume of each applicant–their age, religion, whatever. And if you are not sure, you can do some research about them (check their social media accounts, google their name, read what the search results have to say).

If you find something that doesn’t get along with your company policy, or something that is clearly a showstopper, and you know you won’t hire them, then do not invite them for the interview. Save their time. Save your time. Avoid occurred situations.


Conclusion – job seekers

If you belong to the job seekers, try to focus on more important issues. Try to spend your time applying for jobs you can realistically get. Of course you can complain, you can fill your claim, you can damage the reputation of a company that deserves to be spit on. At the end of the day, however, what does it change for you?

You still want the job, or need one. And you want to work for a serious company.

You want to spend your days at a place where they do not discriminate people, where we all have equal opportunities. Such companies do exist, and you should spend your time trying to get a job with one of them, instead of battling with a company that will not hire you anyway


Other articles on Interview Penguin that may interest you:

  • Interviewing techniques – Four basic techniques to interview job candidates. Pick the one that suits your situation and recruitment needs, and choose the best person for the job.
  • Most common interview questions – Learn how to answer the most common interview questions, such as “Why should we hire you?”, “What motivates you in job?”, or “What are your weaknesses?”. Prepare for the tough questions and ace your interview.
  • Good questions to ask the job candidates – A simple guide to help you understand what questions you should ask the job candidates in an interview.
Matthew Chulaw
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