How to Answer Illegal Interview Questions

July 21, 2015

It happens a lot. An illegal question is asked by someone interviewing you for a job. Often it’s just accidental. That doesn’t excuse it, but when possible the most diplomatic response is an artful dodge. Obviously you are within your rights to not answer any question legal or illegal in an interview, but this is an opportunity to show tact and it’s also something to consider when you decide if you want to work for this company: are they shady, or was that just an understandable accident?

Usually it’s just a matter of clipping the illegal part off the question out, the way you’d prune dead tips from the leaves of a plant. For example, if someone asked you if you would feel comfortable leading a team of women, you can answer as if they didn’t bring gender into the question. I have great leadership skills and have shown them at XYZ. Gender questions are off limits. If they push the woman angle then you should really consider if you want to work for these people.

Questions of nationality or race are illegal, but companies are under strict regulations to not hire anyone that can’t legally work in the states. Your prospective employer obviously has the right to know if they can legally hire you and your response to questions like Where were you were born? or that’s a unique name you have, where are you from? can be sent back with something like if you asking me if I am legally authorized to work in this country, I assure you I am. The light nudge back into legal territory should keep your interviewer on track in a pleasant way.

Most illegal interview questions are asked by accident, but not always. Inquiries are about whether or not you have children or are planning to have children are illegal and it’s probably no accident they’ve been asked. These are tougher to dodge but you can say that what you’re interested in growing your career and that’s why you’re here. If you answer with a smile they should get the jist. This is a little bit of a red flag though, and something to keep in mind if you happen to get an offer letter from this company. Maybe not a dealbreaker, but something to weigh.

Questions about the following are illegal:
Race, Nationality
Credit (a few exceptions)
Marital/Family Status

About NextGen

NextGen is the brainchild of longtime telecom professionals with nearly 50 years of experience and millions of dollars in Telecom Recruiting Services. We focus on establishing long term relationships with our clients and candidates so we can recruit the best and the brightest in the telecom industry. This ‘quality over quantity’ approach is at the heart of everything we do and has resulted in successful job placements at Fortune 1000 firms worldwide.

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