There are laws that govern what questions can and can not be asked in an interview. Questions regarding a candidate’s race, color, sex, religion, national origin, birthplace, age, physical characteristics, disability, and marital status are deemed illegal due to discrimination laws.
Most interviewers ask illegal questions unintentionally. Their intention is often to make conversation or learn more about the candidate’s personality. However, you must be prepared for the fact that some employers will intentionally ask these illegal questions. There really are only three options for answering.
Option 1 – Answer the Question
If you are comfortable with answering the question, then you can simply answer the question and move on. Keep in mind that you are providing information that is unrelated to your ability to do the job. Consider whether the answer may impact negatively upon you.
Option 2 – Refuse to Answer the Question
This is the least advised of the options because you may come across as confrontational. This option should only be exercised for questions that are truly invasive or offensive. You may consider saying something such as “That is an interesting question that I have not been asked before in an interview. Can you tell my why are you asking the question?”
Option 3 – Don’t Answer the Question, Address the Intent of the Question
This is likely the most effective method of addressing illegal questions. Keep in mind that discrimination is usually based in fear. Define the fear behind the question and you can address that fear without answering the question.
For example if an employer asks “Do you have any children?” they may be concerned that you are not available to work weekends, overtime, or travel for the job. Avoid providing personal details by saying something such as “I am very committed to working for your company and have a thorough understanding of the demands of the schedule. Be assured that I have made all necessary arrangements to be able to meet the requirements of the job.”
Use the interview process to screen your potential employer. If a company asks multiple illegal, invasive, or personal questions in the interview, you may want to consider if they are the kind of company where you would enjoy working.