As we approach graduation, many of my students are already interviewing for jobs. But students, you must be aware that you may be asked unethical and illegal questions. You must know your rights in order to protect yourself in a job interview. The purpose of this post is to inform and educate you on the traps and tricks you may encounter so that you will be best prepared for a successful, fair, and professional job interview.
The personal interview is a logical and necessary part of the process of making hiring decisions. However, it can be filled with unethical and illegal questions. The simple truth about the job interview is that any questions that tries to get at an individual’s personal attributes, orientations, or background is illegal. Employers cannot ethically or legally ask you about personal matters. The interview questions must be kept to job requirements and to the qualifications of the applicant for that job.
There are specific things that you cannot be asked in a job interview. Here is the list:
- Questions about your race. Making race a factor in the hiring decision process is illegal. However, it is legal for an employer to ask an applicant if he or she is legally authorized to work in the United States on a full-time basis.
- Questions about where your were born or your native language. National origin is a no-no for job interview questions.
- Questions about sexual preference. Sexual preference has no legal bearing on whether or not an applicant can perform the job.
- Questions designed to find out if you’re married, pregnant or planning to have a baby. Women have historically been discriminated against because they have or may plan on having a baby, thereby missing work for periods of time. Questions related to children or plans for a family, etc., are all illegal.
- Questions relating to drugs or alcohol use or abuse. Be careful of this topic, although it is legal to ask whether an applicant uses illegal drugs.
- Questions regarding hospital stays. To protect your privacy, it is illegal to ask about your medical history.
- Questions about existing or potential mental illness. This is an invasion of your right to privacy, and therefore, is illegal to ask in a job interview.
- Questions about disability. Unless you have a disability and willingly disclose it, then this topic is illegal in a job interview.
- Questions concerning religion or about your personal faith, such as “do you celebrate Yom Kippur?” The same is true of asking about any Christian or other religion’s holidays. Such questions are illegal, and you do not have to answer.
- Questions regarding whether or not you have ever filed a workers’ compensation claim. As an employee, you have the right to file for workers’ compensation for job-related injuries. This cannot be used against you later in making hiring decisions.
- Questions about your age. Because of historical age discrimination, questions designed to determine your age are illegal, except to establish that you are of legal age to work.
- Questions like, “are you in the National Guard?” Employers cannot discriminate against applicants who serve in the National Guard, and therefore, may be called to active duty away from the job.
- Questions about whether or not you belong to any clubs or social organizations. This may be trying to get at your religious or political affiliations, which is off limits. However, telling a job interviewer that you are a member of the Student PR Group, Lambda Pi Eta, or the AAF is okay though.