What are some illegal questions that cannot be asked during a job interview and why?

Expert Answers
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many kinds of questions that are illegal in the context of a job interview and others that are at least borderline illegal.  This is because it is illegal to discriminate against an applicant on a variety of bases.  Questions that either clearly ask for illegal information or which are meant to elicit that sort of information are illegal.  Questions should be confined to those that are clearly related to your ability to do the job in question.  For example:

  • It is not legal to ask someone about their nationality.  Therefore, you cannot ask things like “What country are your parents from” or “What is the origin of your last name.”
  • It is not legal to discriminate on the basis of marital status so you cannot ask a person if they are married.  You cannot ask if the ring on their finger is an engagement ring.
  • You cannot ask people if they have used illegal drugs in the past because people who have been addicted to drugs are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.  You can ask if people are currently using illegal drugs, but you cannot ask about the past (beyond the last few months).
  • It is illegal to discriminate against people who have children.  Therefore, you cannot ask if people have children or about what their daycare arrangements are (a question that could be used to elicit information about children).

There are many other kinds of questions that are illegal.  Basically, any question that is not directly related to a bona fide job qualification may be illegal.