Dodge These 6 Illegal Interview Topics With Class


When you think about an interview, you may automatically jump to the thought of impressing your potential new employer. The last thing you think about is telling them you disagree with them; since you will most likely not get the job and you know it. Even if you’re entirely fearful of confrontation, it’s important you recognize your rights and the violation of your rights by certain businesses.

Dodge These 6 Illegal Interview Topics With Class

The following topics are illegal for interviewees to ask. You can respond in a classy manner, choose not to answer, report it to their HR department, or go full Miss Trunchbull. Because these topics may not be tackled point-blank, you’ll have to look through the misleading wording and decide what action works best for you. Either way, you can easily address these 6 illegal interview topics with class.

6 Illegal Interview Topics:

1. Race

If you’re ever asked about your race, you do not legally have to answer. The question may not outright be, “What race are you?” but sound something like, “What country are your parents from?”, “What languages are you fluent in?”, or “Tell me a bit about your ancestry.” Nothing about your race should be asked. 

You can get cheeky and say you were born in Texas and love a good rodeo, or simply say “I’m unsure of my exact ancestry, but I’d be happy to talk more about my work experience.”

2. Gender

Whether you think your gender is obvious or not, there may be slight-of-hand questions that attempt to have you confirm your gender or get your views on gender equality. A question such as, “What sex is on your birth certificate?” “What is your stance on female management” or “Do you have any doubts as a woman that you’re unable to excel in this job?”  has underlying motives. Nothing about your gender should be brought up.

You can use this as a chance to show off your accomplishments by saying “At my last job, I was able to implement so many new systems by simply working hard and being myself.”

3. Age

While we may not immediately consider a job rejection the fault of our age, age discrimination does exist, and this is why you should not be asked about it. Some sly questions about this may be in regard to, “What were you the class of when you graduated high school?” or “Based on your age, do you feel that you’d be a good fit for this position?” Some interviewers may casually ask you your age because they don’t think you’ll find this a strange question; anyone can ask you your age, but it’s not legal for interviewers to ask.

Circle back to how your experience has prepared you for the job, for example “My  3 years of event planning experience has more than prepared me to excel in this position.”

4. Disability

Questions about your mental capabilities and physical capabilities in a broad sense are not permissible during interviews. This includes questions about your BMI, how much you weigh, and your height.

Feel free to go off on a tangent about the many accomplishments of Helen Keller or Haben Girma, but you can also say “I have overcome many obstacles in life, and I am confident that I can fulfill all job duties.”

5. Religious or Political Beliefs 

You don’t have to answer any questions that allude to your beliefs. These questions may come in the form of, “How did you feel about the last election and how do you feel now?” or “Are there any days you’ll need off to recognize a certain holiday?” But you can address these super uncomfortable and illegal interview topics with class.

It may make you uneasy, and you could very well decide to exit stage left. However if you’re looking for a way out try saying “I’ll be able to work the necessary hours to complete all projects” or “I’m certain my personal beliefs will not effect my duties as a leader.”


6. Past offenses

While a company can legally have a background check done on you, or ask if you have been convicted of a crime, they can’t directly inquire about an arrest during the interview. This includes asking if you’ve ever broken the law or if you have had any lawsuits filed against you; they are also not permitted to ask about your military records (although they can ask about your rank). 

If you don’t want to give them the Rihanna side eye, and since a background check is coming, don’t let your record precede you. Use this opportunity to tell them how you’ve learned from any past mistakes by saying “I have learned a lot from some earlier regrets, but have matured since them and have not repeated those patterns.”

Overall, you’ve been put in an awkward situation. You might be feeling nervous, disappointed, or aggravated. You could be unsure that what you’ve been asked is an inappropriate question. You might be afraid of the confrontation and, against your own comfort, respond to the question with the accurate answer.

There is a graceful way to get around answering these questions. It may not bother you that they’ve asked your age, but taking into account that such a question could be used against your potential job position, and the fact that it is not legal, you may feel it your duty to speak on the matter.

Another way to answer these illegal interview topics with class, is by simply responding with answers such as:

  • “My beliefs will have no impact on my abilities to do this job.”
  • “My past will have no impact on my abilities to do this job.”
  • “My age will have no impact on my abilities to do this job.”

If you feel completely thrown off by such questions, you can always leave the interview and let them know that their question is inappropriate and is illegal to ask during an interview.

With that being said, not every interviewer knows such questions are illegal. If you’re interviewing to work at a small business owned by an elderly couple, asking your age may help them ensure they’re not hiring someone who isn’t technically legal to work in the state. You can kindly notify the interviewer of such laws and decline to answer, if you so wish.

If you were rejected for a job recently and you recognize that illegal questions had been asked, you can notify the EEOC. Discrimination should never be taken lightly, and hiring an attorney may be the next step. If you’re uncertain whether the interviewer was aware of the illegality of the question, you can always notify the HR of the company.  Know your rights and good luck!

We know you want more interview advice, so here you go!

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